Norm-Referenced and Criterion-Referenced Testing

Topic: Academic Performance
Words: 330 Pages: 1

Norm-referenced and criterion-referenced testing are two popular types of examining used to assess students’ skills and abilities. Grades are interpreted differently depending on the type of testing, despite the general purpose. The main difference between norm-referenced and criterion-referenced testing lies in the evaluation method. Criterion-based interpretation is essential for learning to use the information received, but norm-based interpretation may be required for classification decisions (Gronlund, 2009). Norm-referenced testing evaluates the results concerning other test-takers; in turn, criterion-referenced testing aims to assess the subject to understand and assimilate the curriculum.

Norm-referenced testing may include several groups of subjects; it can identify strong and weak students in a class. One of the advantages of such a method is the simplicity of deriving results. The complexity of the content may vary, but testing usually covers a wide range of topics that should be familiar to all test takers. Test topics vary depending on the goals and objectives of the test committee; however, the testing format is standardized.

In the criterion-referenced test, the curriculum is set at the beginning of the course and explained by the teacher. The test advantage is showing how clearly the topic was explained and how well the students perceived it. For most learning purposes, criterion-based assessment should be preferred (Gronlund, 2009). This testing method helps to determine the weaknesses of the program and whether it is possible to move on to a new topic or whether it needs to be re-learned.

Thus, tests based on norms and criteria differ in their goals and methods. Both testing methods are helpful and practical with a comprehensive evaluation and reporting system (Gronlund, 2009). Normalized tests measure a student’s ability compared to other students, while criterion-referenced tests measure test-takers’ performance based on the program they have completed. The first method aims to measure knowledge in comparison; the second has the task of understanding the clarity and comprehensibility of instructions. Norm-referenced tests cover broad areas of knowledge, while criterion-referenced tests contain condensed course information.


Gronlund, N. E. (2009). Assessment of student achievement, 9th Edition. Pearson.

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