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GMS Z Med Ausbild. 2015 Oct 15;32(4):Doc43. doi: 10.3205/zma000985. eCollection 2015.

Overcome the 60% passing score and improve the quality of assessment.

Author information

University of Illinois, College of Medicine at Chicago, Chicago, USA.
Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research , Philadelphia, USA.


in English, German

It is not unusual for institutions around the world to have fixed standards (e.g., 60%) for all of their examinations. This creates problems in the creation of examinations, since all of the content has to be chosen with an eye toward this fixed standard. As a result, the validity of the decisions based on these examinations can be adversely influenced, making them less useful for their intended purposes. Over the past several decades, many institutions have addressed this problem by using standard setting methods which are defensible, acceptable, and credible [1], [2]. Many methods are available and the major reasons to use them is to ensure that test content is appropriately selected and to be as fair to the students and other test users as possible [2], [3]. One barrier to the wider use of these methods is that some institutions object to the fact that the fixed standard (e.g., 60%) has not been applied. However, it is possible to rescale the passing score so that it is equal to the fixed standard, and then apply that same rescaling calculation to all of the test scores. This ensures that the institutional guidelines are not violated and allows the application of accepted methods of standard-setting. In turn, the application of these methods allow the content of the test to be selected without regard to a fixed standard, increases the validity of the decisions being made, and ensures a fairer and more accurate test of students.

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