The Pass Point
|The test pass point is the minimum score
required to pass a certification test. The pass point
is also known as a cut score or passing score. Pass
points for CWEA certification tests vary with each test,
but usually they fall between 65% and 75% of all test
items answered correctly. The pass point for each vocation
and grade level is set independently. Also, each version,
or form, of a test will have its own pass point. Different
versions are given each time the certification test
How Pass Points Are Set
A modified Angoff Method is used to determine
the pass point for each version of each test. The modified
Angoff Method uses expert judgements to determine the
difficulty level of the test. The easier the test, the
higher the pass point. Likewise, the more difficult
the test, the lower the pass point.
The following is a basic outline of
the modified Angoff Method (some details have been omitted):
A group of Subject Matter Experts
(SMEs) independently rate each test question within
a given test. The ratings are defined as the probability,
or likelihood, that an acceptably (minimally) competent
person with the requisite education and experience
will answer the question correctly. An acceptably
(minimally) competent person is defined as someone
who adequately performs all job functions safely
and requires no further training to do so.
The SMEs review each test question
as group. A consensus is reached for the rating
of each test question. During this time the SMEs
review comments submitted in writing by test-takers.
Any test question that is judged to be ambiguous,
has more than one correct answer, or has no correct
answers is eliminated from the scoring process for
that test. These test questions are then revised
for future use, re-classified, or deleted form the
test item bank.
After the data are refined, the
final step is to calculate the mean, or average,
of all the test question ratings. This becomes the
overall pass point estimation.
Why Use Modified Angoff?
Each version of a given certification test pulls questions
from a test item bank. Each of these questions vary
in difficulty. Because a different mix of questions
is used in each test the overall difficulty level is
not fixed. Thus, it is important to make sure that the
varying difficulty level is reflected in the pass point
of each test to ensure that test results are reliable.
Test reliability is concerned with the reproducibility
of results for each version of a given test. In other
words, for a test to be reliable it must yield the same
result (pass or fail) for the same individual under
very similar circumstances. For example, imagine you take
a certain grade level test and pass it. Immediately
after completing this test you take the same grade level
test, but a different version. If the test is reliable
you will achieve the same result: pass. If you dont,
it is likely that the test is not a reliable measure
of acceptable (minimal) competency.
By taking into consideration the difficulty
level of the test, the modified Angoff Method significantly
increases the reliability of the tests. Also, since
each test is adjusted for difficulty level, each test
version has the same standard for passing. Thus, test-takers
are treated equitably and fairly even if they take different
versions of the test.
There are other methods for setting
pass points. However, for the type of tests administered
by CWEA, the modified Angoff Method is the best.
Why Not Use 70% As The Pass Point?
Pass points are a critical component of any certification
test. It is the standard at which those who have demonstrated
minimal acceptable competence are separated from those
who have not. Simply writing a test then setting the
pass point at 70%, without any supporting rationale,
leaves a lot of questions open such as: how do you know
if a 70% pass point will result in all competent individuals
passing and no one else passing?; why was 70% chosen?;
how can a variety of different tests, that test different
subjects at different grade levels, all have the same
pass point?; and how do you know that the 70% pass point
will result in reliable estimates of competence? If
all of these questions can be answered adequately then
70% is an acceptable pass point. Simply answering that
70% is the traditional pass point is not acceptable.
If a 70% pass point is determined under the modified
Angoff Method then it can be stated that 70% is an acceptable
Certification Program Standards
Certification programs affect employment decisions and
are therefore subject to certain standards set forth
by federal law. To comply with these federal regulations,
pass points must be set with consideration given to
Standards of Educational and Psychological Testing
(American Educational Research Association, American
Psychological Association, and the National Council
on Measurement in Education, 1985). CWEA utilizes methods
of pass point determination that meet, or exceed, these