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How Exams Are Scored

NCC examinations are criterion-referenced.  This means the passing score is based on a predetermined criterion.  This criterion is a statistical ability level established by the Content Team based on evaluation of criticality of content and the test questions’ past statistical performance.  Questions used to determine pass/fail have proven statistical history that demonstrates the question is appropriate for use to measure an individual’s ability level.

There is no set percentage passing level but pass/fail status is based on achieving a predetermined ability level.  Each test item has a difficulty level.  The higher the difficulty of an item, the greater the ability score one achieves.  Pass/fail is determined based on the number of questions answered correctly and the pass/fail standard is a predetermined ability criterion.  As questions are answered correctly, the examinees build on their ability score and subtract from it when questions are answered incorrectly.

When different forms of the examination are used, a process called equating is initiated.  This procedure converts all results to a common scale.  So someone who takes a slightly more difficult form of the exam will need to answer fewer questions correctly than someone who takes a slightly easier form of the exam.  

NCC utilizes the item response theory of psychometrics for the analysis of its examinations.  Item response theory (Rasch analysis) is the study of tests and item scores based on assumptions concerning the mathematical relationship between abilities and item responses.   This is a commonly used system and such examinations as the NCLEX and other health related certification examinations utilize this type of psychometric analysis.

Test results reports will identify a pass/fail status and will give feedback on the various content areas of the examination in the form of word descriptors:  very weak, weak, average, strong and very strong. No percentage or standard score will be given.


NCC• PO Box 11082 • Chicago, IL 60611 • 312-951-0207 • www.nccwebsite.org

© NCC, 2009

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