A work-centered approach for setting passing scores on performance-based assessments

Eval Health Prof. 2005 Sep;28(3):349-69. doi: 10.1177/0163278705278282.


Standardized patient examinations are being used for high-stakes decisions (e.g., graduation, licensure, and certification) with growing frequency. Concurrently, research on methods to determine the passing score for these types of performance-based assessments has increased. A wide variety of approaches have been considered in the past several years, many based on traditional techniques developed for use with multiple-choice examinations. More and more, techniques that center on review of examinee work have been employed, often resulting in the establishment of defensible, reproducible standards. The purpose of this article is to describe and evaluate a work-centered approach for determining the passing score for a performance-based assessment of clinical skills. A description of an approach to set passing scores that involves expert review of examinee work is presented. Application and evaluation of the method are illustrated using examination materials obtained from a high-stakes certification assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Certification
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Licensure, Medical
  • Patient Simulation
  • Physical Examination / standards*
  • Process Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Reference Standards
  • United States