Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-21, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 18 June, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


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Criteria-referenced assessment

core definition

Criteria-referenced assessment is the process of evaluating (and grading) the learning of students against a set of pre-specified criteria.

explanatory context

It is often contrasted with norm-referenced assessment.

analytical review

For Wojtczak (2002):

Criterion-referenced assessment refers to testing against an absolute standard such as an individual's performance against a benchmark. 

A criterion-referenced standard is a fixed standard that may undergo periodic re-evaluation in view of shifts or trends in candidates' performance over time. The criterion reference orientation links the standard to the content of the level of competence.


For Huitt (1996), the purpose of criteria-referenced assessment is:

To determine whether each student has achieved specific skills or concepts.

To find out how much students know before instruction begins and after it has finished.


 Mississippi State University (2004) notes that:

Criterion-referenced scores (proficiency levels), unlike norm-referenced scores, have their own meanings. These scores or levels are defined in terms of specific competencies expected of students… (2011), defines criterion-referenced assessment as:

Evaluation that attempts to uncover the strengths and weakness of a student or trainee in terms of what he or she knows or doesn't know, understands or doesn't understand, or can do or cannot do, as measured against a benchmark or standard. Also called content referenced assessment or criterion referenced test.

The University of South Australia (2011) states:

Criterion referenced assessment: An assessment of student performance against pre-determined criteria related to the learning outcomes of the course. The criteria by which work is to be judged are made explicit and the grade awarded is intended to directly reflect how well the student has met the criteria. Final grading depends on the individual student's achievement, irrespective of the performance of other students in the class.

associated issues

related areas

See also

absolute standards

academic standards

assessment [of quality]

assessment of student learning

assessment of teaching

formative assessment

norm-referenced assessment

performance standards

relative standards


standards of competence

summative assessment

Sources, 2011, Criterion-referenced assessment, available at, accessed 21 September 2012, still available 20 June 2019.

Huitt, W., 1996, Measurement and evaluation: Criterion- versus norm-referenced testing. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University, available at, accessed 21 September 2012, still available 20 June 2019.

Mississippi State University, 2004, Office of Institutional Research, Results of the Academic Profile Assessment,, updated October, 2004, accessed 3 February 2011, not available 6 July 2012.

University of South Australia, 2011, General Definitions available at, accessed 23 July 2012, not available 20 June 2019.

Wojtczak, A., 2002, Glossary of Medical Education Terms,, December, 2000, Revised February 2002, accessed 2 September 2012, page not available 30 December 2016.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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