Question: How do norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests differ? What are their purposes?
Answer/Quote: “Standards used for judgment of the adequacy or inadequacy of an individual’s performance are quite different in norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests. In the former, the standards arise from an examination of the performance of a standardization population chosen to represent all the students who might appropriately be asked to respond to the particular test items. The standards are the usual or ‘normal’ performances for students at a particular age or grad level. The essential question is ‘How well is this individual doing compared to how others are doing?’
“In the latter, the standard is absolute rather than relative, arising from a specified task and the individual’s ability or inability to complete that task. The standards, therefore, relate only to the individual and the task. The essential question to be answered by a criterion-referenced test is ‘Can this individual accomplish this task?’ No consideration is given to comparison of what that individual can do with what others can do. It seems quite obvious for this reason, that careful analysis of the task in which adequacy is to be evaluated is a true prerequisite to the building of criterion-referenced tests.” P. 355.
Comment: This article further clarifies the differences between norm-referenced tests and criterion-referenced tests. RayS.
Title: “Task-Analysis for Criterion-Referenced Tests.” Marjorie S. Johnson and Roy A. Kress. Reading Teacher (January 1971), 355-359.