Standard setting (How to set cut-off scores in your exam?)

As a university teacher, setting standards in student assessment is crucial. Ensure fairness and validity by considering various factors like difficulty level and student performance trends. Here we introduce some models that help you to set appropriate cut-off scores, maintaining consistency and accuracy in evaluating student competence and progression.


In medical education, various methods of standard setting ensure the validity and reliability of student assessments. One common approach is the Angoff method, where experts estimate the minimum acceptable performance level for each test item. Another method, the Borderline group method, gathers expert judgments on borderline students' performance. The Hofstee method combines judgments from both examiners and students to set standards. Finally, the Contrasting groups method compares the performance of two distinct groups to establish standards. Each method offers unique insights for fair and accurate assessment.

References and related material

  • Miriam Friedman Ben-David (2000) AMEE Guide No. 18: Standard setting in student assessment, Medical Teacher, 22:2, 120-130, DOI: 10.1080/01421590078526
  • Bandaranayake, R. C. (2008). Setting and maintaining standards in multiple-choice examinations: AMEE Guide No. 37. Medical Teacher, 30(9-10), 836-845.
  • Danette W. McKinley & John J. Norcini (2014) How to set standards on performance-based examinations: AMEE Guide No. 85, Medical Teacher, 36:2, 97-110, DOI: 10.3109/0142159X.2013.853119
  • Dalum, J., Christidis, N., Myrberg, I. H., Karlgren, K., Leanderson, C., & Englund, G. S. (2022). Are we passing the acceptable? Standard setting of theoretical proficiency tests for foreign‐trained dentists. European Journal of Dental Education, 27(3), 640-649.