Passing standards, or cut scores, are based on content, not percentage of correct answers. The DANB Board of Directors has adopted a nationally accepted, psychometrically sound standard-setting process that requires candidates to answer test items correctly at or above certain levels of difficulty across content areas. A different standard is set for each exam, based upon required content.
DANB’s national exams are computer adaptive tests (CATs). CATs are designed so that candidates answer questions based on level of ability. Each DANB national exam is composed of an item bank, and each question in the item bank has a measure of difficulty. Measures of difficulty are determined after questions are pretested. Each year a certain percentage of the questions on DANB’s national exams are pretest questions. Pretest questions do not count toward a candidate’s pass/fail status; instead, they help determine whether questions are performing properly. After DANB determines that a question is performing properly, it is made “live” and added to the pool of questions for future exams.
During a CAT, candidates are given questions based on their abilities as well as on the blueprint of the exam. Candidates first receive a question at or near the difficulty level required to pass that exam. If a candidate answers a question correctly, the next question will be a little harder. If this question is answered correctly, the next one is a little harder, and so forth. If a candidate answers a question incorrectly, the next question is a little easier.
Through this process, a candidate’s ability level is determined. This level must be at or above the pass point, which is determined by DANB’s Exam Committees and approved by the DANB Board of Directors. All candidates must receive the same percentage of questions covering each content area. This percentage is determined by conducting a content validation study and developing an exam blueprint, which is approved by the DANB Board of Directors. All candidates receive the same number of questions. For example, all candidates who take DANB’s RHS exam will answer 100 questions based on the RHS exam blueprint.
Valid standard-setting procedures are, by their nature, highly technical, statistical processes. DANB’s national exams are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), which determined that DANB’s psychometric processes are appropriate and yield valid, reliable exam results.