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Scoring of the CAP and OM Exams

The pass/fail cut-score is determined using a criterion-referenced method. The criterion-referenced standard (cut-score) is shown as a scaled score of 500. An exam score of 500 or higher indicates you have passed the exam.

An exam score of less than 500 indicates you have failed the exam. The same level of knowledge and skill is required to meet the pass point of 500 regardless of the examination taken by the candidate.


Criterion-Referenced Method

Criterion-referenced tests, a type of test introduced by Glaser (1962) and Popham and Husek (1969), are also known as domain referenced tests, competency tests, basic skills tests, mastery tests, performance tests or assessments, authentic assessments, objective-referenced tests, standards-based tests, credentialing exams, etc. These tests determine a candidate's level of performance in relation to a well-defined domain of content.

Norm-referenced tests determine a candidate's level of the construct measured by a test in relation to a well-defined reference group of candidates, referred to as the norm group. Criterion-referenced tests permit a candidate's score to be interpreted in relation to a domain of content, and norm-referenced tests permit a candidate's score to be interpreted in relation to a group of examinees. The first interpretation is content-centered, and the second interpretation is examinee-centered.

On a criterion-referenced test, every candidate would pass if they meet the expected standard; alternatively, every candidate could fail if the standard is not met. On criterion-referenced tests it is possible for every person to pass the exam. Criterion-referenced tests have been compared to driver’s license exams which require would-be drivers to achieve a minimum competencies to earn a license.

IAAP continually updates its exams to keep pace with the changing environment of the administrative profession.  Since criterion-referenced scoring is designed to measure a candidate’s performance against a fixed set of predetermined criteria, this method is commonly used for certification exams that produce new editions of a test and the scores from these editions have the same meaning over time.

The level of exam difficulty may change from time to time. A test equating process assures that candidates must meet the same criterion-standard regardless of when they take the examination, or the group of candidates with whom they take the examination.


Principles and Practices of Test Score Equating by Neil J. Dorans, Tim P. Moses, and Daniel R. Eignor ETS, Princeton, New Jersey, December 2010.

Criterion Referenced Assessment as a Guide to Learning – The Importance of Progression and Reliability by Sylvia Green, presented at the Association for the Study of Evaluation in Education in Southern Africa International Conference, Johannesburg, July 10 – July 12, 2002.

Criterion-Referenced Tests,, retrieved on April 7, 2015.

Criterion-Reference Test, The Glossary of Education Reform, retrieved on April 7, 2015.