Setting Standards

Applying Faculty Judgment to CLEP Exam Cut Scores

Our standard-setting process ensures that the scores students earn on each exam consistently portray student mastery of a subject. Scoring standards are determined through the process of standard setting, which is accomplished by a standard-setting panel comprising 15–20 college faculty members teaching the equivalent college-level course.

Panelists receive training materials, conduct discussions, and render judgments collaboratively. The studies are managed by a trained facilitator who answers questions, monitors the progress of the study, and leads the discussions. The panels follow the modified Angoff method to arrive at their judgments and recommendations.

The Angoff methodology used in CLEP standard-setting studies is a modification of an approach first introduced by William H. Angoff in 1971. The modified Angoff method asks panelists or judges to determine the percentage of typical students at grade levels B and C who would be able to answer a question correctly. This method reflects that it is rare for all students to answer a question either correctly or incorrectly at any specific grade level. For exams that include essays, standards are established using the benchmark method in addition to the Angoff method.1

Determining the Final Cut Scores

The final credit-granting score, or cut score, for a CLEP exam is the product of collaboration between the test development committee and the standard-setting panel.

The test development committee reviews the results from the standard-setting study, which includes the standard-setting panel's definitions of the A, B, C, and D student and the ratings of the judges at the B and C levels. The committee determines the final cut scores based on the following factors:

  • The standard error of judgment
  • The standard error of measurement
  • The historical performance of test takers

The approved final cut score (the number of correct questions needed to earn an equivalent of C) is equated to a scaled score of 50.


1. Jane Faggen, Setting Standards for Constructed Response Tests: An Overview, Educational Testing Service Research Memorandum RM-94-19 (Princeton, New Jersey: Educational Testing Service, November 1994).