Methodology for the Assessment of Competence and the Definition of Deficiencies of Students in All Levels of the Curriculum

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Methods for determination of minimum competence (i.e., cut-scores or passing grades) have been described in the higher education literature. However, the use of these methods in pharmacy education has been rare, if at all. This article describes the two major methods, namely Nedelsky and Angoff, which have been used for determination of cut-scores or passing grades in multiple-choice assessment instruments. Generally, both methods involve: (i) definition of a minimally competent student (ii) development of an assessment tool which tests specific knowledge, skills, and/or abilities; and (iii) determination of cut-scores by a subject matter expert panel. The major difference between the two methods lies only in the way the cut-scores are determined. Whereas the Nedelsky method establishes cut-scores by determining the likelihood of eliminating obviously incorrect options (answers), the Angoff method treats the question and its options as a whole and determines the likelihood of a minimally-competent student answering the question correctly. In both methods, the cut-score for the whole assessment is determined by the average of cut-scores for individual-questions. A brief description of the methods and a modification of the Angoff method used at Texas Tech School of Pharmacy in an annual assessment are described. These methods may be useful for other schools of pharmacy that plan to assess their student learning using competency-based assessment tools.


This article was originally published in American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, volume 66, issue 1, in 2002. DOI: aj660101.pdf


American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy