Criterion-Referenced Examinations: Implications for the Reporting and Interpretation of Examination Results

Journal of the American Board of Family Practice

The purpose of the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) certi?cation/maintenance of certi?cation examination is to measure the basic knowledge necessary to deliver high-quality care to patients and their families. More than 25 years ago, the ABFM became the ?rst American Board of Medical Specialties board to introduce criterionbased methodology to establish the passing threshold for its examination. A criterion-referenced examination is one in which a particular score is
required to pass, and the performance of those taking the examination is of no consequence in determining who passes or fails. In other words, all
candidates taking the examination could theoretically pass if they met or exceeded the criterionreferenced passing score.