Radiography Cut Score to Increase in 2013

(July 5, 2012) – Beginning in 2013, all candidates who take ARRT's Radiography certification exam will be measured against a slightly higher cut score, distinguishing those who pass from those who do not.

"It's all about setting the bar at the point that best distinguishes those examinees with the requisite knowledge and cognitive skills to be certified as an entry-level technologist," according to ARRT Executive Director Jerry B. Reid, Ph.D. With the 2013 change, the meaning of a passing score doesn't change, but the level of knowledge and skills equivalent to that scaled score of 75 will be higher than it has been in the past.

While a scaled score of 75 will continue to be the score required for passing and the difficulty level of the questions is not increasing, "ARRT is raising the bar," Reid notes. "On a typical examination form with 200 scored questions, examinees would need to correctly answer six more questions to meet the new standard." All candidates who attempt the exam from January 1, 2013, forward will be measured by the new standard, regardless of when they achieved eligibility to sit for the certification examination.

Reid points out that everyone benefits when the bar is raised:

  • Successful candidates can be confident that they attained the knowledge required to be effective in the workplace.
  • Educators who prepare those candidates can be more confident that their graduates will be better prepared to provide patient care.
  • Administrators and supervisors in the workplace can have increased faith in the qualifications of the entry-level radiographers that they hire.
  • Most importantly, the public can be assured that a highly qualified professional is performing their imaging studies.

ARRT's scaled score of 75, also called the passing standard or cut score, reflects expectations for professional performance at entry level. "Those expectations can change over time, due to a variety of factors such as improving educational opportunities and heightened expectations of employers and the public we serve," according to Reid. "In other words, what was good enough at one point in time may no longer be good enough today."

Whenever a full practice analysis is completed, ARRT takes into account its impact on the passing standard. For primary exams, that happens every six years. If the changes to content specifications are significant, a performance standard study is likely to be launched. The cut score may also be reset periodically for statistical reasons or when expectations for performance change.

Conceptually, setting a cut score is a simple process — select a number that reflects mastery of sufficient knowledge to be deemed qualified to safely and effectively perform the role being certified. In practice, arriving at an appropriate number requires capturing the collective professional wisdom of a group of subject-matter experts and refining it through the policy expertise of the ARRT Board of Trustees. The Performance Standard Advisory Committee, which provided a wide spectrum of subject-matter experts and a balance of perspectives, included practicing R.T.(R)s, managers, educators and radiologists.

In practice, here's how the new cut score came about. Through a psychometrician-led process called "standard setting," committee members reviewed each question from a representative form of the exam and individually rated the percentage of borderline-proficiency candidates who would answer the question correctly. The process is conducted in multiple "rounds" and incorporates lots of group discussion about what it means — in terms of performance on the exam — to have the requisite knowledge and skills to be certified as an entry-level technologist. Finally, all of the performance standard information was presented to the Board of Trustees, which adopted the revised cut score earlier this year.

See ARRT's "Settle the Score" brochure for more information on determining scores.

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