Frequently Asked Questions About Licensing Exams

Role of state boards to accept passing scores

CLEAR Exam Review (Summer 1995)
Norman Hertz

Question: A nationwide association has responsibility for our examination program, including establishing the passing score. What options do we have other than accepting passing scores that have been established by the national association?

Answer: State licensing boards should retain the responsibility for establishing a passing score that reflects the standards required for minimal competence in their state. For many professions, the scope of practice does not vary significantly from state to state. However, performance expectations, training requirements, or extent of experience may vary and lead to higher or lower expectations in some states than in others. In such cases, the state licensing board may wish to establish its own passing score. In developing the contract, the licensing board should ensure that it retains responsibility for setting the passing score.

State licensing boards should obtain an explanation from the national association when a very high percentage of candidates either pass or fail the examination and the pass rate percentage differs substantially from the national passing rate. It would be best to work within the national association to influence the passing score process by involving practitioners from your state in developing the examinations and in establishing the passing score. However, if your licensing board believes that the passing score is not set at the appropriate level to provide for public protection, then it may be necessary for the board to establish its own passing score.

If a trade association is responsible for developing and marketing the examination, it should not establish the passing score. In such cases, a panel of practitioners--independent of the association--should establish the passing score to help allay accusations that entrance into the profession is restricted.


Back to index

2002 Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation