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cutoff score

George M. Alliger and Gwen Coats


Cutoff (or “critical” or “passing”) scores represent minimum acceptable standards on employment, licensing, certification, or academic tests. Scores below the cutoff indicate unacceptable performance, except in the case of multiple cutoffs, when each cutoff represents a distinct level of performance. Cutoff scores are typically calculated from both empirical data and some form of judgment. The fact that subjectivity plays a role does not represent a legal problem as long as the method used is rational, systematic, and documented ( Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 1987 ). While adverse impact for different gender, ethnic, and age groups generated by cutoff scores is a concern ( Cascio, Alexander, and Barrett, 1988 ), court rulings indicate that the standard to be met is equal treatment, not equal results. The setting of separate cutoffs by race, color, religion, sex, or national origin is prohibited by the civil rights act of 1991 . After Berk (1986) , the procedures used to develop cutoff scores can be classified into three major categories: judgmental, judgmental‐empirical, and empirical‐judgmental. There are many variants within each category. Unfortunately, different methods may yield different cutoff scores. Recent research, however, has demonstrated some convergence among methods (see Woehr, Arthur, and Fehrmann, 1991 ). Included here are the Angoff, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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