Criterion referenced assessment (CRA) is the process of evaluating (and grading) the learning of students against a set of pre-specified qualities or criteria, without reference to the achievement of others.
A criterion-referenced test is a style of test which uses test scores to generate a statement about the behavior that can be expected of a person with that score. Most tests and quizzes that are written by school teachers can be considered criterion-referenced tests.
Well-known examples of criterion-referenced tests include Advanced Placement exams and the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which are both standardized tests administered to students. Informal assessments sometimes referred to as criterion referenced measures or performance based measures, should be used to inform instruction.
Also called concrete validity, criterion validity refers to a test's correlation with a concrete outcome. For example, a company could administer a sales personality test to its sales staff to see if there is an overall correlation between their test scores and a measure of their productivity.
A criterion-referenced test can give teachers an idea of how a student is advancing in class. Results from a series of such tests can be used to help students with learning disabilities set goals to progress.
Criterion-referenced tests have some built-in disadvantages. Creating tests that are both valid and reliable requires fairly extensive and expensive time and effort. In addition, results cannot be generalized beyond the specific course or program.