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Information on Scoring and Reporting of the PCE Written Component
The Written Component consists of 200 multiple choice questions (MCQs). Each MCQ is equally weighted and scored as either correct (1) or incorrect (0). There are no deductions for incorrect responses. A candidate’s total score is calculated by summing their correct responses on all scored1 items.
1Items that do not perform as expected (based on statistical analyses conducted after the exam) are removed from scoring and do not count towards a candidate’s total score.
Each candidate who completes the PCE Written Component receives a score report that summarizes their performance (total score and sub-scores) and their overall result (pass/fail). Before exam results are reported, candidates’ total scores are mathematically transformed so that they can be interpreted in a consistent manner across different administrations2 of the exam.
2 Each administration uses a different exam form (a unique sampling of 200 MCQs selected from the exam bank to match the exam blueprint).
Prior to May 2022, the total score and passing score were reported as standard scores. Standard scores (also referred to as standardized scores or z-scores) provide norm-referenced interpretation, meaning that the score conveys information about a candidate’s score in relation to their standing among other test takers (i.e., CAPR compares a candidate’s performance to Canadian-educated candidates who are taking the same exam for the first time).
As of May 2022, the total score and passing score will be reported as scaled scores. Scaled scores provide criterion-referenced interpretation, meaning that the score conveys information about a candidate’s score in relation to a specific standard of performance, regardless of other candidates’ performance. Scaled scores allow for direct comparisons of results across exam administrations, even if there are differences in the difficulty of the exam form taken.
Interpretation of the score (whether a standard score or scaled score) is not to be confused with the standard for passing an exam, which can also be established using norm-referenced or criterion-referenced approaches. In accordance with best practices, CAPR uses a criterion-referenced approach to set the passing score for the PCE:
- pass/fail results are based on whether candidates meet or exceed a pre-defined standard of minimal competence.
- pass/fail determination is not based on how well a candidate performs compared to other candidates.
In response to stakeholder feedback regarding difficulty in understanding standard scores and interpreting exam result reports, and in keeping with our commitment to provide clear and meaningful information about the PCE, we are revising our scoring processes and our exam result reports.
Scaled scores provide a constant, stable metric for reporting candidate results, regardless of which exam a candidate takes. The PCE passing score will always be 600 in scaled scoring (criterion-referenced) whereas in standard scoring (norm-referenced) the passing score varied with each exam administration.
There is always some variability in the difficulty of different exam forms. Scaled scores make these differences disappear, so that a particular score has the same meaning and interpretation across exam forms. For a less difficult exam form, a candidate needs to answer slightly more questions correctly to get a particular scaled score. For a more difficult exam form, a candidate needs to answer slightly fewer questions correctly to get the same scaled score. Scaled scoring applies the same passing standard to all exam forms, ensuring that the passing standard remains constant over time, regardless of which exam form a candidate takes and regardless of how other candidates perform on the exam.
A scaled score is a mathematical conversion of a candidate’s raw score (total number of MCQs answered correctly) to a common scale. This transformation is like converting weight from pounds to kilograms: the weight of the object remains the same but the units being reported have changed. Interpretation of a candidate’s raw score and their scaled score always results in the same conclusion in terms of their pass/fail status.
For the PCE Written Component, the scaled passing score is 600 on a scale ranging from 200 to 800. This means that the lowest obtainable scaled score on the Written Component is 200 and the highest is 800. Candidates whose total scaled score is at or above 600 pass the exam. Candidates whose total scaled score is below 600 do not pass the exam.
Each candidate’s raw score is transformed into a scaled score using the following formula: Y = m(x) + b
Y = the candidate’s scaled score
x = the candidate’s raw score (i.e., the number of MCQ items answered correctly)
m = (maximum scaled score – passing scaled score) / (maximum raw score – passing raw score)
b = passing scaled score – m (passing raw score)