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Using Ebel’s method, each question item is rated according to two standards: difficulty and importance.

The difficulty of a question an item is characterized as easy, medium, or difficult, while the importance is characterized as acceptable, important, or essential. After the panel of subject matter experts agrees on the definition of a minimally competent examineecandidate, a determination is made as to the percentage of questions items in each of the nine categories such an examinee a candidate would answer correctly. This percentage is multiplied in each of the nine categories by the number of questions items it contains. The passing score is set by averaging the category scores.

Here is a type of grid used when applying Ebel’s Method.

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Here is a populated table that shows the percentage of questions items in each of the nine categories a borderline examinee candidate would answer correctly:

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Here is an illustration of how the percentage is multiplied in each of the 9 categories by the number of questions items it contains:

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Modified Ebel's Method

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A simplified version of the Ebel method asks subject matter experts to rate questions items only according to importance, categorizing them as essential, important, or indicated. After defining a minimally competent examineecandidate, SMEs then assess how many questions items in each category such an examinee a candidate should be expected to answer correctly. The passing score is established by averaged the ratings across the three categories.

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titleHow does the Modified Ebel's method differ from the traditional Ebel's method?
  • Judges only rate questions items according to importance, not difficulty
  • SMEs assess how many questions items in each category such an examinee a candidate should be expected to answer correctly
  • The passing score is established by averaged the ratings across the three categories