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Ebel's Method

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

The difficulty of a question 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 examinee, a determination is made as to the percentage of questions in each of the nine categories such an examinee would answer correctly. This percentage is multiplied in each of the nine categories by the number of questions it contains. The passing score is set by averaging the category scores.

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

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

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

Modified Ebel's Method

A modified Ebel’s method is also available.

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

How does the Modified Ebel's method differ from the traditional Ebel's method?

  • Judges only rate questions according to importance (not difficulty)

Importance: essential, important or indicated

  • SMEs assess how many questions in each category such an examinee should be expected to answer correctly.
  • The passing score is established by averaged the ratings across the three categories.
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