Normative Test

Discover the essence of normative testing in a concise guide exploring its principles, significance, and applications.

By Joshua Napilay on Jul 15, 2024.


Fact Checked by RJ Gumban.

Use Template
Normative Test PDF Example
ToolbarShare uiAI Icon

What is a Normative Test?

A normative test, also known as a norm-referenced test, is an assessment tool used to evaluate an individual's performance relative to a normative sample, typically a large group of people who have previously taken the same test. 

This test type compares the taker's performance to others, usually through percentile ranking or a bell curve distribution. Normative tests are commonly used in various fields, including education, employment, and personality assessments, to make employment-related decisions, course placement, or identifying strengths and weaknesses.

In normative testing, test takers' scores are compared to those of the normative sample, allowing for an understanding of how they perform about others. This comparison provides valuable information for evaluating an individual's abilities and making decisions about training, development, or further assessment.

Normative tests typically use forced-choice questions or other formats where the test taker's responses can be objectively scored and compared to the performance of others. The scores obtained from these tests can help identify areas where individuals excel or perform poorly compared to the average level of the normative sample.

It's important to note that normative tests should be legally defensible, adhere to relevant laws and standards, and be fair and unbiased in their administration and interpretation. Additionally, while normative testing provides valuable information about how individuals compare to others, it's just one aspect of assessment, and other factors should also be considered when making decisions.

How are Normative Tests different from criterion-referenced tests?

Normative tests and criterion-referenced tests are two different approaches to assessment, each serving distinct purposes.

Normative Tests (norm-referenced tests)

  • These tests compare an individual's performance to that of a normative sample, typically a large group of individuals who have previously taken the same test.
  • The scores obtained from normative tests are often reported in percentiles or standard scores, indicating where the individual's performance falls relative to the normative sample.
  • Normative tests focus on how an individual's performance compares to others and are commonly used for ranking individuals or identifying relative strengths and weaknesses.
  • Examples of normative tests include standardized achievement tests, IQ tests, and personality assessments.

Criterion-referenced tests

  • Criterion-referenced tests evaluate an individual's performance against a predetermined set of criteria or standards rather than comparing it to the performance of others.
  • These tests determine whether an individual has achieved specific skills, knowledge, or competencies.
  • Criterion-referenced tests typically provide information about whether an individual has mastered specific learning objectives or meets predetermined performance criteria.
  • Scores from criterion-referenced tests are often reported as raw scores or proficiency levels (e.g., proficient, advanced, primary).
  • Examples of criterion-referenced tests include licensure exams, competency tests, and proficiency assessments in various subjects.

Normative Tests norms

Normative tests derive norms from a representative population sample against which individual scores are compared. These norms establish the average performance and the distribution of scores within the population. The norms provide a frame of reference for interpreting an individual's score on the test.

Norms typically include statistical measures such as mean, standard deviation, percentile ranks, and sometimes sub-group norms based on demographic factors like age, gender, or education level. For example, a normative test might provide percentile ranks indicating that a score of 75 falls at the 80th percentile, meaning the individual scored higher than 80% of the normative sample.

Normative tests are often updated periodically to ensure that the norms remain current and representative of the population being tested. This ensures that the interpretation of scores remains relevant over time. Additionally, norms may vary depending on the specific population being assessed, so it's essential to consider the characteristics of the normative sample when interpreting test scores.

What types of assessments use Normative Tests?

Normative tests, also known as norm-referenced tests, are widely used in various fields for assessing individuals' performance relative to a normative sample. Some common types of assessments that use normative tests include:

  • Educational: Students take different types of tests to measure their academic performance. Standardized achievement tests evaluate their skills and knowledge in math, reading, and language arts. These tests have questions that are the same for all students. College entrance exams, such as the SAT and ACT, use normative scoring to compare students' performance with a national sample. These tests are essential for students aiming to get admission into college.
  • Psychological: IQ tests evaluate cognitive abilities like reasoning, problem-solving, and verbal comprehension. Individual scores are then compared to a normative sample. On the other hand, personality assessments assess personality traits and psychological functioning. Tests like the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) and the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) use normative scoring to assess personality traits.
  • Clinical: Neuropsychological assessments evaluate cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and executive functioning. These tests are conducted on individuals who have neurological conditions or injuries. Diagnostic assessments are used to evaluate conditions such as ADHD or learning disabilities. These assessments make use of normative comparisons to aid in diagnosis.
  • Employment: When hiring new employees, they may use tests to evaluate the candidate's cognitive abilities or personality. These tests compare the candidate's results to those of a relevant normative sample. Similarly, skills assessments are used to measure job-specific skills or competencies, and they may also use normative comparisons to determine proficiency levels.
  • Clinical and research: Normative scoring is used in various tests to evaluate physical and mental health conditions, such as depression inventories or symptom checklists in healthcare settings. Similarly, researchers may use normative tests to measure different constructs or phenomena in studies across various populations.

How are normative tests scored and interpreted?

Normative tests are scored and interpreted by comparing an individual's performance to that of a normative sample, typically using statistical measures such as percentile ranks or standard scores. Here's a general overview of how normative tests are scored and interpreted:


When a test is scored, the individual responses are evaluated based on predetermined scoring criteria. This can include awarding points for correct answers or using a scoring rubric for open-ended questions. 

The total number of correct responses or points earned is used to calculate the raw score. Raw scores are often converted to standardized scores to easily compare results across different test versions or other populations. Standard standardized scores include z-scores, T-scores, or stanines.


When a person takes a test, the results are often given in terms of percentile ranks, standard scores, subgroup norms, and interpretive guidelines. These terms can help interpret what the scores mean. 

Percentile ranks tell us how well a person did compared to others who took the same test. For example, if a person scores in the 75th percentile, they did better than 75% of those who took the test. 

Standard scores tell us how far a person's score is from the average score of people who took the same test. A score of 100 is considered moderate. Scores above or below 100 indicate how much better or worse the person did than the average. Sometimes, tests provide subgroup norms. 

These are scores specific to a particular group of people who took the test, such as people of a certain age or education level. This helps account for differences in how people perform on the test. Interpretive guidelines can help people understand what the scores mean. 

The guidelines might explain what scores are typical, above average, or below average. They might also indicate if there are any concerns based on the scores.

Clinical judgment

While normative data provide valuable information about how an individual's performance compares to that of a normative sample, clinical judgment is essential in interpreting test results. 

Factors such as the individual's background, clinical history, and other relevant contextual information should be considered in conjunction with test scores to make informed decisions or interpretations.

What are normative test examples?
What are normative test examples?

Commonly asked questions

What are normative test examples?

Normative test examples refer to standardized assessments that compare an individual's performance against a normative sample, typically representing the average performance within a specific population.

What does the term normative mean in testing?

In testing, the term "normative" refers to establishing a standard or benchmark based on the average performance of a specific group or population. Normative data allows for individual performance comparisons relative to the established standard.

How do we create normative tests on Carepatron?

Users can customize assessment templates on Carepatron to accommodate different testing needs or preferences. Standardized templates ensure consistency in test administration and accurate comparisons of test results across individuals or settings.

Join 10,000+ teams using Carepatron to be more productive

One app for all your healthcare work