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(ISC)² Examination Scoring FAQs

Q: Does everyone take the same test?

A: No. (ISC)² maintains a large pool of questions which can be used to generate many different forms of the examinations.  To ensure the integrity and security of the examination, the examination forms are updated on a regular basis.  Furthermore, multiple forms of the examination are in use at any given time, and candidates are randomly assigned these forms.

Q: Is one test form easier than another?

A: No.  (ISC)² uses statistical data on how each test question performs to evaluate the difficulty of each examination form.  The examinations are carefully constructed in order to minimize variations in difficulty levels from one test form to another.  It is possible, however, to have slight variations in difficulty based on the particular combination of test questions that are selected for each examination form.  This is taken into account when the passing scores are set or when test forms are equated, so it does not matter which exam form each candidate takes. Equating is a statistical method which allows psychometricians to create different examination forms of equal difficulty. 

Q: How is the passing score determined?

A: The passing score (also called a “cut score”) is established by a panel of subject matter experts (SMEs). To have a diverse group of SMEs on the panel representing various geographic regions, ethnicity, practice settings and years of experience is important to ensure that the panel of experts adequately represents the field. The members on the panel are selected from a list of SME volunteers that (ISC)2 maintains. The list is updated yearly. Based on panel’s recommended passing score, the (ISC)² Examination Committee, also called the Scheme Committee, which is made up of members of the (ISC)² Board of Directors, finalize the passing score.  During this process, the panel, working under the guidance of a psychometrician, discusses the minimum level of competence that is required for passing the examination and obtaining the credential.  This discussion focuses on the specific knowledge, skills and abilities that qualified practitioners possess. The panel then systematically evaluates each question on the examination and rates their difficulty levels.  The ratings are combined to arrive at the recommend passing score for that specific examination. (ISC)2 always uses psychometrically accepted standard setting methods to determine passing scores for all of its credentials.

Q: Why is the scale 0 - 1000 when I didn't see 1000 questions?

A: The scale used by (ISC)² is similar to scales used by other large testing programs, such as the SAT, ACT, or GRE. The scale has more points on it than there are number of questions on the examination.

Q: What is a scaled score?

A: A scaled score is a different way of expressing a candidate’s achieved score in the examination without distorting the meaning of scores. In scaled score reporting, a candidate’s raw score (number of items answered correctly) is converted to a number within a predefined score range. In the case of (ISC)², all raw scores are converted to scaled scores of 0-1000, with the passing scaled score of 700. It is similar to the conversion of temperature from Fahrenheit to Celsius or vice versa. For example, 85 degrees Fahrenheit is equivalent to 29.44 degrees Celsius. In this conversion, the temperature remains the same, but, depending on the scale used, the number is different (85° Fahrenheit versus 29.44° Celsius).

Q: Does scaling the scores affect who passes or fails the exam?

A: The use of scaled scores does not affect whether or not an individual candidate passes or fails the examination. The pass/fail decision is always made by comparing the number of questions answered correctly to the passing score that was established using the psychometrically accepted standard setting methods described above. All candidates who correctly answer more items than the number of items required for passing the examination will obtain scaled scores between 700 and 1000. Candidates who do not answer enough items to pass the test obtain scaled scores between 0 and 699. Scaling also does not affect the rank ordering of candidates.  A candidate who answers more items correctly than another candidate taking the same examination form will obtain a higher scaled score; however; in the certification examination, candidates are not ranked in order; they are only informed whether they passed or failed the test.

Q: Why scale the scores?

A: The use of scaled scores allows us to directly compare scores from one examination form to another because the passing standard will always be the same - a scaled score of 700.  In the long run, this process makes the scoring of (ISC)² examinations easier to understand for all concerned. No matter which (ISC)² credential examination form a candidate takes, the passing score will always remain constant of 700. This also provides stability in score reporting, all of which are critical to maintaining equality for all candidates, which provides the foundation for the ANSI/ISO/IEC accreditation of our credentials.

Q: Can I find out how many questions I answered correctly?

A: (ISC)² does not report to candidates the number of questions they answered correctly or the overall percentage of questions they answered correctly; however; failing candidates are provided with the rank ordering of domains based on their percentage of questions answered correctly in each domain of the examination. This information is provided to assist failing candidates who would know the domains that they need to focus in their further study