Architectural Ellipsis

... Intern Architect ...

  • ARE 5.0 Cut Scores

    Earlier this week NCARB posted an update on the ARE 5.0 Community page dedicated to updating candidates on the number of administrations currently taken and scheduled for each ARE 5.0 division. The magic number we are looking for is 600 administrations, which is how many administrations NCARB needs to establish a cut score for each division. The cut score isn't anything new to the ARE. After each update to the ARE it is necessary to establish a new cut score in order to successfully evaluate a candidate's competency. 

    NCARB is making a valiant attempt to be transparent about the process and why it is necessary (which is quite a change from when it was done in 2004). They've written on their blog about it, offered $100 to any candidate who is one of the first 600 people to take the test in each division, and even offered to extend the $100 offer to anyone who simply took the new exams before the end of January so you didn't have to fret about whether or not you would be in the first 600 (answering questions about how many tests had been taken seemed to take up a lot of the NCARB moderators' time in November and December last year on the ARE 5.0 Community).

    With the update indicating that they've reached the magic 600 administrations threshold for the PPD division, NCARB is moving forward with the process and they've announced that they plan to have the cut score set and pass/fail notices should be sent out to candidates by mid-February. That being said, and with all the information NCARB has put out concerning the process, there still seems to be some confusion as to what the cut score actually is, and how it is set. Since I'm one of the candidates left waiting for cut scores to be set on my last two divisions, I decided to dig into the process a little more and see what I could find out.

    A cut score is just a simple way of determining what score a testing candidate must achieve to be considered minimally competent. If you score higher than the cut score, you are deemed to be competent in the subject matter and you pass the test. If you score lower than the cut score, you are not deemed to be competent in the subject matter and you fail the test. 

    NCARB has mentioned that they use the Modified Angoff method for establishing the cut score, but they drop it into casual conversation like we all understand what they mean by it. The essential question for establishing a cut score for each question on the exam is what percentage of minimally competent test candidates would answer this question correctly. 0% would mean that a minimally competent candidate would always answer the question incorrectly, and 100% would mean that a minimally competent candidate would always answer it correctly. Although 0% and 100% would never be appropriate rankings for a test question. For example, statistically, a candidate would be able to guess on a multiple choice question with four possible answers and answer correctly 25% of the time. Conversely, minimal competency does not equal perfection so requiring candidates to answer a question correctly all the time would also not be appropriate.

    Don't like that you failed to pass the ARE ... you can basically blame William Angoff

    The Modified Angoff method asks the subject matter experts to independently rate the difficulty of the test questions. Then the experts are allowed to compare their rankings to those of the other experts and reevaluate their rankings. For example if half of the experts rank a question around 50% (meaning half of minimally competent candidates will answer it correctly) but the other half rank it around 80%, they could deliberate and decide if they need to adjust their rankings and bring them toward a consensus. One point I'm unclear on is whether the panel of experts must find and agree on a consensus. If they are allowed to differ slightly in their rankings, the actual cut score for the question would then be based on an average of all the experts' rankings. For example: A question with 5 experts ranking it as follows -- 50%, 54%, 50%, 48%, and 53% -- the average would be 51% indicating that 51% of competent candidates would answer it correctly.

    After the rankings are established among the experts, they are then allowed to review actual scores from tests that have been administered. This is where the necessary 600 administrations come in. The experts are then allowed to modify their rankings again based on this data. For example, if the rankings would indicate that 80% of candidates should answer a question correctly, but the actual administrations are showing that only 50% have done so ... the experts may wish to revise their ranking. However, I don't believe that this means they have to revise them in order to match the results of the actual administrations. The question might be one that is important enough for determining competency that the experts agree that a larger majority of competent candidates should be able to answer it correctly. 

    The cut score process is not the process of setting a curve

    This opportunity for the experts to revise their rankings based on actual test data is what I believe NCARB is pointing to in the process when they say that by being an early tester you have the opportunity to "influence the cut score." I also think that this statement from NCARB is why many candidates believe that the cut score is established like a professor might base their grades on a curve or class average. However, I hesitate to acknowledge that the early testers might have that much influence, and I'm quick to point out that the cut score is not based on a curve. As I understand the process, the experts are the ones that ultimately determine competency (albeit through a rigorous process), not some average of testing candidates' scores. I imagine that in reality the effect of the test results from the early administrations probably highlight poorly written test questions more than they exert an influence over the experts' opinions. If anyone can shed more light on this though, I'd love to hear more.

    So after all the questions are ranked, the cut score is simply a calculation based upon those questions for each administration. For example, a simple 10-question test of questions ranked as follows would result in an average of those scores and the cut score of 65%:

    • Question 1: 60%
    • Question 2: 70%
    • Question 3: 75%
    • Question 4: 60%
    • Question 5: 50%
    • Question 6: 85%
    • Question 7: 55%
    • Question 8: 75%
    • Question 9: 70%
    • Question 10: 50%

    So a minimally competent candidate would need to answer 65% or more of the questions correctly in order to pass and be deemed competent in the subject matter.

    This also gets interesting when you have a pool of questions that is greater than the number needed for any particular exam administration. Take for example an exam with 100 questions, you might have 400 questions from which 100 are randomly selected. So one candidate's exam might be measurably harder than another's because they have more questions that are ranked as more difficult. However, with the cut score being based on the individual questions in the administration rather than a simple cut off score for the exam as a whole, the harder exam will require a cut score that is lower than the easier exam

    To illustrate, take another set of 10 questions to compare to the example I posted above. It has some easier questions but overall the questions are harder:

    • Question 1: 50%
    • Question 2: 60%
    • Question 3: 75%
    • Question 4: 55%
    • Question 5: 50%
    • Question 6: 65%
    • Question 7: 65%
    • Question 8: 60%
    • Question 9: 80%
    • Question 10: 50%

    In this example the cut score is now 61%. Extrapolate this from a 10-question test to one with 100 questions, and answering 63 questions correctly will result in passing the harder test, but answering the same number of questions correctly on the easier test would result in a failing the easier test ... even though the score is the same, 63%.

  • Can we talk?

    I'd like to talk to you about unpaid internships. I thought this was pretty much self-evident, but it keeps coming up and I'm realizing now that maybe I had given you too much credit to piece this together on your own; so let me lay it out for you. Don't work for free.Is that clear enough? It...

  • ARE 5.0 and Forums

    ARE 5.0 is going live next week and in anticipation of transitioning to take my last two divisions of the ARE, I've been looking at some of the options out there for information. One of my first stops was ARE Coach's forum, where I went primarily for information regarding ARE 4.0 vignettes...

  • Your Job Posting is Confusing

    Occasionally I peruse the recent job postings here on Archinect just to get an idea of the types jobs out there and what they are looking for. Many times I find these postings confusing and/or contradictory. Now I've posted about some of these job postings before in the forums (you can sift...

  • "Intern" replacement coming from NCARB?

    NCARB recently published the 2015 NCARB by the Numbers report. This is the first since announcing the sunsetting of the term intern, and it looks like NCARB is keeping it's promise to not use it. Remarkably, the only occurences of the word "intern" are when it is used in the name of the...

  • NCARB Punted the Intern Title Debate

    Preface: The news is out and already old. This post has gone through plenty of iterations. I've tried writing a response to the news that NCARB is sunsetting the term intern various ways and none of them seem to really sit well with me. I've tried to discount their stance. I've tried getting angry...

  • Ceci n'est pas une pipe

    I hope this wallpaper doesn't catch on. I'm all in favor of the artwork, but just don't bring it into a building as wallpaper. Leave it as part of the museum's collection.SourceI would much rather see this instead. But I also don't hope this catches on as well.Source

  • Entry Level ... with Experience

    I've been looking at job opportunities lately. I don't know if anything will come of it, but either way, I've been looking around. I seem to be noticing more and more postings that are advertising for "entry-level" positions, but have a list of requirements that makes me wonder if employers and...

    You keep using that word ...

    Jefe, what is a plethora?

  • Keep Calm and ...

    For the last few weeks I've had my head buried in work. While it seemed to continue to pile up, I finally created a little room to breathe the last couple of days. I've been able to get a bit ahead, finish up some tasks and I have to say, it feels quite good. It has also allowed me a bit of time...

  • Well Hello Graduate! Welcome to the Rest of Your Life

    It's that time of year when a new crop of recent graduates is out looking for work, realizing that this summer marks the beginning of their new lives. Landing that first job can feel great, but getting there is only part of the story. My post today, in addition to the warm welcome, is an attempt...

  • Architecture ... In Your Ears

    As an intern I tend to spend quite a bit of time in my cubicle plugging away in CAD. In school, I listened to music to help pass the time and monotony of working on a project, but in the office I find my pandora station either starts to repeat the same stuff constantly, or I spend too much time...

  • On Internships and Mowing the Lawn

    Spring is finally here in the US and that means that students everywhere are working on their portfolios and getting ready to apply for summer internships. Even everyone's favorite blogger-tect and twitter-tect is sensing the longer days of sunshine and dusting off old posts to help the potential...

  • Want to be an Architect?; Don't Learn Revit

    Before you skip the rest of my post and start flinging words around in the comments, hear me out. I think Revit is a valuable tool and that soon (if not already) it and other BIM programs will become just part of the game and you'll have to learn it. It's either that or you can become an...

  • A.R.E. Strategies

    You'll never hear me claim I know everything. A lot of my intentions for starting this blog include getting the advice and opinions of others out there (see the last paragraph here).  With that in mind I wanted to reach out to the archinect community for some wisdom.  I'm looking at...

  • Parasitic Interns

    I came across this over on Houzz (hatezz that name by the way). While I hope the series is tongue in cheek, the distribution of the intern struck me as odd: "The Intern is a parasitic species, typically found clustered around Architects or Interior Designers, dutifully cleaning up the designs."...

  • Let's talk about ...

    As you might have gathered from the description in the sidebar, this blog is about the parts of the profession that we tend to gloss over, omit, or just don’t talk about; what I call an architectural ellipsis. Perhaps a few quick examples may be helpful in understanding what I mean. An...

  • ×Search in:

About this Blog

An ellipsis [...] is used to signal an omission, an unfinished thought, aposiopesis, or brief awkward silence. Architectural ellipses are those aspects of the profession we (perhaps intentionally) omit, gloss over, or let dwindle in silence. Generally applied this blog should encompass many aspects of the profession. Yet, as an intern architect I'll focus primarily on the architectural ellipses that occur in the internship process.

Authored by:

Recent Entries

Please wait... loading