Another frequently-asked question by candidates is what is the pass mark? How many questions should they be aiming to get right?

The answer to this depends on knowing what a percentile score is. Because employers will have a ‘select in / sift out’ percentile score in mind when deciding the cut-off percentile score. The cut-off percentile score can be whatever the employer decides they are looking for, but typically speaking companies such as the big graduate recruiters will use the 40th-50th percentile as a benchmark. Some elite institutions may go as far as stipulating the 90th percentile (i.e. they will take only the top 10%), but this is rare.

What is a percentile? It is the percent of the comparison group who have a score lower than yours. So for example, scoring in the 4oth percentile means that 40% of the comparison group (referred to as the norm group) had a score below yours, and 60% had a score higher than yours.

The norm group is a group of people who have taken the test before, against whom your score is compared. Test publishers will have many different norm groups depending on what the employer wants to benchmark you against. So there are graduate norm groups, senior manager norm groups, international administrative workers norm groups, bespoke norm groups for a specific company, and even a specific role…just about any group of test takers can generate score data against which your score can be comaped.

The reason percentile scores and norm groups are used is that this is the best way to make comparisons. If you score 19/24, is that good? Average? Who knows, until you know what other people got. It may be that the test was really easy and that the average score from other participants is 22/24. The only way to capture your relative performance is to use percentile scoring against a norm group, which is what employers do.

You can read more about percentile scores in our page here: percentiles.


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