Some advantages of norm referenced testing are high and reliable test quality, standardized procedures and meaningful information about average performance. Using norm referenced testing also facilitates decisions regarding educational needs, determines standards for student progress and identifies student risk for failure.
The norm referenced test is easiest to use when comparing student progress and performance. These tests provide a quick view of the things that students are expected to learn and are cheap and easy to administer.
Norm referenced testing assumes that human traits are distributed along a normal probability or normal curve. This curve represents the average, high and low test scores of a population. A norm referenced test compares test performance amongst students of the same age.
While there are advantages to norm referenced testing, the disadvantages outweigh them. These tests can only measure a small part of a subject and a minor section of human abilities. Most of these types of tests focus too much on memorization and routine procedures, leaving out critical thinking and reasoning. Whether a student can write a quality paper, understand the impact of science and current events or has the ability to debate can not be tested with norm referenced tests due to their multiple-choice and short answer questions. These tests can cause academic expectations to be lower for those students who have low scores.