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Ceiling Effect in Testing

The ceiling effect of testing is a phenomenon that stifles diversity of outcomes in students at the upper range of a score distribution. It should be noted that a ceiling effect is defined in several ways and can occur in standardized tests as well as with other measurements used in research studies. The technical, statistical definition of the ceiling effect of testing is that it occurs when the independent variable no longer has an impact on the dependent variable. That is, a student’s test score no longer accurately and proportionally changes in relation to the student’s knowledge base.

For example, one of the acknowledged liabilities of standardized testing is the influence of the ceiling effect on assessment outcomes. All standardized tests have an upper limit designed ...

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