External Examinations as Student Learning Outcome Measures

UF faculty use external examinations in programs and departments for a variety of purposes, including, but not limited to, the assessment of student achievement, professional licensure, and professional certification. These examinations, developed by third-party providers, provide faculty with high quality, valuable information about student achievement in their programs.

Every undergraduate, graduate, and professional program at UF has established program-level student learning outcomes (SLOs). UF faculty measure these SLOs using a diverse range of assessments, from exams to performances to portfolios, and use this data to engage in productive, professional conversations that lead to continuous program improvement and effectiveness. This diversity of measurement tools is one of the hallmarks of our excellence.

Program SLO measures should be those that are developed, administered, and graded by the faculty in the program where the student is learning. When faculty use an external exam that they do not develop, administer, or grade to measure SLO achievement, the validity of the inferences made from the scores to support their interpretation and use for this purpose can be compromised.

The Interpretation and Use Argument

Therefore, when program faculty use external examination scores/subscores as measures of program SLOs, they must submit their interpretation and use argument to the Academic Assessment Committee for their approval. Interpretation and use arguments are submitted through the ALC/AAP portal in the Approval Tracking System as a change to an academic assessment plan. The committee requests the following information, dependingng on the specific use:

  1. When faculty have been directly involved in the development of the external exam or measure, they should describe their involvement in the development of the external examination, and the justify the use of the scores/subscores as actionable data for the purpose of SLO measurement.
  2. When faculty use external exam scores/subscores in combination with additional, faculty-developed measures for the same SLO, they should justify the interpretation and use of the external exam scores/subscores as actionable data for this purpose.
  3. When faculty use external exam scores/subscores as the sole measure for an SLO, they should justify the interpretation and use of the external exam scores/subscores as the best source of actionable data for this purpose. 

External Examinations as Program Goal Measures

While we advise that external examination scores/subscores only be used as measures of program SLOs when they are supported by sufficient validity evidence to justify their interpretation and use for this purpose, they can be considered as inherently valid as measures of certain academic program goals. For example, program faculty might set a goal that 95% of their students will pass a particular external exam, or that 80% will pass a professional licensure exam on the first try, etc., as a measure of program effectiveness.


American Educational Research Association (AERA), American Psychological Association (APA), & National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME). (2014). Standards for educational and psychological testing. Washington, DC: AERA.