Competency-based interview (CBI)

A competency-based interview (CBI) is an interview between you as the examiner/assessor and a student or possibly a small group of students. The goal is to determine the level of competency in a certain field. In a competency-based interview the student justifies the choices they made in relation to their submitted proof (e.g. a product, portfolio or observed action).

What can be assessed?

You assess the deliberate competency (Does in Miller’s Pyramid) and the student’s ability to reflect (Evaluating in Bloom’s Taxonomy).

Which levels can you assess?

Within Bloom’s Taxonomy you mainly assess the level of Evaluating. Other levels are also addressed, but only in relation to the specific action/achievement.

In Miller’s Pyramid, the competency-based interview lends itself to Knows how. Shows is also addressed, but only in combination with the product, portfolio or observed action.

Prerequisites for this assessment method

  • The competency-based interview is suitable for individual students or small groups who have worked together.
  • This assessment method can be administered both face-to-face as well as online.

Points of attention while taking the assessment

The duration of a competency-based interview depends on the goals that need to be assessed and practical considerations. Allow for a maximum of about 40 minutes to account for the workload of both the examiner and the student.

Because the interviewer during a competency-based interview is also the assessor, the competency-based interview needs to be conducted by content specialists. Preferably there are two assessors who are not involved with the student. This is to strive for objectivity.

If there is only one examiner, it is advised to make a video or audio recording of the competency-based interview. This can serve as proof if a student objects the final judgement.

If several examiners administer the same competency-based interview, make sure there is a prior agreement on the approach and the desired level. This creates comparable situations for the students.

The STAR(RT) method often serves as a structure during the assessment. This method aims to systematically explore a student’s conducted behaviour. The exploration follows these steps:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Activity
  • Result
  • Reflection
  • Transfer

You  guide the conversation by asking questions related to the different steps. By using specific, open questions you invite the student to clarify their behaviour and the choices they made. It is important that during the interview the student does most of the talking.


Administering and appraising the competency-based interview is done by one or two content specialists. The appraisal takes place based on an appraisal model with assessment criteria.

Calibration sessions are recommended to come to an agreement on the desired performance level.

You can express the end result in the form of a grade, but it is better to apply a more general judgement such as ‘insufficient, sufficient, good’. This to not suggest a form of precision that is difficult to achieve with this assessment method. Ultimately, it is about appraising whether or not the student is sufficiently competent to carry out an action or a task. Instead of expressing the appraisal in the form of a grade, you can also do this in the form of (oral and/or written) feedback.

Feedback to the student

What feedback do you give?

In addition to the end result in the form of a grade or a more general judgement, also give feedback as a whole and/or per assessment criterion. For an optimal learning experience, it is recommended to also explicitly name the things that were positive. At least give an explanation for the parts for which the score was low or insufficient. 

How do you give feedback?

At the very least, you give written feedback via an assessment form. And if possible, also orally immediately after the assessment.

Evaluating an assessment method

What do you evaluate?

Points of attention for adjusting the assessment are:

  • Are the assessment criteria well applicable? Do they provide guidance?
  • Does the assessment tool discriminate sufficiently between performances on different levels?
  • Do the results correspond with the expert-judgement of the assessors?
  • Are there no assessment criteria that overlap?

How do you evaluate?

Organising calibration sessions is a good way to gain insight into the quality of the assessment instrument (so: the assessment method as it was developed). You do this after conducting several competency-based interviews. The process for this is:

  • Beforehand, independently appraise the same performance (for example a video recording of a competency-based interview).
  • Together, discuss the similarities and differences.
  • On the one hand, this discussion will lead to mutual agreements on how to apply the assessment criteria and, on the other hand, it will give input for adjusting/honing the assessment explanation, assessment criteria and/or other aspects of the assessment tool.

A calibration session is mostly meant to help align multiple assessors. Even when all appraisals are done by the same examiner, coordination with a peer is recommended (external validation).

Questions or want to know more?

Do you want professional advice on developing or analysing your assessment? Please contact:

  • Radboud University: the TIP of your faculty
  • Radboudumc: Assessment service via toetsservice [at] (toetsservice[at]radboudumc[dot]nl)