Proficiency Test: Minimum number of participants

Proficiency Test: Minimum number of participants

How to establish a minimum number of participants in a proficiency test round?

To establish the minimum number of participants in a proficiency test exercise, there are several considerations to consider according to international standards such as ISO 13528 and ISO/IEC 17043. Here is a summary of the most important considerations:

  • Robust Statistics: If there are only a few participants, it is crucial to use statistical methods that are robust to variability in results due to the small sample size. This ensures that conclusions drawn from the analysis are valid and reliable​​.
  • Performance Evaluation and Measurement Errors: Establishing appropriate evaluation criteria requires considering the number of participants to ensure that performance evaluations and the identification of systematic or random errors are effective. With too few participants, it might be challenging to identify and correct these errors​​.
  • Assigned Values and Consensus Value: In schemes where a consensus value derived from participant results is used, having a minimum number of participants helps ensure that this value is representative and statistically significant​​.
  • Consistency and Comparability: An adequate number of participants ensures that the results of the proficiency testing are consistent and comparable. This is particularly important in interlaboratory studies where comparability of results across different laboratories is crucial​​.
  • Specific Scheme Design Requirements: Depending on the specific design of the proficiency testing scheme and its objectives, the minimum number of participants may vary. It’s essential that the statistical design of the scheme can accommodate the expected size and variability among participants​​.

In summary, while there is no universally accepted fixed minimum number because it depends on several scheme-specific factors, these aspects are crucial to ensuring the quality and validity of the proficiency testing exercise. It is always advisable to consult with a statistician or a testing design expert to establish the appropriate number of participants based on the specific objectives and characteristics of the proficiency testing scheme.

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