I've been asked to replace the use of "met" and "not met" in terms of test criteria results to "pass" or "fail." I'm struggling since it seems to me that criteria cannot pass; criteria must be met. The tested system can pass a test by meeting criteria, but can it pass criteria? Even with the possibility of rewriting MANY sentences, they want "met" and "not met" (e.g., The criterion was met) turned into "passed" and "failed." Isn't my only option to rewrite it as "The test system passed since it met the criterion?" (or "The test system passed by meeting the criterion?"). Is it sufficient to just say "The test system passed?"

Then there's the issue when the criteria were "partially met." (i.e., it met "A" and "B" but failed "C.") Thank you for your thoughts on this!

  • This seems to be more a question of domain-specific test definition than it is a question about the English Language. Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 16:48
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    Criteria are abstractions set up by advisory boards. They can't be done anything with, except ignored. Tests can be passed, expectations can be met or exceeded; criteria are handwaving. Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 17:20
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    @JohnLawler Subversive: They can't be done anything with. Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 17:26
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    I agree with your intuition that criteria can be said to be 'met' but not 'passed'.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 17:43
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    While ignoring them is often optimal, one can claim criteria are satisfied (which is frequently the path of least resistance.)
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 21:07

2 Answers 2


I support your feelings.

Merriam Webster
a standard on which a judgment or decision may be based

Hence a criterion cannot pass or fail. People or tests made against a criterion may fail but the criterion is merely a reference point, a standard.


A system can pass the criterion — that is to say, pass the test.

criterion, n.
b. A test, principle, rule, canon, or standard, by which anything is judged or estimated.
Source: Oxford English Dictionary (login required)

See it in action.

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    There are certainly many examples of "pass the criterion/ia" ("Lures that pass the criterion are false alarms" was one of the first), but "X passed the criterion" sounds more natural than "the criterion was passed" - in the latter case I'd use "met".
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 9:30

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