a stick a yard long, commonly marked with subdivisions, used for measuring.
any standard of measurement or judgment: Test scores are not the only yardstick of academic achievement.

1810–20, Americanism; yard1 + stick1

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World English Dictionary
yardstick (ˈjɑːdˌstɪk)
1.  a measure or standard used for comparison: on what kind of yardstick is he basing his criticism?
2.  a graduated stick, one yard long, used for measurement

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Example sentences
However, the yardstick does not have to be academic courses only.
Take out a yardstick and measure the distances between different students'
  hands and heads.
No other yardstick is mentioned, not society, not evolution.
What has been missing in the science of smell, they argue, is a meaningful way
  to measure it-an olfactory yardstick.
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