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Teaching excellence & educational innovation, what is the difference between formative and summative assessment, formative assessment.

The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. More specifically, formative assessments:

  • help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work
  • help faculty recognize where students are struggling and address problems immediately

Formative assessments are generally low stakes , which means that they have low or no point value. Examples of formative assessments include asking students to:

  • draw a concept map in class to represent their understanding of a topic
  • submit one or two sentences identifying the main point of a lecture
  • turn in a research proposal for early feedback

Summative assessment

The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.

Summative assessments are often high stakes , which means that they have a high point value. Examples of summative assessments include:

Information from summative assessments can be used formatively when students or faculty use it to guide their efforts and activities in subsequent courses.

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21 Summative Assessment Examples

Formative vs summative assessment

Summative assessment is a type of achievmeent assessment that occurs at the end of a unit of work. Its goal is to evaluate what students have learned or the skills they have developed. It is compared to a formative assessment that takes place in the middle of the unit of work for feedback to students and learners.

Performance is evaluated according to specific criteria, and usually result in a final grade or percentage achieved.

The scores of individual students are then compared to established benchmarks which can result in significant consequences for the student.

A traditional example of summative evaluation is a standardized test such as the SATs. The SATs help colleges determine which students should be admitted.

However, summative assessment doesn’t have to be in a paper-and-pencil format. Project-based learning, performance-based assessments, and authentic assessments can all be forms of summative assessment.

Real Life Summative Assessment Examples

Summative Test Ideas for Classroom Teachers

Whereas the above exams represent some of the most high-profile and high-stakes summative tests, summative assessment also takes place in everyday classrooms.

Below are some common ways teachers might create a summative test for their students:

Summative vs Formative Assessment

Summative assessments are one of two main types of assessment. The other is formative assessment.

Whereas summative assessment occurs at the end of a unit of work, a formative assessment takes place in the middle of the unit so teachers and students can get feedback on progress and make accommodations to stay on track.

Summative assessments tend to be much higher-stakes because they reflect a final judgment about a student’s learning, skills, and knowledge:

“Passing bestows important benefits, such as receiving a high school diploma, a scholarship, or entry into college, and failure can affect a child’s future employment prospects and earning potential as an adult” (States et al, 2018, p. 3).

Five Summative Test Scenarios

1. performance-based summative assessment.

A traditional form of summative assessment usually involves a lot of multiple-choice and short essay questions. But it doesn’t have to be that way at all. Performance-based tests that involve authentic assessment can also be summative.

For example, at the end of each unit in an advanced radiology course, the instructor might provide students with 10 X-rays that show various diseases. The students have to work in pairs to identify the disease and indicate its stage of progression.

Of course, to make things interesting, the instructor also includes X-rays that don’t contain any diseases and others that are most commonly misdiagnosed by highly experienced professionals.

2. Presentation-Based Final Evaluation

In a university course in developmental psychology, the chapter on attachment styles usually sparks a lot of interest among the students. Assessing student learning through traditional paper-and-pencil tests doesn’t seem to capture the dynamic nature of the subject.

So, the professor locates some old footage from Mary Ainsworth’s original studies on the strange situations test . The videos are a bit grainy, but there is a lot of footage that show great examples of each attachment style.

To assess their understanding of each style, the students are sent home with a set of videos. They can watch them as often as they want but must return the next week and make a presentation to the class.

The presentation must involve showing the video, identifying the attachment style, and pinpointing the exact infant behavior that typifies that attachment category.

3. Portfolio Presentations

A university course for future kindergarten teachers is called Props and Stuff. The course involves teachers learning about prop theory and how to make their own materials for classroom instruction.

At the end of each unit, students have to make a specific type of prop, such as a sock puppet, pop-up book, or animal habitat diorama.

By the end of the term, students have produced a lot of very interesting props. As part of the summative assessment the class holds an exhibition where each student displays a selection of their props as part of their portfolio.

Each portfolio is evaluated by the other students (peer assessment) in the class based on a set of pre-determined criteria. The average of those scores will be the basis for their grade in the course.

4. Real-Life Simulation as Final Exam

Students in a course on leadership styles have spent the last 3 months reading chapters, writing papers, and debating case studies. They have memorized the names and dates of key historical scholars and can name plenty of modern leaders that fit certain styles.

However, the final assessment of their learning will be performance-based. The professor has prepared a set of job simulations that portray various scenarios in a corporate setting.

First, each student selects a card from the stack of simulation scenarios. Then they draw a slip of folded paper from a hat which identifies one leadership style.

While they engage the simulation, they must act according to the leadership style selected. The professor takes notes on their performance and keeps track of statements that reflect that style.

The final score is based on the number of times the student demonstrated the appropriate leadership style, either through statements or non-verbal behavior.

5. Interviews as Final Assessment

At the end of a history unit on the U.S. constitution, the teacher has decided to create a unique summative assessment that involves a simulated talk show interview.

Students will need to study the details of any 3 key historical figures involved in the writing of the constitution. They can choose from the list provided by the teacher.

The summative assessment will occur in the form of a talk show interview. One student will interview the historical figure by asking them questions about their life and their role in writing the constitution. There are 6 questions that are central to the unit’s content.

Grades will be based on if the student knows key facts that were covered in the unit about that figure. The more complete and accurate their answers, the higher their score.

Summative assessment allows teachers to determine if their students have reached the defined learning objectives. It can occur at the end of a unit, an academic term, or academic year.

The assessment usually results in a grade or a percentage that is recorded in the student’s file. These scores are then used in a variety of ways and are meant to provide a snapshot of the student’s progress.

Although the SAT or ACT are common examples of summative assessment, it can actually take many forms. Teachers might ask their students to give an oral presentation, perform a short role-play, or complete a project-based assignment. 

Brookhart, S. M. (2004). Assessment theory for college classrooms. New Directions for Teaching and Learning , 100 , 5-14. https://doi.org/10.1002/tl.165

Dixon, D. D., & Worrell, F. C. (2016). Formative and summative assessment in the classroom. Theory into Practice , 55 , 153-159. https://doi.org/10.1080/00405841.2016.1148989

Geiser, S., & Santelices, M. V. (2007). Validity of high-school grades in predicting student success beyond the freshman year: High-school record vs. standardized tests as indicators of four-year college outcomes. Research and Occasional Paper Series. Berkeley, CA: Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California.

Kibble J. D. (2017). Best practices in summative assessment. Advances in Physiology Education , 41 (1), 110–119. https://doi.org/10.1152/advan.00116.2016

Lungu, S., Matafwali, B., & Banja, M. K. (2021). Formative and summative assessment practices by teachers in early childhood education centres in Lusaka, Zambia. European Journal of Education Studies, 8 (2), 44-65.

States, J., Detrich, R., & Keyworth, R. (2018). Summative Assessment (Wing Institute Original Paper). https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.16788.19844


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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.

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Formative and summative assessments.

Assessment allows both instructor and student to monitor progress towards achieving learning objectives, and can be approached in a variety of ways. Formative assessment refers to tools that identify misconceptions, struggles, and learning gaps along the way and assess how to close those gaps. It includes effective tools for helping to shape learning, and can even bolster students’ abilities to take ownership of their learning when they understand that the goal is to improve learning, not apply final marks (Trumbull and Lash, 2013). It can include students assessing themselves, peers, or even the instructor, through writing, quizzes, conversation, and more. In short, formative assessment occurs throughout a class or course, and seeks to improve student achievement of learning objectives through approaches that can support specific student needs (Theal and Franklin, 2010, p. 151). 

In contrast, summative assessments evaluate student learning, knowledge, proficiency, or success at the conclusion of an instructional period, like a unit, course, or program. Summative assessments are almost always formally graded and often heavily weighted (though they do not need to be). Summative assessment can be used to great effect in conjunction and alignment with formative assessment, and instructors can consider a variety of ways to combine these approaches. 

Examples of Formative and Summative Assessments

Both forms of assessment can vary across several dimensions (Trumbull and Lash, 2013): 


Formative Assessment   Ideally, formative assessment strategies improve teaching and learning simultaneously. Instructors can help students grow as learners by actively encouraging them to self-assess their own skills and knowledge retention, and by giving clear instructions and feedback. Seven principles (adapted from Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick, 2007 with additions) can guide instructor strategies:

Instructors can find a variety of other formative assessment techniques through Angelo and Cross (1993), Classroom Assessment Techniques (list of techniques available here ).

Summative Assessment   Because summative assessments are usually higher-stakes than formative assessments, it is especially important to ensure that the assessment aligns with the goals and expected outcomes of the instruction.  

Considerations for Online Assessments

Effectively implementing assessments in an online teaching environment can be particularly challenging. The Poorvu Center shares these  recommendations .

Nicol, D.J. and Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006) Formative assessment and self‐regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education 31(2): 2-19.

Theall, M. and Franklin J.L. (2010). Assessing Teaching Practices and Effectiveness for Formative Purposes. In: A Guide to Faculty Development. KJ Gillespie and DL Robertson (Eds). Jossey Bass: San Francisco, CA.

Trumbull, E., & Lash, A. (2013). Understanding formative assessment: Insights from learning theory and measurement theory. San Francisco: WestEd.


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Home » Assessment » Types of summative assessment and formative assessment

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Types of summative assessment and formative assessment

There are two ways of assessing pupils — formal summative assessment and informal formative assessment. Find out the benefits of both to pupils’ learning outcomes.

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“When the cook tastes the soup, that’s formative. When the guests taste the soup, that’s summative.” Robert E. Stake, Professor Emeritus of Education at the University of Illinois

Formative assessment and summative assessment are two overlapping, complementary ways of assessing pupil progress in schools . While the common goal is to establish the development, strengths and weaknesses of each student, each assessment type provides different insights and actions for educators. The key to holistic assessment practice is to understand what each method contributes to the end goals — improving school attainment levels and individual pupils’ learning — and to maximise the effectiveness of each.

Both terms are ubiquitous, yet teachers sometimes lack clarity around the most effective types of summative assessment and more creative methods of formative assessment . In our latest State of Technology in Education report , we learnt that more educators are using online tools to track summative assessment than formative, for example. Yet this needn’t be the case. In this post we will explain the difference between these two types of assessment, outline some methods of evaluation, and assess why both are essential to student development.

Summative assessment explained

Summative assessment aims to evaluate student learning and academic achievement at the end of a term, year or semester by comparing it against a universal standard or school benchmark. Summative assessments often have a high point value, take place under controlled conditions, and therefore have more visibility.

Summative assessment examples:

Why is summative assessment important for learning?

In the current education system, standard-driven instruction plays a significant role. Summative assessment, therefore, provides an essential benchmark to check the progress of students, institutions and the educational program of the country as a whole.

Summative assessment contributes largely towards improving the British curriculum and overall curriculum planning. When summative assessment data indicates gaps across the board between student knowledge and learning targets, schools may turn to improved curriculum planning and new learning criteria to assess and improve their school attainment levels.

Formative assessment explained

Formative assessment is more diagnostic than evaluative. It is used to monitor pupil learning style and ability, to provide ongoing feedback and allow educators to improve and adjust their teaching methods and for students to improve their learning.

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Most formative assessment strategies are quick to use and fit seamlessly into the instruction process. The information gathered is rarely marked or graded. Descriptive feedback may accompany formative assessment to let students know whether they have mastered an outcome or whether they require more practice.

Formative assessment examples:

Why is formative assessment important for learning?

Formative assessment is a flexible and informal way of assessing a pupil’s progress and their understanding of a certain subject matter. It may be recorded in a variety of ways, or may not be recorded at all, except perhaps in lesson planning to address the next steps.

Formative assessment helps students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work. It also helps educators and governors recognise where students are struggling and address problems immediately. At a school level, SMT and school leaders use this information to identify areas of strength and weakness across the institution, and to develop strategies for improvement.

As the learning journey progresses, further formative assessments indicate whether teaching plans need to be revised to reinforce or extend learning.

Why is assessing pupil progress a challenge?

Pupil assessment, both formative and summative, is deemed an imperative part of the education process. Unfortunately, standardised exams and informal testing in schools are also blamed for the narrowing of the curriculum and teaching methods, contributing towards damaging levels of stress among teachers and pupils, and only valuing specific achievements to the detriment of broader learning.

Pearson and LKMco researched the topic of assessment in schools and published a subsequent report, Testing The Water. The report was revealed that a fifth of teachers in the UK are unclear where to go for information on assessing their pupils. What’s more, teachers feel unsupported when it comes to training for assessment; less than half of educators received assessment training as part of their initial teacher training.

Last year, SLT and school governors point towards a lack of budgets and limited time as hindering their schools’ abilities to provide more thorough assessment training, and most of the available training is regarded by teachers as being low in quality. However, according to the majority of this year’s survey respondents , online assessments, as well as online content and resources are likely to see the biggest growth over the next few years

How could teacher workload be reduced?

The summative assessment procedure is tightly woven into the accountability system of teachers and schools. Teachers are often tasked and appraised based on the results of summative assessment, while schools are incentivised to achieve certain results and performance in specific areas over others.

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The high-stake nature of summative assessment translates into how the school performance is judged, and SLT often pass down pressure as a result. Statutory assessment, therefore, can cause an great deal of stress for pupils, and a high degree of pressure for teachers.

It’s been suggested that the Department for Education should separate student exam results from teachers’ direct performance evaluations. Summative assessment results should, rather, serve as a discussion point or a means to highlight where additional resources may be required.

At the same time, employing more formative assessment throughout the year can take the pressure of end of term assessments for both teachers and pupils. This could include weekly quizzes or short lesson evaluations that can help improve student learning on the spot and increase pupils’ confidence. This ensures that final summative assessment has a positive impact on learning as well as providing pupils with more tools to improve throughout the term.

How do formative and summative assessment fit together?

The distinction between some types of summative assessment and formative assessment can be hard to identify. For example, schools may use benchmark testing to monitor the academic progress of pupils and determine whether they are on track to mastering the material that will be evaluated on end-of-course tests.

In our current education system, the purposes of both formative and summative assessment are not always mutually supportive.

Traditional assessment — evaluation used for summative purposes — contains key diagnostic data for teachers, but this information is perhaps too infrequent, or comes too late for appropriate action. Selected response and formative written assessments, homework, meanwhile, and ongoing class feedback all serve as valuable activities as part of a teacher’s evaluation toolkit, if used appropriately.

Official standard results like grades A-C may symbolise pupil achievement, yet they rarely incorporate related learning factors such as readiness to learn or motivation . What’s more, grades are not explicit to student progress, nor do they provide teachers with information that might further their teaching methods.

Schools, then, should consider cutting the time teachers spend conducting summative assessments so that they can focus on conducting diagnostic, formative assessments.

Ways to use assessment to enhance learning

There are alternative ways of assessing pupils progress and enhancing learning with summative and formative assessment.

National exams and standardised tests leave little room for adaptation or creativity, but a midterm assessment or a module final, however, could be tasked as a visual presentation, a long-form test, or an individual essay.

Technology-enhanced assessment requires students to interact with exam material in various ways — dragging and dropping answers, highlighting relevant data, and completing sentences or equations in a drop-down menu. This fosters students’ digital literacy and prepares them for life after education.

By allowing students to explain their material in a medium they feel comfortable with, such as on mobile devices or on an interactive front of class display like ActivPanels , teachers get an accurate picture of their pupils’ understanding. This gives much greater opportunity for students to demonstrate their particular skills.

Teachers can also set final exams or assessments in a form that resembles vocational assessments or job applications. This style of assessment can cover a broad range of material, and prepare older students for performance reviews and projects in a working environment, providing a stepping stone for the future.

What are the limitations?

All assessment activities have their limitations. Any individual assessment (summative or formative) can only give a snapshot of a pupil’s achievement on a single occasion. This may prevent teachers from drawing clear conclusions about end-to-end strengths and weaknesses.

Some teachers believe that formative assessment can impede upon lesson time itself, with a requirement to rush through learning to proceed with assessments and evaluations. Unlike summative assessment, that cumulates towards the end of a segment and is planned and prepared for, formative assessment relies upon educators to take time from their current learning schedule, even when the results lack weight in the school’s overall marks.

What’s more, with students potentially aware that this type of assessment has no bearing on their final grades, they may take formative tests less seriously. This could lead to skewed results and teachers misreading the feedback.

Summative assessment, meanwhile, has been blamed for forcing teachers to educate with no room for creativity, and teaching ‘to the test’. Students may be expected to spend hours drilling specific exercises instead of other creative and engaging exercises that inspires an interest in less conventional subjects.

Getting the balance right

All types of summative assessment and informal formative assessment are essential to assessing pupil progress. Both contribute towards an improved outcome from the pupils’ learning and ensure a better end result.

Teachers should, however, focus as much energy and resources on formative assessment as summative, despite the lack of weight or accountability on the former. Weaving one with the other will greatly improve a pupil’s holistic ability to prepare for end of term exams or other forms of standardised testing. This contributes towards superior school attainment levels and a more positive impression of your institution. Meanwhile, the Department for Education should consider detaching teacher performance evaluations from summative assessment alone to give teachers more room for creative forms of formative assessment.

Overall, a comprehensive assessment program balances formative and summative student data. With this approach, educators receive the clearest insight on where a student is relative to his or her peers, their overall education goals, and UK learning targets and standards. To help support students in showing their understanding, get in touch for a free, no-obligation demo of the ActivPanel and see how it can transform your classroom environment.

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9 Summative Assessment Examples to Try This School Year

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Help your students prepare for a summative math assessment with Prodigy Math game.

When gauging student learning, two approaches likely come to mind: a formative or summative assessment.

Fortunately, feeling pressure to choose one or the other isn’t necessary. These two types of learning assessment actually serve different and necessary purposes. 

Definitions: What’s the difference between formative and summative assessment?


Formative assessment occurs regularly throughout a unit, chapter, or term to help track not only how student learning is improving, but how your teaching can, too.

According to a WestEd article , teachers love using various formative assessments because they help meet students’ individual learning needs and foster an environment for ongoing feedback.

Take one-minute papers, for example. Giving your students a solo writing task about today’s lesson can help you see how well students understand new content.

Catching these struggles or learning gaps immediately is better than finding out during a summative assessment.

Such an assessment could include:

So, what is a summative assessment?


Credit: Alberto G.

It occurs at the end of a unit, chapter, or term and is most commonly associated with final projects, standardized tests, or district benchmarks.

Typically heavily weighted and graded, it evaluates what a student has learned and how much they understand.

Examples of summative assessment include:

Teachers and administrators use the final result to assess student progress, and to evaluate schools and districts. For teachers, this could mean changing how you teach a certain unit or chapter. For administrators, this data could help clarify which programs (if any) require tweaking or removal.

Formative vs summative assessment

While we just defined the two, there are five key differences between formative and summative assessments requiring a more in-depth explanation.


During vs after

Teachers use formative assessment at many points during a unit or chapter to help guide student learning.

Summative assessment comes in after completing a content area to gauge student understanding.

Improving vs evaluating

If anyone knows how much the learning process is a constant work in progress, it’s you! This is why formative assessment is so helpful — it won’t always guarantee students understand concepts, but it will improve how they learn.

Summative assessment, on the other hand, simply evaluates what they’ve learned. In her book, Balanced Assessment: From Formative to Summative, renowned educator Kay Burke writes, “The only feedback comes in the form of a letter grade, percentage grade, pass/fail grade, or label such as ‘exceeds standards’ or ‘needs improvement.’”


Little vs large

Let’s say chapter one in the math textbook has three subchapters (i.e., 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3). A teacher conducting formative assessments will assign mini tasks or assignments throughout each individual content area.

Whereas, if you’d like an idea of how your class understood the complete chapter, you’d give them a test covering a large content area including all three parts.

Monitoring vs grading

Formative assessment is extremely effective as a means to monitor individual students’ learning styles. It helps catch problems early, giving you more time to address and adapt to different problem areas.

Summative assessments are used to evaluate and grade students’ overall understanding of what you’ve taught. Think report card comments: did students achieve the learning goal(s) you set for them or not?

😮 😄 😂 #reportcard #funny #memes #comics #samecooke #schooldays #music #classic #letsgo #gooutmore #showlove pic.twitter.com/qQ2jen1Z8k — Goldstar Events (@goldstar) January 20, 2019

Process vs product

“It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey”? This age-old saying sums up formative and summative assessments fairly accurately.

The former focuses on the process of student learning. You’ll use it to identify areas of strength and weakness among your students — and to make necessary changes to accommodate their learning needs.

The latter emphasizes the product of student learning. To discover the product’s “value”, you can ask yourself questions, such as: At the end of an instructional unit, did the student’s grade exceed the class standard, or pass according to a district’s benchmark?

In other words, formative methods are an assessment for learning whereas summative ones are an assessment of learning .

Now that you’ve got a more thorough understanding of these evaluations, let’s dive into the love-hate relationship teachers like yourself may have with summative assessments.

Perceived disadvantages of summative assessment


The pros are plenty. However, before getting to that list, let’s outline some of its perceived cons. Summative assessment may:

1) Offer minimal room for creativity

Rigid and strict assignments or tests can lead to a regurgitation of information. Some students may be able to rewrite facts from one page to another, but others need to understand the “why” before giving an answer.

2) Not accurately reflect learning

“Teaching to the test” refers to educators who dedicate more time teaching lessons that will be emphasized on district-specific tests.

A survey conducted by Harvard’s Carnegie-Knight Task Force on the Future of Journalism asked teachers whether or not “preparing students to pass mandated standardized tests” affects their teaching.

A significant 60% said it either “dictates most of” or “substantially affects” their teaching. While this can result in higher scores, curriculum distortion can prevent students from learning other foundational subject areas.

3) Ignore (and miss) timely learning needs


Because summative assessment occurs at the end of units or terms, teachers can fail to identify and remedy students’ knowledge gaps or misconceptions as they arise.

Unfortunately, by this point, there’s often little or no time to rectify a student’s mark, which can affect them in subsequent units or grades.

4) Result in a lack of motivation

The University of London’s Evidence for Policy and Practice conducted a 19-study systematic review of the impact summative assessment and tests have on students’ motivation for learning.

Contrary to popular belief, researchers found a correlation between students who scored poorly on national curriculum tests and experienced lower self-esteem, and an unwillingness to put more effort into future test prep. Beforehand, interestingly, “there was no correlation between self-esteem and achievement.”

Repeated practice tests reinforce the low self-image of the lower-achieving students… When test scores are a source or pride and the community, pressure is brought to bear on the school for high scores.

Similarly, parents bring pressure on their children when the result has consequences for attendance at high social status schools. For many students, this increases their anxiety, even though they recognize their parents as being supportive.

5) Be inauthentic


Summative assessment has received criticism for its perceived inaccuracy in providing a full and balanced measure of student learning.

Consider this, for example: Your student, who’s a hands-on, auditory learner, has a math test today. It comes in a traditional paper format as well as a computer program format, which reads the questions aloud for students.

Chances are the student will opt for the latter test format. What’s more, this student’s test results will likely be higher and more accurate.

The reality is that curricula — let alone standardized tests — typically don’t allow for this kind of accommodation. This is the exact reason educators and advocates such as Chuck Hitchcock, Anne Meyer, David Rose, and Richard Jackson believe:

Curriculum matters and ‘fixing’ the one-size-fits-all, inflexible curriculum will occupy both special and general educators well into the future… Students with diverse learning needs are not ‘the problem’; barriers in the curriculum itself are the root of the difficulty.

6) Be biased


Depending on a school district’s demographic, summative assessment — including standardized tests — can present biases if a group of students is unfairly graded based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or social class.

In his presentation at Kansas State University, emeritus professor in the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, Dr. W. James Popham, explained summative assessment bias:

This doesn’t necessarily mean that if minority students are outperformed on a summative test by majority students that the test is biased against that minority. It may instead indicate that the minority students have not been provided with the appropriate instruction…

An example of content bias against girls would be one in which students are asked to compare the weights of several objects, including a football. Since girls are less likely to have handled a football, they might find the item more difficult than boys, even though they have mastered the concept measured by the item.

Importance and benefits of summative assessment


Overall, these are valid points raised against summative assessment. However, it does offer fantastic benefits for teachers and students alike!

Summative assessment can:

1) Motivate students to study and pay closer attention

Although we mentioned lack of motivation above, this isn’t true for every student. In fact, you’ve probably encountered numerous students for whom summative assessments are an incredible source of motivation to put more effort into their studies.

In May 2017, the College Board released a statement about whether coaching truly boosts test scores:

Data shows studying for the SAT for 20 hours on free Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy is associated with an average score gain of 115 points, nearly double the average score gain compared to students who don’t use Khan Academy. Out of nearly 250,000 test-takers studied, more than 16,000 gained 200 points or more between the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT…

In addition to the 115-point average score increase associated with 20 hours of practice, shorter practice periods also correlate with meaningful score gains. For example, 6 to 8 hours of practice on Official SAT Practice is associated with an average 90-point increase.

2) Allow students to apply what they’ve learned


It’s one thing to memorize multiplication tables (which is a good skill), but another to apply those skills in math word problems or real-world examples.

Summative assessments — excluding, for example, multiple choice tests — help you see which students can retain and apply what they’ve learned.

3) Help identify gaps in student learning

Before moving on to a new unit, it’s vital to make sure students are keeping up. Naturally, some will be ahead while others will lag behind. In either case, giving them a summative assessment will provide you with a general overview of where your class stands as a whole.

Let’s say your class just wrote a test on multiplication and division. If all students scored high on multiplication but one quarter of students scored low on division, you’ll know to focus more on teaching division to those students moving forward.

4) Help identify possible teaching gaps


Credit: woodleywonderworks

In addition to identifying student learning gaps, summative assessment can help target where your teaching style or lesson plans may have missed the mark.

Have you ever been grading tests before, to your horror, realizing almost none of your students hit the benchmark you hoped for? When this happens, the low grades are not necessarily related to study time.

For example, you may need to consider:

5) Give teachers valuable insights


Credit: Kevin Jarrett

Summative assessments can highlight what worked and what didn’t throughout the school year. Once you pinpoint how, where and what lessons need tweaking, making informed adjustments for next year becomes easier.

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes… and, for teachers, new students year after year. So although old students may miss out on changes you’ve made to your lessons, new ones get to reap the benefits.

This not only improves your skills as an educator, but will ensure a more enriching educational experience for generations of students to come.

6) Contribute positively to learning outcomes

Certain summative assessments also provide valuable data at district, national, and global levels. Depending on average test scores, this can determine whether or not certain schools receive funding, programs stay or go, curriculum changes occur, and more. Burke writes:

Summative assessments also provide the public and policymakers with a sense of the results of their investment in education and give educators a forum for proving whether instruction works – or does not work.

The seven aims of summative assessment


Dr. Nancy P. Gallavan, a professor of teacher education at the University of Central Arkansas, believes teachers can use performance-based summative assessments at any grade level.

However, in an article for Corwin , she suggests crafting yours with seven aims in mind:

Keeping these goals in mind, here’s a list of innovative ways to conduct summative assessments in your classroom!

Summative assessment examples: 9 ways to make test time fun


If you want to switch things up this summative assessment season, keep reading. While you can’t change what’s on standardized tests, you can create activities to ensure your students are exhibiting and applying their understanding and skills to end-of-chapter or -unit assessments. In a refreshing way.

Why not give them the opportunity to express their understanding in ways that apply to different learning styles?

Note : As a general guideline, students should incorporate recognition and recall, logic and reasoning, as well as skills and application that cover major concepts and practices (including content areas you emphasized in your lessons).

1) One, two, three… action!

Write a script and create a short play, movie, or song about a concept or strategy of your choosing.

This video from Science Rap Academy is a great — and advanced — example of students who created a song about how blue-eyed children can come from two brown-eyed parents:

Using a tool such as iPhone Fake Text Generator , have students craft a mock text message conversation conveying a complex concept from the unit, or each chapter of that unit.

Students could create a back-and-forth conversation between two historical figures about a world event, or two friends helping each other with complex math concepts.

Have your students create a five to 10-minute podcast episode about core concepts from each unit. This is an exciting option because it can become an ongoing project.

Individually or in groups, specific students can be in charge of each end-of-chapter or -unit podcast. If your students have a cumulative test towards the end of the year or term, the podcast can even function as a study tool they created together.


Credit : Brad Flickinger

You can use online tools such as Record MP3 Online or Vocaroo to get your class started!

4) Infographic

Creating a detailed infographic for a final project is an effective way for students to reinforce what they’ve learned. They can cover definitions, key facts, statistics, research, how-to info, graphics, etc.

You can even put up the most impressive infographics in your classroom. Over time, you’ll have an arsenal of in-depth, visually-appealing infographics students can use when studying for chapter or unit tests.

5) Compare and contrast


Credit: Lucidchart

Venn diagrams are an old — yet effective — tool perfect for visualizing just about anything! Whether you teach history or social studies, English or math, or something in between, Venn diagrams can help certain learners visualize the relationship between different things.

For example, they can compare book characters, locations around the world, scientific concepts, and more just like the examples below:

6) Living museum

This creative summative assessment is similar to one, two, three… action! Individuals will plan and prepare an exhibit (concept) in the Living Museum (classroom). Let’s say the unit your class just completed covered five core concepts.

Five students will set up around the classroom while the teacher walks from exhibit to exhibit. Upon reaching the first student, the teacher will push an imaginary button, bringing the exhibit “to life.” The student will do a two to three-minute presentation; afterwards, the teacher will move on to the next one.

7) Ed-Tech games


Now more than ever, students are growing up saturated with smartphones, tablets, and video games. That’s why educators should show students how to use technology in the classroom effectively and productively.

More and more educators are bringing digital tools into the learning process. Pew Research Center surveyed 2,462 teachers and reported that digital technologies have helped in teaching their middle and high school students.

Some of the findings were quite eye-opening:

Take Prodigy Math Game , for example. Over 50 million students, teachers and parents are using the curriculum-aligned math game for 1st to 8th Grade. And with a free teacher account, you can track individual or classroom progress and set your own Assessments.

8) Shark Tank/Dragon’s Den

Yes, just like the reality TV show! You can show an episode or two to your class or get them to watch the show at home. Next, have students pitch a product or invention that can help change the world outside of school for the better.

This innovative summative assessment is one that’ll definitely require some more thought and creativity. But it’s important that, as educators, we help students realize they can have a huge positive impact on the world in which they live.

9) Free choice

If a student chooses to come up with their own summative assessment, you’ll need to vet it first. It’ll likely take some collaboration to arrive at something sufficient.

However, giving students the freedom to explore content areas that interest them most could surprise you. Sometimes, it’s during those projects they form a newfound passion and are wildly successful in completing the task.


We’re sure there are countless other innovative summative assessment ideas out there, but we hope this list gets your creative juices flowing.

With the exclusion of standardized state and national tests, one of the greatest misconceptions about summative assessments is that they’re all about paper and pencil. Our hope in creating this list was to help you see how fun and engaging summative assessments can truly be.

Summative assessment strategies for keeping tests clear and fair


In addition to using the summative assessment examples above to accommodate your students’ learning styles, these tips and strategies should also help:

Enter the Balanced Assessment Model


Credit: Lucélia Ribeiro CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Throughout your teaching career, you’ll spend a lot of time with formative and summative assessments. While some teachers emphasize one over the other, it’s vital to recognize the extent to which they’re interconnected.

In the book Classroom Assessment for Student Learning , Richard Stiggins, one of the first educators to advocate for the concept of assessment for learning, proposes something called “a balanced assessment system that takes advantage of assessment of learning and assessment for learning.”

If you use both effectively, they inform one another and “assessment becomes more than just an index of school success. It also serves as the cause of that success.”

In fact, Stiggins argues teachers should view these two types of assessment as “in sync.”

They can even be the  exact same thing — only the purpose and the timing of the assessment determine its label. Formative assessments provide the training wheels that allow students to practice and gain confidence while riding their bikes around the enclosed school parking lot.

Once the training wheels come off, the students face their summative assessment as they ride off into the sunset on only two wheels, prepared to navigate the twists and turns of the road to arrive safely at their final destination.


Conclusion: Going beyond the test

Implementing these innovative summative assessment examples should engage your students in new and exciting ways.

What’s more, they’ll have the opportunity to express and apply what they’ve learned in creative ways that solidify student learning.

So, what do you think — are you ready to try out these summative assessment ideas? Prodigy is a game-based learning platform teachers use to keep their students engaged.

Sign up for a free teacher account  and set an  Assessment  today!

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Effective Summative Assessment Examples for Classrooms

Student giving presentation to class

A summative assessment takes place at the end of a unit or course of study. It assesses students’ level of knowledge, skill acquisition, and/or content understanding. There are many purposes to summative assessments in instruction, but the main goal of any assessment is to provide clear communication between student and teacher.

Elements of Effective Summative Assessments

Not all summative assessments are created equal. Some types of summative assessments can tell a teacher much more than a standard test. The best practices for writing effective summative assessments include five important evaluative elements:

The value and importance of summative assessment rely on having effective evaluation tools. Rubrics are a helpful way to communicate your expectations and to assess a range of skills and content knowledge.

Standardized Testing

Designed to be reliable and to assess a variety of skills, standardized tests are one way to determine what students know at the end of an instructional period. However, these tests have fallen out of favor with instructors in recent years. They increase testing volume and fatigue, may not reflect what students have been taught, and don’t always reflect real-world skills – making them poor assessment models.

Summative Assessment Examples for Early Childhood

It’s important to use summative assessments at every stage of education. While young children may not be capable of taking multiple-choice tests, there are other ways to measure growth and development milestones in early childhood. Psychomotor and affective skills are important at this stage in addition to cognitive skills.

Developmental assessments are, by nature, somewhat formative, as child development is a dynamic process. However, a teacher can assess specific knowledge and skills after focusing on them in a preschool or developmental unit.

Hands-On Performance Tasks

One of the more straightforward forms of summative assessments for children is a performance task. If a teacher observes a child with a box of manipulatives, such as blocks or cotton balls, they can assess counting skills, number knowledge, fine motor skills, and pattern skills.

Group Project

Social and emotional skills are an important part of early childhood education. After a unit on friendship and sharing, a teacher may assess how well small groups work together when creating, building, or solving a problem. Another form of assessment could include conflict resolution skills or gross-motor tasks.


Because much of early child development takes place during play, teachers can observe a standard playtime as either a formative or summative assessment. By incorporating an activity into playtime, such as phoneme awareness or number recognition, teachers can observe whether students have mastered a concept from previous instruction.

Clinical Interview

Developed by educator and psychologist Jean Piaget , the clinical interview prompts young children to reflect on their own learning process. Questions may include “How did you do that?” and “How would you encourage a friend?” The interviewer can assess verbal abilities and cognitive processes in a concentrated one-on-one context after focusing on positive self-talk in the classroom.

Summative Assessment Examples for Elementary School

Elementary students start their education with basic skills that become more complex over the years. Depending on the classroom setting, summative assessments can either be straightforward tests or fun, creative projects. Here are some examples of summative assessments you might find in an elementary classroom.

Graded Tests

Though not as engaging as other options, tests at the end of a unit or instructional period are a straightforward way to assess student skills and knowledge. All subjects can incorporate multiple-choice or problem-solving tests. They should still be authentic, reliable, and valid, with a variety of testing measures that do not increase testing volume too much.

Book Reports

Elementary students love talking about their favorite books. Book reports – either as a standard essay format or more creative option – are an effective way to determine if students can apply literary analysis and reading comprehension to a book of their choice.

Science Projects

Individual or group science projects are fun for students to complete and teachers to assess. They can be based on the unit of scientific study from the classroom or on independent research – both of which incorporate important application and evaluation skills.

Multimedia Presentations

Multimedia assessments are an authentic way to assess important content, speaking, and technology skills. Elementary students are surrounded by technology in their daily lives, but may not be able to use it to communicate effectively. A strong multimedia presentation project can prepare them for middle school, high school, and beyond.

Summative Assessment Examples for Secondary School

By middle and high school, students can demonstrate their knowledge in innovative ways. Check out these examples of creative summative assessment ideas for secondary classrooms that vary in levels of complexity.

Formal Essays and Reports

Writing essays is an important part of language arts, but communicating one’s ideas is a vital skill for any subject. Writing an argument essay , explaining a concept in an expository essay , or using descriptive prose in a narrative essay are examples of effective summative assessments. Research reports prompt students to use analysis and evaluation skills during the research process.

Socratic Seminars

Middle and high schools enjoy speaking their minds in Socratic seminars. They must prepare arguments, anticipate counterarguments, and use classroom norms to discuss critical points with their peers. These types of summative assessments rely on teacher observation, as the process is primarily led by students.

Final Exams

Teachers use the time-honored final exam format to assess skills and knowledge at the end of a grading period. Exams can vary in their question variety, range of skills, and complexity. They effectively inform a teacher whether their instruction was successful or not during the year.

Portfolio Projects

Although end-of-term portfolio projects require just as much work as final exams, they tend to be more popular with students. Portfolios provide students with an opportunity to reflect on their own work over the year. Strong portfolio projects incorporate a reflection writing aspect as well.

Summative vs. Formative Assessments

Formative assessments are another way to monitor student progress. Unlike summative assessments, formative assessments are informal , ongoing ways to check for understanding. Formative assessments include discussion questions, exit tickets, or reading quizzes. They do not assess a range of skills or knowledge like summative assessments do.

More Instructional Resources

No matter what grade you’re teaching, there are ways to bring best practices to the classroom. Check out our glossary of teaching strategies , or try out some new lesson plan formats in your instruction. Tomorrow’s going to be a great day at school!

Formplus Blog

From end-of-term examinations to teacher-designed quizzes , summative assessment is one of the most effective ways to grade a student’s performance. It typically involves assessing students’ knowledge of the course material using specific criteria. 

Summative assessment requires a considerable investment of time, both from students and instructors. In this article, we will discuss the major characteristics of summative assessment and show you how to conduct a summative assessment with Formplus. 

What is a Summative Assessment?  

Summative assessment is a type of course evaluation that happens at the end of a training or program. It is the process of assessing the student’s knowledge, proficiency, and performance by comparing what they know with what they should have learned.

Unlike formative assessment which evaluates the student as he or she engages in the learning process, summative assessment is all about measuring outcomes using predefined standards or benchmarks. Summative evaluation only directly monitors the student’s ability but does not pay attention to how the student uses knowledge to solve practical problems. 

One of the most common examples of summative assessment is the end-of-semester college examinations. For these examinations, the college professors select questions that touch on different topics in the course curriculum. Students are asked to respond to these questions within a specific period of time. 

The structure of summative assessment makes it difficult for the instructor to provide one-on-one feedback on the student’s performance. Summative assessment methods are high stakes which means they have a high point value. The results are usually defining; for instance, it can determine whether a student passes the course, gets a promotion, or secures an admission. 

Characteristics of Summative Assessment  

Summative assessment measures a student’s competence in a specific subject matter in line with the learning goals and objectives of the course or training. For instance, a science course will use experiments and other practical tests to evaluate a student’s knowledge at the end of the course.

Summative evaluation is a standardized method of knowledge-based assessments. It has well-defined processes that reveal the student’s competence in a field. These processes produce accurate and consistent results when they are used in similar contexts.

Summative evaluation has a flexible process that is practical and scalable. It is well-aligned and this makes it easy for the instructor to implement it as part of training.

Summative assessment respects clear teaching and learning boundaries. Before the instructor implements any summative assessment methods in the classroom, he/she must obtain informed consent from the students.

Since the key element of summative assessment is to evaluate what someone has learned up to that point in time, it always ends in having a concise summary of the outcomes of the assessment. This allows the teacher to compare the student’s current performance with past performances, external standards, and other learners.

Summative evaluation prompts students to exhibit skills and demonstrate knowledge in different ways.

Other things you should have in mind when it comes to summative assessment are: 

Examples of Summative Assessment  

A final examination or assessment is one of the most common methods of classroom evaluation. Examinations have a simple framework—the teacher curates relevant questions and the students respond to these questions within a timeframe.

Instructors conduct examinations as some sort of final knowledge review of the program. Examinations test the student’s knowledge of the subject matter and they produce quantitative results that help you to grade your students and know how well they have performed. 

To eliminate the workload that comes with paper assessment, you conduct the evaluation via an online test platform, examination software, or create a quiz on Formplus. The examination questions can be close-ended, open-ended, or a mixture of both; depending on the type of data you want to gather in the end. 

These are mini-examinations that happen at the end of a topic or section of a training. They are used to determine how well a student understands key chapter concepts and help them prepare for the final examination at the end of the course. Quizzes, midterm assessments, and practice tests are common examples of chapter tests.

These tests qualify candidates for a specific program; for instance, IELTS and TOEFL are standardized English proficiency exams that demonstrate a candidate’s competency in the use of the language. These tests are organized on a large scale and they make use of explicit scoring criteria for grading.

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Instead of an end-of-term examination, ask students to build a creative portfolio. A creative portfolio showcases the student’s creativity, knowledge of the coursework, and how they have uniquely applied that knowledge.

Depending on the learning areas, a student’s portfolio can include images, infographics, and small to medium-length texts like essays or one-pagers. As the learners build their portfolios, they also have the opportunity to reflect on how much they have learned. 

Add the file upload field to your Formplus form to receive portfolio submissions from your students. Students can submit files of any type and size including images, multiple document formats, and spreadsheets, in the file upload field. 

Oral summative assessments are used to get real-time and spontaneous responses from learners at the end of a course. The instructor can embrace structured, semi-structured, or unstructured interview methods to grade the students and evaluate their overall performance. Students may also partake in oral classroom presentations.

The type of interview method you choose determines the kinds of questions you will ask during the process. A structured interview follows a defined conversational sequence that dictates its questions and structure. 

Semi-structured and unstructured interviews embrace flexibility. In a semi-structured interview, the instructor can veer off the conversational sequence and ask spontaneous questions. Unstructured interviews do not follow a defined conversational sequence—the instructor can ask questions as they come, within the course’s context. 

These simple and creative tasks allow students to put their knowledge to work. Hands-on performance tasks are practical, and straightforward and help the instructor to assess the students’ abilities directly.

The instructor can ask students to solve a jigsaw puzzle and as they do this, she observes how they put a specific skill to work in the tasks. If you want to assess your students’ counting and pattern skills, you may observe how they play around with colored bricks or cotton balls. 

Getting students to execute tasks within small groups is a great way to test their knowledge. After a training on teamwork and conflict resolution, for instance, you should group the students, assign a task and watch how they create frameworks and solve a specific problem.

Book reports are creative summaries that demonstrate a student’s literary skills. These reports show how students highlight the main points of a book using the reading and analytical skills discussed in the training or program.

Students do not have to submit their summaries using paper forms. Create a Formplus online submission form and send out a prefilled link to everyone. This way, you can receive and organize submissions without worrying about too much paper. 

Formal essays allow students to demonstrate their level of knowledge about a subject matter. Essay writing is a useful skill that communicates one’s idea and understanding of a concept. Ask your students to write essays on the core topics and themes discussed in class.

Students can explain a concept, argue for or against a subject matter or simply narrate their learning experience as descriptive prose. 

If you want to reduce the clutter that comes with stacking lots of papers, use Formplus to collect the essays. Ask learners to turn in their essays as file uploads in your online submission form or they can write the essays right in the form’s long-text field. 

This is a common method of summative assessment used in early childhood education. The instructor incorporates 1 or more standard activities into the students’ playtime and then observes how the learners engage in the activity.

Observing students’ behaviors during playtime gives you a birds-eye view of how well they have assimilated knowledge from a previous lesson or class session. As you observe them, you need to make notes on any changes you notice. Write your observations down on a piece of paper or list them in a spreadsheet. 

The complete observer method and participant-as-observer method are the common types of observation used for summative evaluation. In the complete observer method, the teacher observes the students from a distance; removing the instructor from the participants’ environment. 

The participant-by-observer method is what you’ll find in many classrooms and learning contexts. The teacher already has a relationship with the students and she interacts with them as they demonstrate their knowledge. 

How to Use Formplus to Conduct Summative Assessment  

To conduct a summative assessment with Formplus, you need to use the Formplus builder to create and customize an online form. This online form should serve your unique needs in terms of what you want to achieve and the type of summative assessment method you plan to execute. 

Follow this step-by-step guide to create your online summative assessment form with Formplus. 

summative task examples

summative task examples

summative task examples

You can choose a new theme for your form or create a custom theme. You can also change the form’s background, add background images, modify the form font and font size or stylize the form using your custom CSS. 

summative task examples

Formplus has different features that make data collection seamless for you including unlimited file uploads, mobile-friendly forms, and prefilled forms. With the mobile-friendly feature, you can conduct summative assessments using your smartphone. You can also collect data the way you like using more than 30 available form fields. 

With our mobile-responsive feature, you can create an online form for summative assessments using your smartphone or other internet-enabled devices. Students can also complete surveys, and quizzes and make file submissions using their smartphones, without pinching in or zooming out of their screens.

Students can submit their creative portfolio in different file formats in your Formplus form and they do not have to bother about the file size. All file uploads are automatically saved to your preferred cloud storage including Google Drive, DropBox, and OneDrive.

Prefilled forms are easy to fill as your students do not need to repeat recurring information. Sending out prefilled forms allows you to retrieve existing data from your records and pre-populate form fields with these pieces of information.

You do not have to build your form from scratch; simply choose any of our ready-to-use templates. Formplus has more than 200 existing form templates that can be tweaked to suit your unique needs and preferences in the form builder.

Students can fill out and submit the online assessment form; even when they have poor or no internet access. All form responses are automatically updated on our servers or your preferred cloud storage system when the internet connectivity is restored.

You can export form responses and reports in multiple file formats like PDF and CSV. Formplus also allows you to directly export form data to Google sheets to help you collate results and share them with your team.

Advantages of Summative Assessment  

Disadvantages of Summative Assessment  

In this article, we have looked at the characteristics of effective summative assessments plus common examples you can adopt for student evaluation in the classroom. Summative assessment is best described as a diagnostic evaluation method used at the end of an instructional unit. 

Summative assessment is a great way to ensure that students have a full grasp of the different ideas discussed in a course or program. When combined with other methods of course evaluation like formative assessment, it creates a balanced evaluation of both progress and performance. 


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Types of Summative Assessment and Formative Assessment

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Whether you are a teacher, exam supervisor, administrator, or lecturer, you might have come across the terms summative assessment and formative assessment . These two concepts are crucial to the assessment of students in any organization or institution.

Therefore, it is important for you to understand both of them in greater detail so that you can conduct assessments in a better and more efficient manner.

The two ways of assessing scholars are summative assessment and formative assessment. Let’s discover their advantages to the learners and the outcomes it generates.

Whether designing annual-term exams or a weekly quiz for class assessment, summative and formative assessments are the most effective ways to evaluate a student’s performance. It is a process of assessing a student’s understanding of the related subject based on particular criteria.

In addition, Assessments are considered a way to achieve learning objectives and make a thorough approach towards their goals.

Talking about the formative assessment, it tackles the misconceptions, struggles, and gaps that come along in the way while learning and helps to evaluate and fill the gaps.

With the help of practical tools that help form a learning method, students can strengthen their learning abilities to proceed with their learning goals after understanding their possessions.

Once the student learns, the final learning goal is to increase their ability and skills but not the marks. The formative assessment method improves students’ learning and sustenance students’ specific needs.

In contrast, summative assessments assess student learning, knowledge proficiency, and success at the end of an academic period, such as a course or a program. The process of summative assessment is a strict grading system and subjective.

However, summative assessments can be used to influence the arrangement and combination of formative assessments that can be beneficial for the instructors in many ways.

This article will discuss the depth of formative and summative evaluation that helps an academic master analyze his student’s ability and increase their inner potential.

Summative assessment is a type of assessment conducted at the end of the training program or a study course to assess the student’s gained knowledge and proficiency by comparing their previous learning with outcome results.

Once we understand the process of formative assessment, the process of summative assessment becomes more understood.

So, the success chances are higher if both approaches are combined. Summative assessment is about quantifying the results by defining previous standards or targets. This evaluation can only screen the student’s performance.

However, it does not recognize the student’s insufficiency in using the information to solve practical problems. Summative assessment structures have high incentives, which mean their result is valuable.

The summative assessment system is quite challenging for the mentors to deliver individualized feedback on students’ performance. Yet, the results are typically significant, as it can be clear enough to decide the student’s results at the end of their course or will they be able to get admission or a promotion.

Summative evaluation tools can be assessed online to get better results. Instructors freely use online tools to track summative evaluations linked with formative evaluations.

These assessments are evaluative instead of analytic. It helps to determine if the specified objectives of the course are being encountered. Summative assessment helps evaluate the learner’s executions in contradiction of prearranged level.

They have clear instructions and grading documentation that will make students’ understandings obvious to see how much the student has retained from the coursework.

The rubric can be a useful tool for the instructor’s performance expectations from the tasks for the assignment evaluation. These assessments can be combined with other resources that will be beneficial for the teachers to analyze the outcomes and come up with better arrangements for strategic learning.

Let’s take a plunge into the summative and formative assessments and see their differences, their purposes, and how these evaluations can be helpful for learners’ development. But, first, we will catch sight of the examples and types of summative and formative assessments.

Types of Summative Assessments

As mentioned above, there are several different types of summative assessments performed by educational institutions all over the world, and each of them is used for different purposes and applications. Let’s go through these types of summative assessments one by one.

A final examination is one of the most common methods of classroom evaluation. The instructor organizes significant questions, and the students answer back to these questions in a given time. These examinations are conducted to see the final knowledge of the student on a concerned program.

Due to these examinations, the instructor considers the student’s ability on particular course material. Also, assessments provide calculable results that will support you to grade your student and identify their success rate.

It is a short exam that occurs at the end of the class on a specific chapter or topic. These methods are used to conclude the student’s understanding in a particular chapter or evaluate the student’s concept to prepare them well for the final term examinations at the end of the program. Some general models for taking such tests are quizzes, midterm assessments, practice tests, etc.

Oral summative evaluations are the kind of tests used to get immediate and impulsive responses from the learners at the end of the program. The instructor can use a variety of organized and semi-organized interview approaches to score the student’s overall performance. These tests can be taken in class as oral participation on topics.

Another good way to evaluate an individual’s abilities is through small group tasks. You can implement tasks within small groups of students. By providing teamwork and struggle determination training, you will analyze your student’s ability in shared work. So, allocate a task and see how they can solve a particular problem.

These books contain summarized knowledge that validates a student’s mythical skills. In such reports, you can get the idea of a student’s analytical and reading skills. In book reports, students are supposed to highlight the main points discussed in training. You can even use online platforms for such assessments.

Characteristics of Summative Assessment

Now that we have gone through the various types of summative assessment, let’s also take a closer look at their characteristics.

A test needs to be actual and everyday activities. For instance, a science test with theoretical definitions is less effective than the one with a practical application that enables them to include a reality-based fact from the environment. This way, they would be testified in both ways that will help them solve multiple life problems.

The accurate use of summative assessments provides exact and reliable outcomes. It is a consistent method of knowledge-based assessments. With the help of a definite process, a student’s capability in a related field can be defined.

Summative assessment evaluates the student’s competency in a specific course in route with the learning goals and objectives of the concerned training program. It is a most effective way that educators already know the learning goals before educating on a topic; otherwise, it would be biased for the students to take the test of those things that were not discussed throughout the teaching program.

Summative evaluation enables students to reveal skills and establish knowledge in various ways. However, you need to keep in mind a few things while considering summative assessments.

Since the main element of summative assessment is to evaluate a student’s learning in a related course. It completes after having a summarized report of the outcomes. In this way, teachers get the idea of their student’s past performance compared to the current performances.

The process of summative evaluation is quite practical and calculable. Moreover, summative evaluation is a well-organized process that helps the instructors to apply it in a training program.

The goal of summative assessment is to assess students’ learning after completing a course framework in an instructional unit by comparing it with some targets and standards. Therefore, the students consider summative assessments as a significant method over the formative assessment. Although they have high stakes, the results generated from summative assessments can be used formatively by instructors and the students to get better guidance on the efforts and actions in the following subjects.

What are the Benefits of Summative Assessment?

Summative assessments offer long-term rewards to the teachers as well as to the students.

Summative assessments keep students motivated throughout the study period to work hard. Continuous grading can benefit students and inspire them to work harder and put in the extra effort.

This assessment process isn’t about memorizing the mathematical equations, although a well-designed process will help students solve their daily analytical problems.

The best part of summative assessments is that it helps to identify the gaps. Then, teachers conduct the tests and quizzes at the end of each topic to make more improvements in the next steps.

An important way is to identify the teacher’s gaps and reveal them. This can be done by incorporating interesting and innovative teaching forms that benefit students in their assessments.

Summative assessments also give valuable insights into the student’s performances and works. In addition, it will highlight the student’s weak points and what troubles them so that the academic instructors may respond to their current course material.

After having a detailed discussion on the summative assessment, we will now dive into the formative evaluation . However, formative assessments are different from summative assessments in various ways.

Firstly, Formative assessments do not need to be graded or scored. They work as inspections, and it is more about the knowledge than the results. Later, the collected information helps to shape the future contents.

Formative assessment can be conducted in various ways. It could be taken through writing assignments, a simple drawing, a quiz, or a short conversation with a group of students. At the same time, summative assessment is often conducted through an organized method such as a final examination with pen and paper.

Formative assessments are measured as learning processes that don’t need to be calculated like summative assessments. They serve as practice material for students’ learning. They are formed for a better understanding of the course for students and help decide for the instructors in future instructions.

In return, instructors come up with the feedback that is valuable chances for the students to improve their performances. Thus, it assists the students in differentiating the instruction and improving their achievements.

Informative assessments are held daily throughout the teaching course that allows the instructors and the learners to evaluate their accomplishments and progress more often.

The formative process begins with logical assessments, indicating what is already known and the gaps that may be present in their knowledge and skills.

It will become easier for the pupils and instructors to achieve the desired goal after seeing the current achievements and to plan the next moves. Furthermore, formative assessments indicate whether the teaching materials should be edited further to strengthen the learning with continuous learning.

Types of Formative Assessment

Let’s have a closer look at the different types of formative assessment that are and can be used by educational institutions.

At the end of each chapter, you can ask your students questions about the topic or an impromptu quiz to know how well your students understand the course material.

Students learn by answering the question and by getting into the discussions. It is another way to collect the immediate response of the students. You can generate a polling system, or you can use any online polling tool to get students’ feedback.

You can observe your students while doing the projects in class. Teachers can roam around in the classroom, see where the student is lacking, and guide them accordingly. This way, you will be notified about your student’s performance and learning.

This method is useful and works well when the teachers monitor the students while working together in a group or working independently. As a teacher, you can take notes on students’ performance and see if the course framework needs to be altered to make the learning process easy.

It is one of the effective methods of formative assessment. Sometimes, students are required to write down their feelings and their progress in the classroom. Then, they can share their thought on particular course material or an assignment.

In this way, teachers get a quick response on their learning material and planned lessons. If the responses on a specific journal are higher, a teacher can modify the tasks according to the student’s answers.

Ask your students to construct a central idea of the course by using their simple visual representations or drawing skills. This process can be done by you or also by the learner. For example, you can provide them the handouts with already made sketches and ask them to choose the appropriate image or sketch the course material’s core ideas.

You can establish quick interviews or group-focused discussions for students during the class. These can be anything like the casual few minutes of learning from a report and questions regarding them or structured interviews through surveys and questionnaires. This method can provide a better understanding among the students.

This method is a peer assessment process in which students provide their feedback on each other’s performances. As an instructor, you can understand the student’s valuable understanding while assessing their peers. This way, their knowledge regarding course material or a topic becomes clearer.

Tag feedback is an available route to involve the students in formative assessment. Ask you, students, to suggest better ways for the current course framework to improve the quality of teaching or include the best contributions of their peers.

Since we are discussing the type, let’s look at a few examples of formative assessment that improve results.

Similarly, admit slips are another strategy that happens at the start of a class to see their previous understanding that students have retained from the last lecture.

Assessments are the form of getting the idea of students’ needs and understandings. However, we need sources and evidence to prove its accuracy for these assessments. To elaborate on them in a way that sounds easy to the students, we might go through multiple procedures of students’ understandings.

A collection of evidence over time in different ways to assess the teachings and learning process to improve it.

The goals of formative evaluation are to screen the students learning and deliver constant feedback to the faculty and the students. If the process is defined accurately in an appropriate method, it will benefit students to strengthen their concepts and acknowledge their weaknesses. It will also help students to improve their monitoring skills and manage their institutional tasks in a well-organized way rather than messy ones.

It also acknowledges the faculty regarding the ongoing struggles of their students so that adequate support can be provided at a right time. The structured and consistent exams in the academic curriculum limited the student’s imaginations and creativity. In comparison, formative assessment offers interesting ways for better assessment.

Therefore, formative assessments have low stakes with no grading system that may sound uninteresting to the students from engaging themselves in a task that gives no grades.

Formative assessments are essential for students as it gives them insights into their current work and progress to managing their workload and learning in a better way. It helps them assess their plans and realize if their recent steps are working for them.

It makes learning an ongoing process rather than the final term examination tests that only gives results at the end. It completes the students learning performances successfully during the periods of learning.

However, this process comes with various checks, but it is still considered an attempt that rewards students’ efforts and consistency. With the help of such assessments, students can track their abilities and academic goals.

After getting the instant results, students can assess their learning at a self-perceptive level. In short, students can analyze their mistakes and gaps and act according to them in their next moves.

This brings us to the end of our guide on types of summative assessment and formative assessment. By now, you must have a clear idea of how both types of assessments work, and if you are an educator or administrator, you will be able to use them in numerous academic environments.

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Assessment is the process of gathering data. More specifically, assessment is the ways instructors gather data about their teaching and their students’ learning (Hanna & Dettmer, 2004). The data provide a picture of a range of activities using different forms of assessment such as: pre-tests, observations, and examinations. Once these data are gathered, you can then evaluate the student’s performance. Evaluation, therefore, draws on one’s judgment to determine the overall value of an outcome based on the assessment data. It is in the decision-making process then, where we design ways to improve the recognized weaknesses, gaps, or deficiencies.

Types of Assessment

There are three types of assessment: diagnostic, formative, and summative. Although are three are generally referred to simply as assessment, there are distinct differences between the three.

There are three types of assessment: diagnostic, formative, and summative.

Diagnostic Assessment

Diagnostic assessment can help you identify your students’ current knowledge of a subject, their skill sets and capabilities, and to clarify misconceptions before teaching takes place (Just Science Now!, n.d.). Knowing students’ strengths and weaknesses can help you better plan what to teach and how to teach it.

Types of Diagnostic Assessments

Formative Assessment

Formative assessment provides feedback and information during the instructional process, while learning is taking place, and while learning is occurring. Formative assessment measures student progress but it can also assess your own progress as an instructor. For example, when implementing a new activity in class, you can, through observation and/or surveying the students, determine whether or not the activity should be used again (or modified). A primary focus of formative assessment is to identify areas that may need improvement. These assessments typically are not graded and act as a gauge to students’ learning progress and to determine teaching effectiveness (implementing appropriate methods and activities).

A primary focus of formative assessment is to identify areas that may need improvement.

Types of Formative Assessment

Summative Assessment

Summative assessment takes place after the learning has been completed and provides information and feedback that sums up the teaching and learning process. Typically, no more formal learning is taking place at this stage, other than incidental learning which might take place through the completion of projects and assignments.

Rubrics, often developed around a set of standards or expectations, can be used for summative assessment. Rubrics can be given to students before they begin working on a particular project so they know what is expected of them (precisely what they have to do) for each of the criteria. Rubrics also can help you to be more objective when deriving a final, summative grade by following the same criteria students used to complete the project.

Rubrics also can help you to be more objective when deriving a final, summative grade by following the same criteria students used to complete the project.

High-stakes summative assessments typically are given to students at the end of a set point during or at the end of the semester to assess what has been learned and how well it was learned. Grades are usually an outcome of summative assessment: they indicate whether the student has an acceptable level of knowledge-gain—is the student able to effectively progress to the next part of the class? To the next course in the curriculum? To the next level of academic standing? See the section “Grading” for further information on grading and its affect on student achievement.

Summative assessment is more product-oriented and assesses the final product, whereas formative assessment focuses on the process toward completing the product. Once the project is completed, no further revisions can be made. If, however, students are allowed to make revisions, the assessment becomes formative, where students can take advantage of the opportunity to improve.

Summative assessment...assesses the final product, whereas formative assessment focuses on the process...

Types of Summative Assessment

Assessment measures if and how students are learning and if the teaching methods are effectively relaying the intended messages. Hanna and Dettmer (2004) suggest that you should strive to develop a range of assessments strategies that match all aspects of their instructional plans. Instead of trying to differentiate between formative and summative assessments it may be more beneficial to begin planning assessment strategies to match instructional goals and objectives at the beginning of the semester and implement them throughout the entire instructional experience. The selection of appropriate assessments should also match course and program objectives necessary for accreditation requirements.

Hanna, G. S., & Dettmer, P. A. (2004). Assessment for effective teaching: Using context-adaptive planning. Boston, MA: Pearson A&B.

Just Science Now! (n.d.). Assessment-inquiry connection. https://www.justsciencenow.com/assessment/index.htm

Selected Resources

Creative Commons License

Suggested citation

Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2012). Formative and summative assessment. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/instructional-guide

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