What is Formative vs Summative Assessment?

If you’re a teacher, administrator, or supervisor, it’s key to know about formative vs summative assessments in your teaching plan. Formative assessments are like quick checks. They’re quizzes or little tests that help you see how students are doing in their course. Summative assessments are the big tests at the end. They show how much everyone learned in the whole course. Both kinds are different but super important. They help us understand and evaluate what students know. This article will give you a closer look at formative vs summative assessments. So, at the end of the article, you’ll know how to test your student’s knowledge better.

Formative assessments are tools that help keep track of how students are doing in class. They’re like snapshots that show if a student gets the lesson or if they might need more help. Think of formative assessments as a way to monitor and evaluate how everyone is doing. You can use quizzes, tests, projects, and even oral presentations or group work. These assessments come in lots of different forms and can be really interactive. For example, you can have group presentations or hands-on activities. They help identify what parts of the lesson students understand and where they might need more explanation or support. 

Formative Assessments Benefits

Let’s discuss some benefits in detail.

Formative Assessments Benefits for Students

Formative assessments have a bunch of good things for students. They happen with regularity, like a quiz every Friday. However, this provides stability for learners. These assessments come in many forms and help break up the monotony of usual classroom environments. It’s not just the old teach-test-teach system. Instead of the old system, they can use the modern way of learning. This takes away some of the stress. 

Formative Assessments Benefits for Teachers

Formative assessments are a big help for teachers. They let you adjust your teaching methods and strategies. You get to recognize where students are struggling. It’s not like a one-size-fits-all approach. You can identify each individual’s problem areas right away. With formative assessments, a teacher has the flexibility to change things up. This way, every class is tailored to what students really need.

Formative Assessment Examples

To make the term formative assessment more clear for you, we will be going to discuss some examples in detail:

Make an Ad

Ask your students to create an advertisement for a concept they’ve learned. They can use visuals and text to show the idea. This creative exercise helps with long-term retention.


Let’s introduce a concept to your students and ask them about any popular misconceptions they might have. This discussion can reveal false ideas that have started to take hold. It’s an exercise in getting them to think critically about what they’ve learned and to debunk misinformation.

What are Summative Assessments?

Summative assessments are big tests or projects that help teachers evaluate how much students have learned at the end of a semester, unit, or the whole school year. They’re like a final picture or snapshot of what each student understands. These assessments are super important for making decisions about grades or promotions. Summative assessments are often cumulative, meaning they cover everything learned over a longer period. They can be in different forms, like tests, projects, essays, presentations, or even exams. They help teachers see how well students remember what they’ve learned, showing long-term information retention.

Summative Assessments Benefits

Let’s discuss some benefits in detail.

Summative Assessments Benefits for Students

Summative assessments offer a great opportunity for students. They let you refresh your memories of what you’ve previously learned. This helps reinforce the big ideas, or overall learning objectives, of the course. They provide a snapshot of how all the class members are doing on collective language points. These assessments tell you if you’re ready to proceed to the next level. They’re also good for helping you understand what parts of the course you got down and what parts might need a bit more work. It can reduce any apprehension about tests. It’s an apt way to look forward to test times, knowing you’re getting a full picture of your progress.

Summative Assessments Benefits for Teachers

For teachers and academic managers, the results from summative assessments are super useful. They guide your decisions about what to do in the future with your teaching plans or curriculum development. These assessments indicate how well everyone’s doing overall, which is great for moving forward. They’re practical because they demonstrate what learning has been achieved, and you can see it in measurable numbers. However, this means they provide clear facts and figures. So, you can really inquire into how effective your course and instruction are.

Summative Assessment Examples

Now let’s discuss some of the examples of summative assessment

Detailed reports

Instruct your students to choose a topic that really resonated with them in class. Then, have them write a report that goes in-depth. It gives them the opportunity to dive deep into an idea under your supervision. These reports can showcase the student’s interest and let you evaluate their engagement level. The approach here is to see if they can be passionate and intelligent in their comprehensive examination of a concept that really matters to them.

Cumulative, individual projects

Tell your students to select a project that shows what they’ve learned in the course. It’s a chance for practical application of what they’ve been taught in class. For example, in a health science or physics class, they could be creating a cross-section of a human heart. Or maybe designing a diet plan or a protective egg-drop vessel. In this way, they can show their knowledge.

Differences Between Formative vs Summative Assessments

formative vs summative assessment
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Difference 1

A big difference between the two types of assessment lies in when and how they happen. Formative assessment is an ongoing activity. It’s all about evaluation during the learning process, and it happens several times. On the flip side, summative evaluation happens at a completely different time. It’s after everything’s done, like at the course or unit’s completion.

Difference 2

The purposes of these assessments are a key factor. Formative assessment is there to improve student’s learning. It gives meaningful feedback post each session. On the other hand, summative assessment is for evaluating a student’s achievements. 

Difference 3

Another big difference between these assessment strategies is about getting the right information on a student’s learning. With formative assessments, teachers figure out who’s doing well and who needs help. It’s all about monitoring the learning process. Summative assessments, though, are used to assign grades. They show what’s been achieved in terms of the learning goal.

Difference 4

The last difference is about the role of evaluation in learning. With Formative assessment, it’s more about the process. It’s how a teacher sees student growth and helps steer them in an upwards direction. Summative assessment, though, is harder to use to steer students in the right direction because the evaluation is mostly done after learning. So, summative assessments are more like evaluations of what’s been considered as the final product.

Final Thoughts

As a teacher, it’s really important to use both summative assessments and formative assessments in your teaching. You need to find a good mix of these two types of tests. This helps you get to know what your students need and also helps you to make sure you’re covering all the necessary stuff they have to learn.

Teaching can have its own set of challenges. But, if you really connect with your students and plan your tests and activities carefully, you can make your classroomthe best place to learn. The main goal is to help your students do well and grow in their life.

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