The Difference Between Formative and Summative Assessments

Formative Assessments

A formative assessment serves to monitor and assess a student’s learning progress by providing detailed feedback following the assessment to inform the student which areas are their strengths and what needs to be worked on. This aids the student in their revision and learning before a summative assessment, and also provides valuable information to teaching staff about key problem areas individual students and classes as a whole may be facing in their comprehension of a topic. A formative assessment usually holds little or no value towards a student’s final mark.  


Summative Assessments

A summative assessment provides an overall evaluation of a student’s understanding of a topic against a rubric outlining criteria for grade boundaries. The teaching staff and students will have used feedback from the formative assessment to prepare for the summative assessment, as a summative assessment holds a medium to high value towards a student’s final mark. The grades achieved at the end of a summative assessment provide useful feedback to faculties as to which teaching methods and activities were most beneficial to students in the learning process. If the student is successful on their summative assessment(s) they will then receive a certificate or similar document stating their competency and/or knowledge in that field.

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