Using Effective General Feedback in Formative Testing

A formative test should enable the candidate to gain some new understanding about their knowledge of the subject area; it should aid a candidate's learning experience and show them the areas they should focus on in future study.

For example, a student may take a science test in the middle of the academic year. They fail the test due to their low score in biology, however they receive top marks in both physics and chemistry. This would suggest that the student needs to dedicate a period of focused study time to biology. However, if the student is not given any feedback for this test, they would not know how to tailor their studying and may not give certain topics within biology the necessary time needed to improve for future summative testing. The key to making the student aware of their progress is feedback.

Feedback can be given throughout a test or at the end of a test and can be represented in various different forms. The simplest form of feedback a test will show is if the candidate passed or failed the exam, based on the pass/fail boundaries set in the Test Form Details section of Surpass. They can also be shown the percentage score they achieved in the test. Whilst this information is useful for a candidate to know, it does not provide the candidate with specific guidance on particular areas they are doing well in, or may need more work. Therefore, it is beneficial to provide the candidates with additional information.


Feedback throughout the Test

If you wish for the formative Test conditions to mirror the summative test conditions, then setting the feedback to appear throughout would not be the ideal feedback solution. However, allowing the feedback button to be available throughout a Test does provide the means for an interactive Test environment, so a candidate can receive targeted feedback for each question. You can set these Test Forms to 'Allow Close without Submit' in Test Form Details, which enables the candidate to complete targeted study during the course of the test.

To guide you in what feedback to give throughout a Test, consider reading 'What to include in Feedback throughout a Formative Test'.


Feedback at the End of the Test

If you choose to only supply feedback at the end of the test, you then need to consider what you wish for the candidate to see. If you feel that knowledge of the learning outcomes would aid the candidates in tailoring their future studies, then you have the option to 'Display Feedback by Learning Outcome', which would display how the candidate performed based on the learning outcomes set in your Subject Tags. You may also choose to make this printable so the candidate has access to a physical copy of the information for future use.


The way you choose to show feedback for formative testing will vary between organisations and the purpose of the testing, however feedback is commonly overlooked across institutions and can be extremely helpful to test candidates in gaining optimal results during summative testing.

Note: The purpose of these articles is to provide you with general advice in the fields of assessment and testing. These articles are not intended to replace any regulations or instructions provided by your organisation, but may be used in conjunction with these materials to support the assessment process.

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For further information, visit the Feedback Surpass Help page.

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