The Difference Between Formative And Summative Assessments

Author: Louise Raw

Posted: 24 Jun 2022

Estimated time to read: 8 mins

When it comes to formative assessments and summative assessments, if you're a
teacher, administrator, or supervisor you've heard of both before.

While you may know that they form part of any curriculum map, do you actually know
what they mean and what the differences are?

In this blog, we delve into the subject of formative assessments and summative

What makes formative assessments different to
summative assessments?

One of the main differences between the two is that formative assessments are
completed during a student's course, while summative assessments are completed
at the end of the course as a final evaluation.

There is far more to it though. Let’s unpack each assessment to highlight the various

What are formative assessments?

Formative assessments are ongoing evaluations of student learning and
understanding. They're used to monitor student progress and identify areas where
further explanation or support may be needed.

Formative assessments can take many different forms, including quizzes, tests,
projects, oral presentations, and group work.

Formative assessments, which work great when they’re used on a regular basis, are
interactive as you can use group presentations, activities that are hands-on, or even
in-class games to evaluate the progress of students.

What's great about formative assessments is the flexibility. This helps to keep
students engaged in your class.


The benefits of formative assessments

There are many benefits to using formative assessments in your classroom,

  • Allowing you to monitor student progress and identify areas of weakness early
  • Helping you to adjust your teaching methods to better suit the needs of your
  • Encouraging active and interactive learning, which can make students more
    engaged in the material
  • Giving you the opportunity to provide timely feedback that can help students
    improve their understanding and performance

Practical application of formative assessments

Now that we've looked at what formative assessments are and some of the benefits
of using them, let's take a look at how you can put them into practice in your

Here are a few ideas:

Use short quizzes regularly
One way to use formative assessments is to give short quizzes on a regular basis. This could be once a week or even once a day. These quizzes don't need to be long or comprehensive, but they should cover the material that you've been covering in class.

Get students to explain their thinking
Another great way to assess student understanding is to get them to explain their thinking out loud. You can do this by asking questions during class and then getting students to explain their answers. This is a great way to gauge student understanding and identify areas where they may need more support.

Use group work
Group work is another excellent way to assess student understanding. When students are working in groups, you can observe them and see how well they're able to apply what they've learned. You can also ask them questions about the material and get them to explain their thinking to you.

Give feedback regularly
Giving feedback is an important part of formative assessment. It's essential that you give feedback regularly so that students know where they're doing well and where they need to improve. Feedback should be specific, objective, and positive.

Keep it positive
Finally, it's important to keep formative assessments positive. This means avoiding anything that could cause anxiety or stress for students.Neeto_blogThumbnail-02When used correctly, formative assessments can be an excellent tool for helping students learn and improve their understanding of the material. So, don't be afraid to use them in your classroom!

Now, let's take a look at summative assessments and how they compare to formative assessments.

What are summative assessments?

Summative assessments are used to evaluate student learning at the end of a unit,
semester, or school year. They provide a snapshot of student understanding and can
be used to make decisions about grades or promotions.

Summative assessments, which are often cumulative, are used to evaluate the long-
term information retention of a student.

Summative assessments can take many different forms, including

  • Tests
  • Essays
  • Projects
  • Presentations
  • Papers


The benefits of summative assessments

There are many benefits to using summative assessments in your classroom,

  • Allowing you to measure student progress at the end of a unit or semester
  • Helping you to identify areas of weakness so that you can adjust your
    teaching accordingly
  • Giving students a chance to show what they've learned over a period of time


Practical application of summative assessments

Now that we've covered the basics of summative assessments, let's take a look at
some practical ways you can use them in your classroom.

Create a unit test
One of the most common summative assessments is the unit test. A unit test is a test that covers all the material that has been covered in a unit of study. Unit tests are a great way to measure student understanding and identify areas where they may need more support.

Give a presentation
Another common summative assessment is through presentations. They can provide a snapshot of student understanding.
Writing an essay
Essays can be used to assess student understanding of a topic or unit of study. With essays, it's important to provide clear instructions and rubrics so that students know
what is expected of them. Summative assessments are a great way to measure student understanding and progress. By using them in your classroom, you can ensure that your students are learning and retaining the information you're teaching them.

How summative assessments differ from formative

While summative assessments and formative assessments work exceptionally well
together, they differ in a few key ways. Here are some of the differences

  • Summative assessments are designed to show what students have learned,
    while formative assessments show that students are learning. In other words,
    a summative assessment is an evaluation after the course while a formative
    assessment is an evaluation during the learning process.
  • Summative assessments show the bottom line, whereas formative
    assessments act like milestones
  • Summative assessments assign grades, while formative assessments monitor
    the learning process
  • Formative assessments act like milestones while summative assessments
    show the bottom line. 

Asking students to make a short quiz on a topic of their choice is another great alternative to homework that lets them engage thoughtfully with something they’re interested in. 

Kahoot! or Quizlet are great options for this, although submitting their questions via Satchel One is also a great option if you aren’t doing the quizzes together as a follow up activity. 

Want to make quizmaking a little easier for yourself too? Try our free quizmaker, Neeto

Creating formative assessments doesn't have to take ages...

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