The Key Differences Between Summative And Formative Assessments

Assessments are a part of every classroom, regardless of subject matter or grade level. They come in all shapes and sizes, and they can be used for a number of reasons. Sometimes, the differences between the types of assessments can be subtle. Many teachers will find that some subjects lend themselves really well to certain types of question formats (like multiple choice vs. short answer vs. essay), but the style of question shouldn’t be confused with the type of assessment. While there are many more, summative and formative assessments are probably two of the most widely used in education today. The handy infographic below takes a look at the main concepts of each type of assessment along with examples of each. Keep reading to learn more!

Summative vs. Formative Assessments

What’s the difference, anyway?

Some like to think of the two as helping one another out – the formative assessments check progress along the way, while the summative assessment serves sort of as the ‘end survey’. While that works as a simplified explanation, there’s much more to it.

Formative Assessments

  • Use to check students’ progress
  • The information gained guides the next steps in instruction and helps teachers and students consider the additional learning opportunities needed to ensure success
  • Formative assessment information must be fed forward into an instructional model that allows for responsiveness to student need

Examples of Formative Assessments

  • Projects and performances
  • Writing assignments
  • Tests and quizzes
  • Asking questions

Summative Assessments

  • Summative assessments provide teachers and students with information about the attainment of knowledge
  • Often result in a grade which means they have a high point value (ie, they “count a lot”)
  • The goal is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some sort of standard or benchmark

Examples of Summative Assessments

  • A senior recital
  • A final project
  • A midterm paper
  • A midterm exam
  • A paper