Formative and Summative Assessment

The purpose of formative and summative assessment is to evaluate the teaching-learning process. In this article, we'll show you their main differences.
Formative and Summative Assessment

Last update: 12 December, 2020

Assessment is a key component in education. It allows us to analyze, appreciate and reflect on the results obtained in the teaching-learning process. Nowadays, there are many assessment methods. In this article, we’ll show you the differences between formative and summative assessment.

Both types of assessment are valid and useful. However, formative assessment is more suitable for the current education system, because it adapts to every student’s educational needs.

Differences between formative and summative assessment

Before going deeper into formative and summative assessment, we need to explain what educational assessment is. According to Mercedes Babío Galán and others, it is:

“An organized and reflexive analysis process, which allows the understanding of the object of study’s nature. It also allows self assessments, in order to improve and adjust the education process.”

– Mercedes Babío Galán –

Formative and Summative Assessment

Formative assessment

Formative assessment aims to collect information regarding student’s learning achievements.

This information provides tools to analyze, plan and improve educational actions. Therefore, it takes the students’ needs into account, so they can get to their maximum performance level.

These are the results of formative assessment:

  • To balance the teaching-learning process, according to students’ characteristics.
  • Teachers and students receive feedback on the teaching-learning process.
  • Teachers improve their teaching and pedagogic practices.
  • It enables teachers to personally monitor each student.
  • To recognize and adapt to each student’s learning pace.
  • Each student commits to achieve certain goals. Hence, they’re responsible for their own learning.
  • To improve student’s academic performance.

The following are examples of formative assessment:

  • Scoring rubrics.
  • Observation.
  • Kindergarten assessment.
  • Control lists.
  • Key questions.

Summative assessment

Traditional education follows the summative assessment method. It consists of evaluating the students’ progress according to what they’ve learned. Then, teachers designate different grades based on their achievements.

Furthermore, teachers assign these grades by comparing all students from the same course. In fact, the final evaluation doesn’t take into account the whole process. Because, the results come from ending a task, an assignment, a learning unit, etc.

These are the results of summative assessment

  • To get to know and certify the knowledge acquired by students regarding a particular subject.
  • Students are aware of their achievement when finishing the teaching-learning process.
  • Students work hard to obtain a good final grade, because they tend to try harder during the last minute.
Formative and Summative Assessment
  • It’s not possible to identify personal learning needs.
  • Teachers can’t improve their performance in the process. They have to wait until the following academic year.

The following are examples of summative assessment:

  • The combination of developmental questions and quizzes in tests.
  • Oral exams, like presentations or speeches.
  • Mid-term exams.
  • Final exams.


In conclusion, we can state that formative assessment evaluates the whole teaching-learning process. And, summative assessment evaluates a final result. Thus, it relates to a more traditional school model.

However, since now there’s a new idea regarding education, formative assessment resources are recommended. In fact, this type of assessment is ideal for:

  • Evaluating educational competences.
  • Identifying students’ range of skills, depending on their personal abilities and characteristics.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.