Difference Between Formative and Summative Assessment

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: May 14, 2023


Difference Between Formative and Summative Assessment

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We are often confused with formative and summative assessments because we think these are foreign terms and are meant to be confused. But we must understand that formative assessment is used to track students' progress and provide continuing feedback that teachers and instructors may use to enhance their instruction and that students can use to enhance their learning.

However, when we talk about the summative assessment then it is simply used to assess the learning process of students at the end of a unit of a chapter by comparing it to a particular benchmark or standard. Understanding this always makes it easy to know the real difference between them.

Formative assessment vs. Summative assessment

Evaluation of anything is referred to as assessment. Students are evaluated by the educational institution to analyze their learning graph, their level of knowledge, and their progress. Planning out additional study material is also aided by it. There are two different types of assessment: formative and summative. Throughout the learning process, formative assessments are made. Summative assessment (SA), on the other hand, is only done at the end of the course or unit. The nature and frequency of formative and summative assessments represent their main differences. Check out this article, where we've distilled the difference for you.

Difference between formative assessment and summative assessment tabular form

Parameters of comparisonFormative assessmentSummative assessment
DefinitionThe term "formative assessment" refers to a variety of assessment techniques that offer the necessary data to modify instruction as students are learning.Summative assessments are standards for assessing pupils' learning, according to their definition.
Nature of the assessmentThe nature of formative assessment is diagnostic.The nature of summative assessment is evaluative.
CharactersFormative assessment by characteristics is an assessment for learning.Summative assessment by characteristics is an assessment of learning.
Frequency of assessmentThe frequency of formative assessment is monthly or maybe quarterly.The frequency of summative assessment is at the term's end
PurposeFormative assessment is done to enhance learning.  Summative assessment is done to measure the competency of students.  
ObjectiveThe goal of formative assessment is to monitor the learning of students.The objective of summative assessment is the evaluation of students' learning.  
Grade's weightHere, it is low.Here, it is high.

What is formative assessment?

When we discuss Formative evaluation is comes out as a a collection of informal and formal evaluation techniques generally practiced by teachers while the learning process. It is progressive step in the process of education that teachers adopt to increase the comprehension of the students and competency by adjusting to the learning and teaching processes. Formative assessment has specific objectives and involves to give teachers and students honest feedback in the context of how good they are learning and performing the tasks.. It is a continuous process that looks at students' needs and development of them as they learn.

More precisely The term "formative assessment" refers to a broad range of techniques used by teachers to assess student understanding, learning requirements, and academic achievement as they occur throughout a lesson, unit, or course. To make adjustments to lessons, instructional strategies, and academic support, formative assessments help teachers identify concepts that students are having trouble understanding, skills they are having trouble picking up, or knowing the requirements they have not yet reached. We must note that summative assessments, which are used to evaluate student learning progress and accomplishment at the end of a particular educational period—typically after a project, unit, course, semester, program, or school year—are sometimes contrasted with formative assessments. Summative evaluations measure learning, whereas formative assessments are used to measure learning. Alternately, formative assessment occurs when the cook tastes the soup, according to assessment expert Paul Black. The customer's tasting of the soup is the summative evaluation. However, it should be noted that in practice, the line between formative and summative assessment is frequently blurred, and educators may have different perspectives on the matter.

Various examples of formative assessment can be

To find out what specific concepts or abilities pupils may be struggling with, teachers may ask both individual students and groups of students questions during the learning process. A wide range of deliberate questioning techniques may be used, such as framing inquiries in particular ways to draw out more insightful responses.

Feedback that professors provide on the work of the student, for example, journal entries, essays, research papers, worksheets, projects, ungraded exams, lab findings, or works of art, design, and performance, in a specific, precise, and constructive manner. For example, a work product could be revised or improved using the feedback.

"Exit slips" or "exit tickets" are used by teachers to swiftly gather student responses to their questions after a session or class period. The teacher can then alter the following lesson to address topics that the students have not understood or skills they may be having trouble with based on what the responses suggest. A similar technique known as "admit slips" is employed at the start of a class or lesson to ascertain what information pupils have recalled from earlier learning experiences.

self-evaluations that compel students to consider their learning processes reflect on their strengths and weaknesses and state what they have learned or still need to learn to meet the demands of the course or the standards of learning.

peer evaluations that let students use one another as resources for learning. One typical method of peer assessment is "workshopping" a piece of writing with peers, especially if students adhere to a rubric or set of instructions provided by a teacher.

What is summative assessment?

Summative assessments are a type of tool that is used to evaluate the students and put a strong emphasis on the outcomes of the students. It is a component of the marking system that is periodic and it is periodically administered to the participants, typically at the end of the course, chapter, or unit. The goal here is to identify the knowledge of the student or the degree to which they have absorbed the content that has been taught to them. Summative evaluations look at how well a course or program is working, how well students are learning, etc. Scores, grades, or percentages attained are an indication that demonstrates the caliber of the curriculum and serves as the foundation for school rankings. Summative tests are given "after the fact," in that they assess how much knowledge a student has acquired during a unit of teaching, a lesson, or another period of study. Did the kids learn what was required of them?

State examinations, final exams, papers, presentations, and projects that show the overall information a student has acquired during study or a particular lesson or unit are all examples of summative assessments. They frequently use quantitative data that yields results as a scale score, percentage, or grade and is matched with predetermined and uniform criteria, benchmarks, and rubrics.

We must understand here that summative assessments are used to gauge "how much" a student has learned after a unit or course has ended, whereas formative assessments gauge how a student is learning throughout the study. Summative evaluation is thought of as an assessment of learning, whereas formative evaluation is thought of as an assessment of learning. Formative evaluation can take place as frequently as a teacher requires, and the knowledge gained can have an immediate impact on instruction.

Summative evaluation gives teachers a broad picture of the knowledge and skills that students have acquired throughout a certain unit of study, such as a semester, throughout the year, or, in the SAT, all of such cumulative knowledge and capabilities that they have acquired over a lengthy period. Teachers can decide whether their students are prepared to move on to the next level through summative assessment. Have they acquired the knowledge and abilities required to go on to the next unit or grade?

Summative assessments must be legitimate and dependable because they can have significant consequences, such as program entrance or final grades. To provide accurate, dependable assessments of student achievement, multiple-choice items should be well constructed, and written and oral replies should have clear rubrics and consistent evaluation.

The standardized examinations given by states and testing agencies, typically in arithmetic, reading, writing, and science, are some of the most well-known and frequently discussed examples of summative evaluations. Additional instances of summative evaluations include:

Unit test or end-chapter test

Term-end exams or end-semester exams

Standardized assessments that are used for college admissions (such as the SAT or ACT) or end-of-course evaluation (such as the International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement exams)

Culminating examples of learning or other kinds of "performance assessment," like student portfolios that are compiled over time and assessed by teachers or capstone projects that students work on for a long time and present and defend at the end of a school year or their high school education.

Difference between formative assessment and summative assessment in points

  • The timing of the evaluation within a student's learning process is the first significant variation. As we know by the definition, A formative assessment is a form of process continuous by nature. The evaluation of this happens as the student is learning new things. multiple times, not just once. A summative assessment happens at a completely different time. not in the middle of it, but after it. The evaluation of this happens at the end of the course or unit.
  • Formative assessment refers to a range of evaluation techniques that offer the necessary data to modify instruction during the learning process. Summative assessment is explained as a specific criterion for the assessment of the students learning.
  • The assessment methods used to gather accurate data on the students' learning vary greatly as well. By observing the learning process, formative evaluations attempt to determine whether a student is succeeding or needs assistance. You provide grades when you employ summative assessments. You can determine from the grades whether or not the student met the learning objective.
  • Summative assessment in short is a process of evaluation, on the other hand, formative assessment is diagnostic by nature.
  • Both assessments have very different goals. The main objective of formative assessment is to improve the learning of the students. You are required to have the capability to provide proper feedback to do this well. The summative assessment has the objective of somehow assessing the performance of the individual.
  • Only a few content areas are covered by formative evaluation. three formative evaluations of one chapter, for example. All chapters or subject areas are evaluated in the summative assessment. One chapter, for instance, might only have one assessment. The variety of educational resources has considerably expanded.
  • Evaluation is viewed as a process of formative assessment. In this approach, a teacher may see a pupil develop and help guide them in the right direction. Summative evaluation makes it more difficult for you to guide the learner appropriately. The assessment has finished. Because of this, summative evaluations or assessments are viewed as more of a "product."
  • Formative assessment improves real-time student learning outcomes by informing ongoing instruction, and summative assessment evaluates the effectiveness of previous instruction.
  • Formative assessment frequently makes use of descriptive (qualitative) data to assess a state based on informal measurement, but in summative assessment, When applying formal measurement and assessment approaches to identify outcomes, quantitative (numerical) data is frequently used.
  • As opposed to summative assessments, which determine whether or not a student should be promoted, formative assessments are more valuable since they provide information about a student's understanding, while summative assessments are used to establish whether or not a student should be advanced.
  • The aim of using the formative assessment is to improve the learning of students. On the other hand, summative assessments are used to evaluate students' performance.
  • To track students' learning, formative assessments are used. Unlike summative assessments, formative assessments focus on assessing students' learning.


The main distinction between these two assessment methods is that summative assessment functions more like a grading procedure, whereas formative assessment is more like an instructional process. Based on both, a balanced assessment measures students' learning concerning the content standard and gives teachers the information they need to know about their next steps. So we hope that this article will help you understand the basic difference between formative assessment and summative assessment. We have clarified almost every important point, which will help you understand the context of these terms.


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"Difference Between Formative and Summative Assessment." Diffzy.com, 2024. Fri. 17 May. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-formative-and-summative-assessment>.

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