Difference Between Formative and Summative Assessment

In this article, we will shed light on the difference between formative and summative assessment.

First, let us discuss why an assessment or evaluation is important. Assessment is deemed as an important or essential part of the learning and teaching process. The evaluation of educational programs measures cognitive, affective, and psychomotor learning of children. When students know their standing and achievements, they are more likely to be motivated to do even better. 

The assessment gives a clearer picture of the students’ progress. The results from these assessments would give educators an idea regarding the kinds of reinforcements or interventions needed.

These interventions would bridge the gaps identified in the learning process. Evaluations can help prevent failures by the end of the term. While some assessment methods can serve as a guide for educators to know which areas of the syllabus can be improved.

In educational institutions, formative and summative assessments are used to determine different kinds of results. However, both assessments are used to create fact-based plans.

For example, these two evaluation methods can help educators identify if students are falling behind or ahead. It also helps teachers to identify what kind of interventions are needed and to what extent they should be implemented.

These two forms of assessment have differences. It is important to know the difference between formative and summative assessment as it would help educators create effective assessment plans. However, it is important to note that these two assessments cannot be separated from each other. They go hand-in-hand in making sure that students are on the right track and that teaching methods are effective. 

So, below, we will define these two assessment forms. We will also talk about the difference between formative and summative assessment.

Formative Assessment

The main purpose or goal of formative assessment is to track the instructional process of learning. That is to determine early on if the learning is taking place or if the teaching methods are effective. 

It is the observation, assessment, and analysis of one’s daily educational activities. This evaluation method diagnoses both the pupil’s and educators’ weaknesses and progression. Both of these stakeholders benefit from the results of the formative assessment. 

The main function or use of this evaluation method is remedial in nature. It exists so that immediate and continuous intervention can be done. This intervention is applicable to teaching methods. Since the formative assessment helps identify the satisfactory level of teaching as well, educators can improve their ways of teaching immediately.

Here are a few of the advantages of the formative assessment:

  • This evaluation method provides enough details for educators to improve their teaching methods.
  • It aids in creating remedial plans for both individuals and groups.
  • Gives feedback to students and teachers
  • Allows educators to improve their teaching style to what the students currently need.
  • Provides an emphasis on achievements.

Summative Assessment

This type of assessment is done at the end of the school calendar or period. The main objective of this evaluation method is to determine whether the students have passed or failed the whole course. 

The summative assessment evaluates the students relative to the whole course syllabus. They are being graded based on what they have learned during the whole term

The results of this assessment would determine whether a student can be promoted to the next class or relearn the sad course all over again. 

Below are some of the advantages of the summative assessment:

  • It helps educators determine if the students have fully understood the course. The summative evaluation incorporates evaluation methods such as tests and projects. From these methods, a teacher can determine whether the students have learned the course through the application. 
  • The assessment determines achievement. Since this method is used by the end of the course term, it helps determine who among the students are achievers. 
  • The results from the assessment are used for academic records. These records are important as they are proof that an individual has satisfactorily met all course requirements. The summative assessment is used to determine the final academic standing of the pupil therefore the results are reflected in academic records.
  • The summative assessment helps identify or determine weak areas. Assessing the whole learning process is important so that improvements can be incorporated into the next batch of learners. Through this assessment, weak areas of teaching can be identified so that they can be upscaled for future events.

Difference Between Formative and Summative Assessment

Now that we know the definition of these evaluation methods, let us proceed to the difference between formative and summative assessment.

The main difference between formative and summative assessment is the frequency. The formative assessment is done continuously throughout the learning process. So, it helps in determining issues and provides immediate remedies. 

Some examples of formative assessments are quizzes, reflection assignments, in-class discussions, and other homework. As you can see, this method revolves around short-term methods. 

While summative assessment is done by the end of the term. It is used to assess the overall performance of the students. Some forms of summative assessments are quarterly exams, final projects, and final reports. These methods would require the students to apply the things they have learned throughout the whole term.

One difference between formative and summative assessment is the methods they are using. The formative assessment is more focused on short term evaluation methods. While the summative assessment uses methods to evaluate a larger scope.

There may be a difference between formative and summative assessment, but they go together in creating a better learning process. The formative assessment cannot independently upscale the quality of teaching. In the same way, the summative assessment is not capable of improving the learning process alone.


What are examples of formative evaluation?

Examples of formative evaluation include quizzes, assignments, and in-class recitations.

What is the importance of formative and summative evaluation?

These two assessment method are important because it helps educational institutions identify areas that need to be improved.

Main Takeaways

Formative assessment is a way to measure the pupil’s learning through regular checking. This is done throughout the whole learning process. When formative assessment is done, the result is not considered as the final or permanent mark. Instead, this would be used to improve possible final outcomes.

While summative assessment can be used as a guide to improving the overall teaching method for future classes. The results of this assessment would be used as the permanent academic record as well. The results can also be used by school administrations to improve the curriculum of a specific subject or course.

In general, the only distinct difference between formative and summative assessment is the frequency of evaluation. Since they are made to address issues with different urgencies, the frequency differs. However, as mentioned above, these two methods should go together to be able to create better evaluation procedures. 

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