Difference Between Formative Assessment and Summative Assessment

Difference Between Formative Assessment and Summative Assessment

Formative and summative assessment are two different approaches to evaluating pupil learning, each with its distinct purpose and application. Throughout the instructional period, formative evaluation is a continuous, dynamic process. It provides educators with immediate feedback on students’ understanding and progress, enabling them to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses, modify instruction, and scaffold learning. Tests, group activities, classroom discussions, and informal observations are examples of formative assessments. These assessments enable educators to support the learning requirements of individual students and facilitate the development of self-regulation and metacognitive skills.

In contrast, summative assessment occurs at the conclusion of a unit, semester, or academic year to evaluate students’ overall learning and mastery of specific objectives. It is a more formal and structured approach, often consisting of high-stakes exams with particular grading criteria. Examples include final examinations, standardised tests, and course-ending assignments. Summative assessments provide a snapshot of student performance and serve as a tool for accountability, curriculum development, and programme effectiveness evaluation. In a nutshell, formative assessment is a continuous process focusing on delivering feedback to support learning and instructional adjustments. In contrast, summative assessment evaluates overall mastery at the conclusion of a learning period. Both forms of assessment are necessary to ensure effective instruction and a thorough assessment of student learning.

What is Formative Assessment?

Formative assessment is an integral part of education that keeps track of how much students learn as they are taught. Its goal is to give teachers and students useful information about their strengths and weaknesses so that they can get more help and make changes to improve their learning. The main goal of formative assessment is to help students learn and grow by keeping track of their progress in real-time. This lets teachers step in at the right time and change their teaching methods to meet the needs of each student. Formative testing helps students become more aware of how they learn, which improves their self-regulation and metacognitive skills.

Formative assessments can be done in many different ways, both informally and formally. Quizzes, classroom discussions, group tasks, homework, and teacher observations are all excellent examples. Most of the time, these tests have low stakes and are not used to give grades. Instead, they are used to help teachers and students learn. Formative assessment is, at its core, a constant, changing process that involves both teachers and students in the learning process. Formative assessment encourages a growth mindset by promoting open communication and a supportive atmosphere. This helps students build confidence, resilience, and a deep knowledge of the subject.

What is Summative Assessment?

Summative assessment is a way to measure how much a student has learned by looking at how well they did overall and how well they met specific learning goals at the end of a unit, term, or school year. It gives a complete picture of a student’s knowledge, skills, and understanding at a certain time. This is useful information for making decisions about education and ensuring people are held accountable. The main goal of summative assessment is to determine how well students have learned what is expected of them. This helps teachers, schools, and educational systems judge how well their teaching methods and curriculum are working. Summative assessments are often critical because they significantly affect a student’s grade, whether they move up to the next grade or even if they graduate.

Summative assessments include final exams, standardised tests, end-of-course projects, and study papers. These assessments are usually more formal and structured, with clear grading criteria and scoring rubrics to ensure student work is evaluated consistently and objectively. Summative assessment is essential to figuring out how much a student has learned at the end of a specific period. It is an essential tool for figuring out how well students are doing, making curriculum changes, and ensuring people are held accountable in the school system.

Difference Between Formative Assessment and Summative Assessment

The purpose of formative assessment is to provide timely feedback on student progress to enhance learning and modify teaching strategies in real time. It consists of talks and quizzes with minimal stakes designed to foster understanding. At the conclusion of a course of study or academic year, students are given a summative assessment gauges how well they have learned and retained the material covered during that time. Formal, high-stakes assessments, like semester and year-end exams and standardised tests, are used to evaluate the quality of teaching and learning. Summative assessment evaluates how well learning has been accomplished, while formative assessment guides and improves instruction. The primary differences between them are outlined below.


While summative assessment looks at how well students have learned and mastered their objectives, formative assessment is designed to help students learn and improve their teachers’ lessons.


While summative assessment occurs at the end of a unit, semester, or academic year, formative assessment occurs throughout the educational session.


While summative assessment provides a picture of student achievement at a given time, formative assessment allows for continuous, real-time feedback.


In contrast to summative assessment, which often has a considerable impact on grades and promotion, formative assessment is typically low-stakes and focuses on development and growth.

Assessment Methods

Summative assessment uses more formal means, such as exams and standardised tests, whereas formative assessment uses more simple means, such as classroom discussions and instructor observations.


Summative assessment is scored according to predetermined criteria and adds to students’ overall grades, while formative assessment is not used for grading but to inform instruction.


Summative assessment is used to evaluate the success of lessons and courses. In contrast, formative assessment adapts teaching methods in real-time based on student needs.

Student Involvement

Summative assessment evaluates students’ ability to think critically and control their learning, whereas formative assessment helps students develop a growth mindset.