What is a summative assessment?

What is summative assessment?

You will often come across the term “summative assessment” in schools and exam institutions, but what exactly is it? The summative assessment aims to make a final judgment. Unlike formative assessments, which focus on learning and development and have no consequences if a test is failed, summative assessments have serious implications.

An example of a summative assessment

To explain the concept of summative assessment, let’s take the example of a driving test. To get a driving license, you have to pass two summative assessments – a theory test and a practical test. Once you pass both tests, you are allowed to drive a car. The driving test is a perfect example of summative assessment.

A driving exam is an excellent example of a summative exam.

Properties of Summative Assessments

Summative assessments have the following key features:

Pass or Fail (1)

Summative assessments are often selective tests. In other words, you must pass the test. For example, to get a driver’s license, you have to pass both the theory and practical tests.

Formal Status (2)

A lot can depend on passing a summative assessment. For example, it can earn you a diploma or certificate that allows you to practice your profession. Doctors, lawyers, and financial advisors must pass periodic tests to demonstrate their professional competence.

Nationally Recognized (3)

Summative assessments are often nationally, and sometimes even internationally, recognized. These exams are based on specific professional or branch standards. When international agreements have been made about this per branch or professional group, the diplomas are also recognized/usable outside the Netherlands.

Strict Confidentiality (4)

Summative exams aim to measure the candidate’s knowledge in the most focused way possible. This means that every candidate must meet the same standard without prior knowledge. Therefore, strict confidentiality of exam questions is vital to prevent exam fraud.

Supervision (5)

Given the generally high stakes involved in summative assessments, strict supervision is a requirement. This can be physical or, nowadays, remote via online proctoring to prevent any form of exam fraud.

Digital Summative Assessment

The right assessment software enables you to test safely and with high standards. Here are a few aspects that may be important when choosing assessment software:

Secure Examination Environment

Make sure you can protect the test with a “lockdown browser.” In such a protected test environment, candidates cannot visit other applications or web pages during the exam. This offers a safe test environment and reduces the chance of possible test fraud.

Clear and Intuitive User Interface

A simple and user-friendly user interface ensures that candidates can fully concentrate on the test content, reducing distractions and improving the final result.

Use Different Question Types

Digital assessment offers many (closed) question types beyond multiple-choice questions, allowing you to optimize the exam by using the question format that best fits the question in question. Variation in question types makes the exam more interesting for the candidate. For example, to test geographical knowledge, you can use a hot spot question, where the candidate clicks on the appropriate location(s) within an image.

Reuse of Items (Exam Questions)

Good assessment software allows you to rotate between exam questions, reducing development time and costs. With an item bank of sufficient size, you can create a random exam for each participant based on a test matrix. Randomizing questions, for example, by using different names in a similar question, prevents questions from becoming public, allowing you to reuse them every time.

Set Up Your Own Workflow

Developing summative assessments often involves many different people. The right assessment software helps you keep everyone informed via built-in notifications, allowing you to fully customize the digital development environment based on your workflow and development approach. 

Improve and Optimize Your Assessment

Tools such as test reports and analyses give you insight into the quality of the items. As a result, you can continuously measure and improve your digital summative assessment to an even higher level. Moreover, you can always see what adjustments have been made to a specific item over time (item history).

Secure the Safety of Your Test

Another critical aspect of digital summative assessment is security. Choose an GDPR-proof assessment system, and be informed about issues such as secure data exchange and the role of the test system in fraud detection.

More about digital summative assessment?

If you would like to learn more about summative assessment, our testing experts would be happy to help you. Do you have other questions about digital assessment? Feel free to contact us or check out our knowledge base for inspiration. We also have a monthly newsletter full of inspiration in digital assessment and examination, and you can follow us on LinkedIn.

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