What is formative assessment?

What is formative assessment?

In schools and exam institutions, you often see the term formative assessment come up. But what exactly is formative assessment? Formative assessment focuses on both testing and learning, with the goal of improving candidate learning. For example, although a grade is given, the grade is only indicative and does not affect the candidate. This makes formative assessment an enjoyable and effective way of learning.

Formative assessment – an example

Within secondary education, final exams are an important measuring moment. To properly prepare students, trial exams are often administered. Although students do receive a grade on this assessment, the grade does not count toward the final grade. Therefore, the purpose of the assessment is to prepare students for the final assessment.

The actual final test in this example is a summative assessment.

Examples of formative assessments

Formative assessment takes place in a variety of ways. Depending on where the test takes place, different descriptions of a formative assessment can be thought of. You can think of the following terms:

Entry assessments

When starting a course or training, it can be helpful to know what the candidate’s starting level is. Entry-level assessments can help determine this. This assessment allows you to determine what the candidate already knows and what needs additional attention.

Diagnostic assessments

If you want to focus on improving specific candidate weaknesses, diagnostic assessments are a good option. For example, in determining the language level of a foreign-language candidate.

Precognition assessments

Precognition assessments aim to establish the candidate’s prior knowledge. Through this assessment, you can determine what the candidate already knows about the subject of the assessment and what information still needs to be offered.

Sample exams

To properly prepare candidates for the actual exam, sample exams can help. These practice tests provide a sample of what the candidate can expect on the exam. This allows them to better prepare, for example, when preparing for a math exam.

Interim assessments

During a course or training, interim assessments may be administered to measure the candidate’s progress. This allows you to determine if the candidate is on the right track or if additional attention is needed on certain topics. For practical assessments, interim assessments, for example, are a good option.

Self assessments

Self assessments are tests that the candidate takes independently to test his or her knowledge. In this form of test, a candidate can discover for himself or herself what topics he or she has not yet mastered and where additional attention needs to be paid. For example, self-testing is used when learning a new language.

Giving feedback in formative assessment

In formative assessment, good feedback is essential. In fact, without feedback, the assessment does not fulfill its purpose. Find more information on giving feedback in formative assessment in our giving feedback in formative assessment.

Candidates with fear of failure?

Fearful candidates can benefit from formative assessment. Indeed, with regular positive feedback through this type of assessment, they perform better. In fact, this confirmation decreases anxiety about the actual (final) assessment.

Paper or digital formative assessment?

With a paper-based formative assessment, opportunities for feedback are limited. For example, an answer sheet with the correct answer and explanation is used. If you choose digital formative assessment, you can use multimedia or different closed-ended question types, for example.

Not only is feedback easier through digital assessment. Distributing questions is also a lot easier. We previously wrote a blog about the benefits of digital assessment.


Want to learn more about formative assessment? Our expert consultants will be happy to help you get started. Please feel free to contact us. For inspiration, be sure to also take a look at our knowledge base! Learn more about digital assessment and examination in our monthly newsletter and on our LinkedIn page.

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