Four tips for giving feedback in formative testing

Four tips for giving feedback in formative testing

A formative test is aimed at letting the candidate learn. Therefore, a formative test does not count towards the final mark. Digital testing makes it possible to give feedback easily. The following four tips will help you on your way when giving feedback on formative, digital tests.

Why is good feedback so important in formative testing?

When you test digitally instead of in writing, formative testing is easy. However, good quality feedback is essential. By testing, candidates become aware of what they do not know or do, and are challenged to work on the material.

Formative testing gives candidates clarity about where they stand. It is therefore a pleasant and effective way of learning. Another advantage is that candidates with fear of failure perform better if they have regularly passed a formative test. They get confirmation from the feedback they receive, which reduces the fear of the actual (final) test.

  1. Determine the level of your feedback;
  2. Determine how to present your feedback;
  3. Determine when to give your feedback;
  4. Try to make feedback as low maintenance as possible.

1. Determine the level of your feedback

It is important to consider beforehand at which level you want to give feedback. This can be done at different levels:

  • Feedback at the level of exit qualifications or topics
  • Feedback at the level of questions
  • Feedback at the level of answers

Feedback can be given at different levels. Both at the level of correct/incorrect and at initiating reflection on the candidate’s thought process (Hattie & Timperley, 2007). Note: the different possibilities may be limited by the testing software used.

2. Determine how to present your feedback

Think about the way you present the feedback. Especially if you give feedback at the level of answer alternatives, there is a risk that the feedback will be formulated negatively. Try to be constructive when giving feedback and determine how you present this feedback.


3. Determine when to give your feedback

You can give feedback on the test at various moments. Such as:

  1. Immediately after completing a question or exercise
  2. Immediately after finishing a test
  3. When the opinion is final (after discussion or inspection)

Your choice may also depend on the testing system you use. Sometimes a candidate can immediately adjust the answer (second chance); this is suited to immediate feedback. Research shows that delayed feedback can work better than direct feedback during the exercise (Van der Kleij, 2017).

4. Try to make feedback as low maintenance as possible

Make sure you give feedback as standardised as possible. For example, do not refer to a page in a book that is revised every year. Then you will have to adjust your feedback every year. It is better to refer to the subject that needs to be studied more closely.


Giving formative feedback starts with thinking out your wishes in advance. Take the candidate into account, but also your own work processes. Would you like more tips on giving feedback during (digital) formative testing? Then contact us. Our testing consultants will be happy to help you.