Our earlier blog post about creating good test questions briefly mentioned the three main types of assessment categories. Looking for more detailed information about what these are and why they matter? You’ve come to the right place!

There are three main types of assessments:
1. Summative
2. Formative
3. Benchmark

Summative assessments are given at the end of a grade level or course as a measurement of whether the student has mastered the specific learning outcomes to successfully proceed to the next level. These assess if the student has learned a specific skill set that aligns with standards, and are also used to assign a final grade. The benefit of these assessments is that they identify specific areas of strengths and weaknesses.

Formative assessments highlight what a student has learned up to a specific point in time. These may include teacher prompts, quizzes, writing samples, labs, and speeches. They focus on clear standards and learning targets so that educators can gage what their students understand and thus use as a guide for further instruction.

Lastly, we have benchmark assessments. These are the common assessments that educators use to track student progress over a period of time. These help enhance student achievement by identifying areas of strength and needs for improvement. Teachers of the same grade or subject will administer these tests at the same time. Benchmark assessments can serve the purpose of being a combination of summative and formative, since they provide educators with information on how students are progressing towards a specific goal in addition to predicting how they will perform at state assessments or graduation exams.

Understanding the purpose and goal of each assessment is important when formulating your test questions and layout. Each assessment has its own benefit, and they all help drive the adjustments educators make to their teaching approaches and learning activities.

Which assessment is your favorite? Which do you dread the most and why? Share your feedback with us in the comments section below!