Difference Between Formative and Summative Assessment

Main Difference – Formative vs  Summative Assessment

Assessment is a method used by teachers to measure what students are learning. Educators mainly use two types of assessments known as formative and summative assessments. Formative assessments are used to monitor student learning during a learning activity whereas summative assessments are used to evaluate student learning at the end of learning activity. The main difference between formative and summative assessment is that formative assessments occur during the learning process whereas summative assessments occur at the end of a learning unit.

This article explains,

1. What is a Formative Assessment? – Meaning, Features, Uses, and Examples

2. What is a Summative Assessment? – Meaning, Features, Uses, and Examples

3. What is the difference between Formative and Summative Assessment?Difference Between Formative and Summative Assessment - Comparison Summary

What is Formative Assessment

Formative Assessment refers to a range of formal and informal assessments conducted by teachers during the learning process in order to modify teaching and learning activities. Its main goal is to monitor student learning. Formative assessments help both students and teachers to improve the learning process while it’s happening. Although assessments generally give a grade or score for students, formative assessments provide students with feedback. Thus, it helps the students to identify their strengths and weaknesses. These assessments can also help the educators to evaluate their teaching methods.

Examples of formative assessments include:

Asking students to write a brief summary of a lecture or lesson

Giving students a class quiz

Conducting student-teacher conferences, etc.

Main Difference - Formative vs  Summative Assessment

What is Summative Assessment

 Summative assessments generally occur at the end of a learning unit. The main goal of summative assessment is to evaluate the student learning and compare it against the standards. Summative assessments can also help to evaluate the effectiveness of the program, curriculum, and its objectives. Summative assessments occur only a few times over the academic year. Unlike formative assessments, summative assessments tend to yield a specific score or grade. In addition, summative assessments also contain a narrow range of question types such as multiple choice, essay, and short answers.

Examples of summative assessments include:

Year-end exam, mid-term test, end of unit tests

Final projects, etc.

Difference Between Formative and Summative Assessment

Difference Between Formative and Summative Assessment


Formative assessments occur during a learning activity.

Summative assessments occur at the end of a learning activity.


Formative assessments aim to monitor student learning.

Summative assessments aim to evaluate student learning.


Formative assessments provide students with feedback.

Summative assessments yield a specific score or result.


Formative assessments may occur several times during a course unit.

Summative assessments may occur few times over the course of the academic year.

Type of Questions

Formative assessments can use a wide range of questions.

Summative assessments can only use a limited number of question formats.

Image Courtesy: 

“Participantes do Enem” By Wilson Dias/ABr – (CC BY 3.0 br) via Commons Wikimedia

“Ashs-teacher-and-students” By Mosborne01 – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia


Crooks, T. (2001). “The Validity of Formative Assessments”. British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, University of Leeds, September 13–15, 2001.

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.