Summative Assessment in Practice

To be effective, quality summative assessment should:

  • take account of all the objectives or outcomes of the study programme (this is why summative tests from part of the study programme are not necessarily valid);
  • be used to indicate a pupil’s progress at the end of a period of learning, for example a unit of work or a module;
  • take account of formative assessments throughout the year; and
  • be formative in its own right, giving:
    • teachers insights into what pupils have and have not learned, enabling them to adapt their practices; and
    • feedback on what pupils did or did not do well.

Research suggests that teachers should make greater use of summative assessment to support learning by:

  • giving pupils opportunities to review their work before the assessment to:
    • familiarise themselves with the type of assessment set; and
    • identify areas where understanding is not secure;
  • involving pupils in developing assessments and setting assessment criteria to:
    • help develop their understanding of assessment; and
    • focus on areas for improvement;
  • involving pupils in marking and discussing their assessment performance, including the use of peer and self-evaluation; and
  • providing quality feedback that focuses on the pupil’s performance and how they can improve their learning.


Assessment in schools Fit for purpose? A Commentary by the Teaching and Learning Research Programme