Assessment is an integral part of the learning experience. Depending on the course and the objective, assessment can play an important role in how your learning progresses.

Broadly, assessments serve the following objectives:


  1. Assessment of learning: This is the traditional way of judging a student’s progress. The student is graded on the depth of their understanding and alignment with the course curriculum.
  2. Assessment for learning: This ascertains a student’s level of understanding so that the teacher can adjust the curriculum and method of delivery to meet the learning objective. These assessments are actionable and ongoing.
  3. Assessment as learning: Under this method, students are active participants in the learning process. It can focus on problem-solving tactics or critical-thinking skills. It encourages students to set achievable goals for themselves and chart their path to the end goal.


The following are six types of assessment of learning:


  1. Diagnostic Assessment

  2. Formative Assessment

  3. Summative Assessment

  4. Norm-Referenced Assessment

  5. Criterion-Referenced Assessments

  6. Interim Assessment



Diagnostic Assessment

This method aims to understand the skills, strengths and weaknesses of the student before instructions are given in the classroom. For instance, before you explain word-formation to your class, you need to ensure that the students understand the letters of the alphabet and their sounds.

Diagnostic assessment encourages participation from the whole class. Some examples of diagnostic assessment are:


  • Discussions in the classroom
  • Interviews with students
  • Mind maps
  • Flow charts
  • KWL Charts
  • Quizzes


Diagnostic assessment also helps benchmark the student’s performance. You can conduct a diagnostic assessment at the end of the lesson to track progress.

Formative Assessment

Formative assessment tracks the student’s performance during the course and not at the end. As teachers can gauge progress while they teach, this method allows them to alter the course along the way, if needed. Formative assessment can be done through:


  • Discussions in class
  • Regular quizzes
  • Group projects
  • Portfolios


A short and easy-to-grade formative assessment makes for a great regular feature in class that benefits teachers and familiarizes students with other assessment types.

Summative Assessment

This is the most traditional form of assessment, where a student’s understanding of the curriculum is evaluated at the end of the course. Summative assessments, though cost-effective, don’t always provide clear feedback on a person’s learning progress. Further, summative assessments tend to promote the test mindset, focusing more on the final standardized test than the learning process.

However, summative assessments can be engaging and effective if you give your students creative assignments, such as:


  • Shooting a video
  • Writing a script
  • Making presentations


These activities keep students interested and are a good way to ascertain their growth. You can get the best out of your summative assessment by:


  • Setting the assessment at the end of the lesson
  • Aligning the lesson with market needs
  • Providing easy-to-follow instructions and questions
  • Blind grading (not looking at the student’s name) to avoid bias


Norm-Referenced Assessment

A norm-referenced assessment pits a student against a group of students from a similar demographic. Here, students don’t compete with themselves or a limited number of students in the class or school, but against a larger set of peers in a test that judges a particular element.

Some popular examples of norm-referenced assessment are:


  • Competitive tests, such as GRE, GMAT, or IELTS
  • IQ tests


Norm-referenced assessments often become predictable over a period of time and don’t encourage complex thinking. Some critics also believe they discriminate against low-income students and minorities by placing all students on the same level.

However, norm-referenced assessments work well to judge:


  • Language ability
  • Physical development
  • Aptitude for educational programs
  • Requirement of additional learning support 

Criterion-Referenced Assessments

Criterion-referenced assessment tests and grades a student’s performance against a certain standard, performance level or similar criteria. Under this assessment, the marks secured are directly compared with the set standard and not with other people taking the test. There are cut-off marks based on which test-takers are placed in different categories, such as basic, proficient and advanced.

Examples of criterion-referenced assessments are:


  • Citizenship tests
  • Professional licensing exams


The following steps will help you create a criterion-referenced assessment:


  • Design a rubric.
  • Mention all standards on which test-takers will be marked.
  • Align the standards with marks that the test-takers will be awarded.
  • Ensure that these are easy to communicate and explain to test-takers.


The main difference between criterion-referenced assessments and norm-referenced assessment is that the former judges a student on their strengths and weaknesses, while norm-referenced assessment judges the student on the performance as compared to peers.


Interim Assessment

Interim assessment, as the name indicates, judges a student’s performance sometime in the middle of the course. This is largely done to check the preparedness of the student for the final exam. Interim assessment falls somewhere between formative assessment and summative assessment.

Interim assessment is used very effectively in the following types of tests:


  • School/college mid-term exams
  • Projects or chapter tests during the term


This method of assessment is very useful in tracking students’ progress and taking corrective actions along the way.

 You can consider the following points while designing an interim assessment:


  • Use only the topics that have been covered in the course
  • Keep it short as compared to the final exam
  • Remember, the objective is to track progress and make students ready for the final exam


These are the six types of assessment of learning that can be used to achieve your end goal. Different assessment types meet different purposes. Knowing your objective lets you choose the assessment that works best for you. Check out Harappa’s Inspiring Faculty Program now, to cover the many types of assessment learning.

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