Types of assessment

There is a plethora of assessment task forms and types available for use in the tertiary sector. Choosing the right assessment type depends on what needs to be demonstrated by the student as evidence that they have achieved the intended learning outcomes of the course. There is a multitude of ways to assess knowledge, skill or application, and there is a range of evidence that supports the use of some types of assessments over others, depending upon what you are trying to achieve. Federation University’s Higher Education Assessment (inclusive of FedTASKs) Procedure AG1254. “encourages the use of a range of assessment practices or modes designed to accommodate the diversity of learners.”

Forms of assessment

Assessment can take a number of forms depending on the purpose of the assessment within the learning process of your course. It might be diagnostic, formative or summative, and for each those, it may be either formal or informal. Consider the following:

Diagnostic assessment
  • Often undertaken at the beginning of a unit of study to assess the skills, abilities, interests, experiences, levels of achievement or difficulties of an individual student or a whole class.
  • Involves formal measurements (e.g. IQ/aptitude tests, fitness tests) that are used to establish a starting point or baseline OR informal measurements (e.g. observation, discussions, questioning).
  • Informs programming and planning, and learning and teaching methods used, as well as assessment choices.
Formative assessment

Formative assessment is assessment that happens throughout the course. The primary focus of this kind of assessment is on providing immediate and meaningful feedback to the students on their progress; enabling them to reflect on where they may be going wrong, and allowing them to improve. It is critical that students are provided with formative feedback throughout the course to give them these opportunities.

Formative assessment can also be:

  • Non-graded self-assessment, such as revision quizzes, provided sufficient feedback is built in.
  • Seen as the practice of building a cumulative record of student achievement.
  • Informal taking place during day-to-day learning experiences involving ongoing, informal observations throughout the course or unit of study.
  • Helpful to teachers in modifying or extending their programs or adapting their learning and teaching methods.
Summative assessment

Summative assessment is generally at the end of a course or unit, such as a final exam or major essay. This kind of assessment is used to make judgements and formally measure student achievement against learning outcomes. Summative assessment can also be used to judge programme/course/unit and teaching effectiveness (that is as a form of evaluation).  Providing timely and meaningful feedback to students is still important, however as students will receive feedback on summative tasks at the end of the course, and will not necessarily help them improve.

Informal assessment
  • Systematically observing and monitoring students during in class learning and teaching experiences
  • Interacting with students to gain a deeper knowledge of what they know, understand and can do
  • Circulating the classroom and posing questions, guiding investigations, motivating and quizzing students
  • Providing opportunities for students to present or report upon their learning and teaching experiences
  • Collecting, analysing, and providing feedback on in and out of class work samples (e.g. how their group work projects are progressing).
Formal assessment
  • Use of specific assessment strategies to determine the degree to which students have achieved the learning outcomes
  • Assessment strategies including: essays, exams, reports, projects, presentations, performances, laboratories or workshops, resource development, artwork, creative design tasks, quizzes and tests, journal writing, portfolios.
  • Individual and/or collaborative tasks that usually attract a mark (group work may include both an individual and group component).

Types of assessment

Choosing the right assessment type depends on what needs to be demonstrated by the student as evidence that they have achieved the intended learning outcomes of the course. There are multitudes of ways to assess knowledge, skill or application.  Consider the scholarly evidence that supports the use of some types of assessments over others in your discipline area. Below are some examples of different types of assessment tasks used within higher education.

Written assessments
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Case Study
  • Essay
  • Literature Review
  • Workbook
  • Peer Review
  • Portfolio
  • Problem Solving Task
  • Professional Plans
  • Project (research)
  • Quiz/Test
  • Reflective Journal
  • Report
  • Research Paper
  • Self-assessment
  • Thesis
Oral assessments
  • Critique
  • Debate
  • Recording in Portfolio
  • Interview
  • Individual Presentation
  • Group Presentation
Performance | Exhibition | Demonstration assessments
  • Creative Work
  • Demonstration
  • Placement performance
  • Examination (practical)
  • Exhibition
  • Laboratory / Practical
  • Performance
  • Recorded/rendered creative work
  • Poster presentation
  • Simulation
  • Teamwork (process)
Other assessment
  • Design piece
  • Student negotiated

For an extensive list of types and examples, view the resources developed by the Learning and Teaching Unit Queensland University of Technology (pdf,60.3kb).



Federation University policies and guidelines