Formal Assessments: Examples & Types

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Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Formal assessments are tests that systematically measure how well a student has mastered learning outcomes. Learn more about formal assessments and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Definition of Formal Assessments

Imagine that you are a fifth grade teacher at an elementary school. You are looking for ways to evaluate whether or not your students are learning and understanding the material being taught to them. You also want to compare the performance of your students to the performance of other fifth grade students in your school. But how do you do this? One of the ways in which you can accomplish this goal is by using formal assessments.

So, what are formal assessments? Formal assessments are systematic, preplanned methods of testing students that are used to determine how well students have learned the material that is being taught in the classroom. In other words, formal assessments provide a way to know what the students know.

Each formal assessment has the same set of expectations for all of the students who are taking the assessment. Each formal assessment also has specific criteria used for scoring and interpretation. The main purpose of formal assessment is to measure the amount of knowledge that students have retained from what they have been previously taught. Other uses of formal assessments include:

  • Comparing a student to other students in the classroom.
  • Comparing a student to a larger group beyond the classroom. For example, standardized tests allow you to compare one student's assessment results to the results of students across the county, district, and country.
  • Identifying a student's strengths and weaknesses compared to peers.
  • Finding out new information about the student.

Types and Examples of Formal Assessments

There are four main types of formal assessments:

  • Standardized tests
  • Program tests
  • Essay tests
  • Criterion-referenced tests

Standardized tests are assessments in which the questions, instructions, scoring, and the way the test is administered are done in exactly the same way across individuals. Standardized tests are primarily used as a means to compare a student's knowledge and skills in a particular area to those of other students in the nation. Examples of standardized tests include:

  • The Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills
  • The Stanford Achievement Test
  • The ACT

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