Summative Assessment Ideas for Music Students

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

Summative assessments are graded evaluations of a student's knowledge of a subject at a point in time such as the end of a unit. This lesson focuses on summative assessments for the music classroom.

What Are Summative Assessments?

How do you conduct summative assessments for music students? A simple paper-based test may be useful for subjects like math or English, but not sufficient in the music classroom. You have to measure singing or instrument performance skills in a choir or instrumental class.

So how do you conduct a meaningful summative assessment, which evaluates a music student's knowledge at a point in time and can be fairly graded? Let's take a look at some examples.

Summative Assessment Examples

Following are examples designed for music courses, such as choir, band, orchestra, and ensemble classes.


Since a music class is not focused on paperwork, but instead on creating music, focusing on the performance of the student and the class is key. Of course, it is challenging to assess a 45-person band, and notice how each of the flute, clarinet, and other instrument players are performing.

So for this summative assessment, you might have one section, say just the flutes, play a piece of music you are working on together. You will be able to judge if the students know the piece and if their timing is right because they are playing together. You should also be able to detect individual students who are making mistakes. This smaller performance will also enable you to assess how the students work together to perform as a cohesive section. Each aspect of this performance can be graded like a test would be for other courses.

Make a Music Video

Now if you have a music class that is more advanced you can get more intricate in your assessments. Break the class up into groups that have one of each instrument in your band. For choir, they have more ability to pick a group of their own. Then have them work on a music video as a group. Pick a song, play it, and design the video. Requirements for the video should be, no auto tune, close ups on hand work, and solos. This makes the project fun but also a great was to assess the capabilities of students.

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