Posted by Julie Delazyn

To use assessments effectively, it’s important to understand their context and uses within the learning process.

Over the past few weeks I have written about diagnostic assessments, formative assessments and needs assessments. My last post in this series is about summative assessments.

Typical uses:

  • Measuring or certifying knowledge, skills and aptitudes (KSAs)
  • Providing a quantitative grade and making a judgment about a person’s knowledge, skills and achievement
  • Determining whether the examinee meets the predetermined standard for specialized expertise
  • Determining a participant’s level of performance at a particular time


  • Licensing exams
  • Certification tests
  • Pre-employment tests
  • Academic entrance exams
  • Post-course tests
  • Exams during study

Medium, High


Summative assessments are easy to explain: they sum up the knowledge or the skills of the person taking the test. This type of assessment provides a quantitative grade and makes a judgment about a person’s knowledge, skills and achievement. A typical example would be a certification that a technician must pass in order to install and/or do repairs on a particular piece of machinery. In passing the certification exam, a candidate proves his or her understanding of the machinery.

For more details about assessments and their uses check out the white paper, Assessments Through the Learning Process. You can download it free here, after login. Another good source for testing and assessment terms is our glossary.