Uses of Summative Assessment

Subject teachers and school managers can use the outcomes of summative assessment for a range of purposes, including:

  • benchmarking;
  • monitoring progress;
  • target setting;
  • placing pupils in subject classes; and
  • helping pupils to make informed decisions about subject choices at post-primary.

The quality of summative assessment relies on a teacher’s professional ability to use a range of assessment methods that generate dependable results. Teachers, pupils and parents need to be confident that the information provided by teacher-based assessment is dependable. The information should also be an accurate reflection of the standard the pupil is working at. This is particularly important in the Cross-Curricular Skills, where teachers summatively assess pupils at the end of each key stage.

Comparisons between summative and formative approaches and intentions (adapted from the Teaching and Learning Research Programme 2010).

There are characteristic differences between the summative and formative uses of assessment.
Summative Assessment Formative Assessment
Comes at the end of learning episodes. Is built into the learning process.
Aims to assess knowledge and understanding at a given point in time. Aims to develop knowledge and understanding.
Is static and one-way (usually the teacher or examiner judges the pupil). Is ongoing and dynamic (feedback can be given both to the pupil and the teacher).
Follows a set of predefined questions. Follows the flow of spontaneous dialogue and interaction, where one action builds on (is contingent on) an earlier one.