25 Summative Assessment Examples

➡️ Definition

Summative assessment is a type of achievmeent assessment that occurs at the end of a unit of work. Its goal is to evaluate what students have learned or the skills they have developed. It is compared to a formative assessment that takes place in the middle of the unit of work for feedback to students and learners.

Performance is evaluated according to specific criteria, and usually result in a final grade or percentage achieved.

The scores of individual students are then compared to established benchmarks which can result in significant consequences for the student.

A traditional example of summative evaluation is a standardized test such as the SATs. The SATs help colleges determine which students should be admitted.

However, summative assessment doesn’t have to be in a paper-and-pencil format. Project-based learning, performance-based assessments, and authentic assessments can all be forms of summative assessment.

➡️ Summative vs Formative Assessment

Summative vs Formative Assessment

Summative assessments are one of two main types of assessment. The other is formative assessment.

Whereas summative assessment occurs at the end of a unit of work, a formative assessment takes place in the middle of the unit so teachers and students can get feedback on progress and make accommodations to stay on track.

Summative assessments tend to be much higher-stakes because they reflect a final judgment about a student’s learning, skills, and knowledge:

“Passing bestows important benefits, such as receiving a high school diploma, a scholarship, or entry into college, and failure can affect a child’s future employment prospects and earning potential as an adult” (States et al, 2018, p. 3).

➡️ Video Lesson
➡️ Study Card
Formative vs summative assessment

Summative Assessment Examples

Looking for real-life examples of well-known summative tests? Skip to the next section.

1. Multiple-Choice Exam

student completing an exam

Definition: A multiple-choice exam is an assessment where students select the correct answer from several options.

Benefit: This format allows for quick and objective grading of students’ knowledge on a wide range of topics.

Limitation: It can encourage guessing and may not measure deep understanding or the ability to synthesize information.

Design Tip: Craft distractors that are plausible to better assess students’ mastery of the material.

2. Final Essay

student completing an exam

Definition: A final essay is a comprehensive writing assessment that requires students to articulate their understanding and analysis of a topic.

Benefit: Essays assess critical thinking, reasoning, and the ability to communicate ideas in writing.

Limitation: Grading can be subjective and time-consuming, potentially leading to inconsistencies.

Design Tip: Provide clear, detailed rubrics that specify criteria for grading to ensure consistency and transparency.

3. Lab Practical Exam

student completing an exam

Definition: A lab practical exam tests students’ ability to perform scientific experiments and apply theoretical knowledge practically.

Benefit: It directly assesses practical skills and procedural knowledge in a realistic setting.

Limitation: These exams can be resource-intensive and challenging to standardize across different settings or institutions.

Design Tip: Design scenarios that replicate real-life problems students might encounter in their field.

4. Reflective Journal

reflective journal

Definition: A reflective journal is an assessment where students regularly record learning experiences, personal growth, and emotional responses.

Benefit: Encourages continuous learning and self-assessment, helping students link theory with practice.

Limitation: It’s subjective and heavily dependent on students’ self-reporting and engagement levels.

Design Tip: Provide prompts to guide reflections and ensure they are focused and meaningful.

5. Open-Book Examination

student completing an exam

Definition: An open-book examination allows students to refer to their textbooks and notes while answering questions.

Benefit: Tests students’ ability to locate and apply information rather than memorize facts.

Limitation: It may not accurately gauge memorization or the ability to quickly recall information.

Design Tip: Focus questions on problem-solving and application to prevent students from merely copying information.

6. Group Presentation

students completing an exam

Definition: A group presentation is an assessment where students collaboratively prepare and deliver a presentation on a given topic.

Benefit: Enhances teamwork skills and the ability to communicate ideas publicly.

Limitation: Individual contributions can be uneven, making it difficult to assess students individually.

Design Tip: Clearly define roles and expectations for all group members to ensure fair participation.

7. Poster Presentation


Definition: A poster presentation requires students to summarize their research or project findings on a poster and often defend their work in a public setting.

Benefit: Develops skills in summarizing complex information and public speaking.

Limitation: Space limitations may restrict the amount of information that can be presented.

Design Tip: Encourage the use of clear visual aids and a logical layout to effectively communicate key points.

8. Infographic


Definition: An infographic is a visual representation of information, data, or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly.

Benefit: Helps develop skills in designing effective and attractive presentations of complex data.

Limitation: Over-simplification might lead to misinterpretation or omission of critical nuances.

Design Tip: Teach principles of visual design and data integrity to enhance the educational value of infographics.

9. Portfolio Assessment

student portfolio

Definition: Portfolio assessment involves collecting a student’s work over time, demonstrating learning, progress, and achievement.

Benefit: Provides a comprehensive view of a student’s abilities and improvements over time.

Limitation: Can be logistically challenging to manage and time-consuming to assess thoroughly.

Design Tip: Use clear guidelines and checklists to help students know what to include and ensure consistency in assessment.

10. Project-Based Assessment

student completing an exam

Definition: Project-based assessment evaluates students’ abilities to apply knowledge to real-world challenges through extended projects.

Benefit: Encourages practical application of skills and fosters problem-solving and critical thinking.

Limitation: Time-intensive and may require significant resources to implement effectively.

Design Tip: Align projects with real-world problems relevant to the students’ future careers to increase engagement and applicability.

11. Oral Exams

student completing an exam

Definition: Oral exams involve students answering questions spoken by an examiner to assess their knowledge and thinking skills.

Benefit: Allows immediate clarification of answers and assessment of communication skills.

Limitation: Can be stressful for students and result in performance anxiety, affecting their scores.

Design Tip: Create a supportive environment and clear guidelines to help reduce anxiety and improve performance.

12. Capstone Project

a student's capstone project

Definition: A capstone project is a multifaceted assignment that serves as a culminating academic and intellectual experience for students.

Benefit: Integrates knowledge and skills from various areas, fostering holistic learning and innovation.

Limitation: Requires extensive time and resources to supervise and assess effectively.

Design Tip: Ensure clear objectives and support structures are in place to guide students through complex projects.

Section 2

➡️ 13 Real-Life Summative Assessments

Real-Life Summative Assessments

  • Final Exams for a College Course: At the end of the semester at university, there is usually a final exam that will determine if you pass. There are also often formative tests mid-way through the course (known in England as ICAs and the USA as midterms).
  • SATs: The SATs are the primary United States college admissions tests. They are a summative assessment because they provide a final grade that can determine whether a student gets into college or not.
  • AP Exams: The AP Exams take place at the end of Advanced Placement courses to also determine college readiness.
  • Piano Exams: The ABRSM administers piano exams to test if a student can move up a grade (from grades 1 to 8), which demonstrates their achievements in piano proficiency.
  • Sporting Competitions: A sporting competition such as a swimming race is summative because it leads to a result or ranking that cannot be reneged. However, as there will always be future competitions, they could also be treated as summative – especially if it’s not the ultimate competition in any given sport.
  • Drivers License Test: A drivers license test is pass-fail, and represents the culmination of practice in driving skills.
  • IELTS: Language tests like IELTS are summative assessments of a person’s ability to speak a language (in the case of IELTS, it’s English).
  • Citizenship Test: Citizenship tests are pass-fail, and often high-stakes. There is no room for formative assessment here.
  • Dissertation Submission: A final dissertation submission for a postgraduate degree is often sent to an external reviewer who will give it a pass-fail grade.
  • CPR Course: Trainees in a 2-day first-aid and CPR course have to perform on a dummy while being observed by a licensed trainer.
  • PISA Tests: The PISA test is a standardized test commissioned by the OECD to provide a final score of students’ mathematic, science, and reading literacy across the world, which leads to a league table of nations.
  • The MCATs: The MCATs are tests that students conduct to see whether they can get into medical school. They require significant study and preparation before test day.
  • The Bar: The Bar exam is an exam prospective lawyers must sit in order to be accepted as lawyers in their jurisdiction.
➡️ Conclusion


Summative assessment allows teachers to determine if their students have reached the defined behavioral objectives. It can occur at the end of a unit, an academic term, or academic year.

The assessment usually results in a grade or a percentage that is recorded in the student’s file. These scores are then used in a variety of ways and are meant to provide a snapshot of the student’s progress.

Although the SAT or ACT are common examples of summative assessment, it can actually take many forms. Teachers might ask their students to give an oral presentation, perform a short role-play, or complete a project-based assignment. 

➡️ References and Further Reading


Brookhart, S. M. (2004). Assessment theory for college classrooms. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 100, 5-14. https://doi.org/10.1002/tl.165

Dixon, D. D., & Worrell, F. C. (2016). Formative and summative assessment in the classroom. Theory into Practice, 55, 153-159. https://doi.org/10.1080/00405841.2016.1148989

Geiser, S., & Santelices, M. V. (2007). Validity of high-school grades in predicting student success beyond the freshman year: High-school record vs. standardized tests as indicators of four-year college outcomes. Research and Occasional Paper Series. Berkeley, CA: Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California.

Kibble J. D. (2017). Best practices in summative assessment. Advances in Physiology Education, 41(1), 110–119. https://doi.org/10.1152/advan.00116.2016

Lungu, S., Matafwali, B., & Banja, M. K. (2021). Formative and summative assessment practices by teachers in early childhood education centres in Lusaka, Zambia. European Journal of Education Studies, 8(2), 44-65.

States, J., Detrich, R., & Keyworth, R. (2018). Summative Assessment (Wing Institute Original Paper). https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.16788.19844

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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