32 Summative Assessments

Summative assessments are often a pre-determined part of university curriculum. In many cases, summative assessments take the form of midterms, final essays and final exams. These assignments often push students to perform at a high level under conditions of high pressure. As is the case with any form of assessment, summative assessments often are better suited toward some learners more than others. As is the case with formative assessment, we recommend that you offer choice and variety in your assessments.


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The risk with summative assessment is that students will focus more on short-term memorization techniques that are associated (usually mistakenly) with successful test-taking, and less on the skills they need to promote long-term learning. There are also risks related to academic dishonesty.


To reduce these risks, we recommend reducing the weight of these assessments and increasing the frequency of formative assessments. Remember, you don’t have to grade every piece of student work that receives feedback. Create more opportunities for feedback, and you are more likely to increase your rate of student success. 

Summative Assessment Strategies

Here are some strategies to help you design summative assessments that best support student learning:

  • Use authentic tasks that mirror the application of skills in an external environment
  • Engage students in the process of identifying questions for tests or criteria for rubrics
  • Offer opportunities for project or portfolio-based assessment


Download the Assessment Strategy Template and use it to complete a breakdown of your final grade.

Guiding Questions

  • How will students know they are improving throughout the term?
  • When do students need to perform comprehensively?
  • How can you move from high stakes to low stakes assessments?
  • What limitations are placed on you by your department or the university about when and how assessments are administered?



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