Formative And Summative Assessments.

Formative And Summative Assessments


Many people and educators fail to understand or grasp the differences that are between norm-referenced and criterion-referenced testing (Dombrowski, 2003). The two are described and referred to as the same or as if they serve the same purpose. Much mystification can be eradicated if the basic similarities and differences are well understood. These two assessments differ in their projected or intended purposes, how the content is selected and also the process of scoring that defines how the assessment results ought to be interpreted.


Compare and contrast a norm-referenced and a criterion-referenced assessment instrument.

Criterion-referenced assessments/tests                        Norm-referenced assessments/tests

According to (Popham, 2002) Criterion-referenced assessments are poised of concert tasks or items that directly appraise and skills that are described in behavioral objectives (Oosterhof, 2003).The significance of this test from an instructional design point of view is that it is closely associated with the instructional goals and a synchronized set of various performance objectives and as a result giving the designers a chance to assess performance and amend instructional strategies if its necessary. In other terms, these tests lets the instructors to come to a decision on how well the students or learners have met the proposed or laid-down objectives. It also facilitates the process of reflection in which learners/students are able to assess their own performance against the affirmed assessment items and objectives (Popham, 2002). In contrast to criterion referenced assessments, the norm referenced are premeditated to yield scores that help in comparing every performance of a learner with that of the entire group. These tests provide scores that basically allows the decision makers to rank or compare learners or students. These teats are not based on every learner achieving a particular level of mastery. Actually, in several cases items are carefully selected to produce or bring about the largest probable variation in scores amongst learners. Consequently, items that all learners are able to master are more often than not removed so as to maintain a particular spread of scores. SAT is an example of norm referenced test. Scores that are attained from this assessment are basically used to conduct comparisons of learners for a variety of reasons, for instance admission of college. Criterion-referenced tests determines whether each and every learner have attained specific concepts and skills. Norm-referenced tests rank each and every learner with respect to the accomplishment of others in wide areas of knowledge. The test helps to find out how much learners know before the beginning of any instruction and also after it has finished (Oosterhof, 2003) They discriminate between the low achievers and the high achievers. Criterion referenced tests measures specific abilities and skills which mainly make up a curriculum that is designated. All these skills and abilities are identified by the curriculum experts and by teachers. Each and every skill is brought out as an instructional objective. On the other hand norm referenced test assesses or measures broad areas of skill that are sampled from various syllabi, textbooks and the curriculum experts’ judgment. Each skill is assessed by no less than 4 items so as to obtain a sufficient sample of learner’s performance and also to lessen the effect of speculation and guessing. Items which assess any particular skill are equivalent in difficulty. Each skill is normally assessed by less than 4 items and these items differ in difficulty. Items are selected to differentiate between low achievers and high achievers. Every individual is compared with an existing standard for satisfactory and acceptable achievement. Other examinees’ performance is irrelevant. The score of a learner is mainly expressed as a (%) percentage. The achievement of the student is reported for personal or individual skills (Gronlund, 2000). Each and every individual is compared with other different examinees and is assigned a test score that is normally expressed as a grade equivalent test score, a stanine or a percentile. Achievement of the student is reported for wide or broad areas of skill even though some norm-referenced assessments do report learner achievement for personal or individual skills. Criterion referenced test is determined how good it matches the outcomes of learning that are thought to be most important. Even though there is no test that can assess or measure everything of significance, the selected content for criterion referenced test is selected on the basis of its importance in educational curriculum. Norm referenced test is selected depending on how well it grades or ranks learners starting from high achievers to low achievers. In norm referenced tests, content is selected by how well it discriminates among learners. An assessment or any other type of test that is designed to provide an evaluation or measure of performance that can be interpreted in terms of an evidently defined and also delimited learning tasks’ domain (Dombrowski, 2003). On the other hand, norm referenced test is a  test or other type of assessment that is designed to offer a measure of performance that can be interpreted in-terms of an individual’s or a personal relative status or standing in a known group.


Similarities between Norm referenced tests and criterion referenced tests


  • Norm referenced tests and criterion referenced tests need specification of the attainment or achievement domain to be evaluated or measured.
  • These two tests require a pertinent and representative sample or model of test items.
  • Norm referenced tests and criterion referenced tests use test items which are the same.
  • The two tests use the same set of laws when writing items (with the exception of item difficulty) (Drummond, 2000).
  • Norm referenced tests and criterion referenced tests are judged by similar qualities of integrity and goodness which are reliability and validity.
  • Both norm referenced tests and criterion referenced tests are very useful in the educational assessment.
  • Norm referenced tests and criterion referenced tests measure learners’ achievement of core curriculum based abilities and skill.




            The most important goal of testing is basically to collect facts and information that can be used in making decisions. Dissimilar types of information may possibly be needed depending on what kinds of decisions need to be made. These differences that arises when it comes to making these decisions forms the foundation of these two types of tests i.e. the norm referenced test and criterion referenced test. In criterion referenced test for instance, the goal is normally to make a decision concerning whether or not a student can demonstrate mastery in competencies and content areas. Many times, competencies and content areas being measured is job related: licensure exams and most certification are criterion referenced tests. The goal in norm referenced testing is generally to rank the whole set of students so as comparisons can be made on their performances with one another. Several standardized educational assessments are norm referenced tests.













Linn, R. L., & Gronlund, N. E. (2000). Measurement and assessment in teaching (8th ed.).            Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Dombrowski, S. C. (2003). Norm-referenced versus curriculum-based assessment: A balanced           perspective. Communique, 31 (7): 16-20.

Drummond, R. J. (2000). Appraisal procedures for counselors and helping professionals (4th       ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Oosterhof, A. (2003). Developing and using classroom assessments (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle         River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Popham, W. J. (2002). Classroom assessment: What teachers need to know (3rd ed.). Boston,     MA: Allyn and Bacon.


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