At different points in your learning process, you must have encountered formal assessments—think about end-of-term examinations and graded quizzes. Unlike informal assessments, the purpose of a formal evaluation is to assign a score or grade that represents how much knowledge a student has in a subject. 

Formal assessments play a critical role in educational development. Typically, stakeholders depend on formal assessment results to determine whether a learner moves to the next phase of their educational pursuit. 

In this article, we will discuss different types and examples of formal evaluation, and show you how to use Formplus for online assessments. 

What is a Formal Assessment? 

A formal assessment is a data-driven method of evaluating students, usually with well-defined grading parameters. Formal assessments produce results that have a significant effect on a learner’s progress. For example, they could determine whether a student gets into college or earns a new certification. 

In formal evaluation, the rules of engagement are the same. This means the teacher uses the same assessment method for every student—they respond to the same questions within the same time frame, and a fixed grading criterion determines their results. 

Types of Formal Assessment 

Norm-referenced Formal Assessment

A norm-referenced formal assessment evaluates students by comparing individual scores within the same group. In this sense, the student’s performance is determined by the overall performance of their colleagues. Here’s what we mean. 

Let’s say the average score of the class is 70 and a student’s score is 35. It means the student scored at the 50th percentile within his or her class. In another class, this score could fall below or above the 50th percentile. 

So, the whole idea is to know if an individual performed better or worse than the average student. Typically, norm-referenced tests use the multiple-choice question format. But in some cases, the instructor includes short open-ended questions. 

Advantages of Norm-referenced Formal Assessments 
  1. These tests allow teachers to compare progress and performance within the same class.
  2. Norm-referenced tests are easy to develop and score.
Disadvantages of Norm-referenced Formal Assessments 
  1. Norm-referenced assessments do not capture the depth of a student’s knowledge. Most of the questions are surface-level and do not allow students to elaborate on certain topics.

Criterion-referenced Test 

A criterion-referenced test or CRA is a type of assessment that evaluates students without reference to others’ achievements. Here, the teacher scores students individually, using carefully selected grading criteria or rubrics. Students get high or low scores based on how well they satisfy the grading system. 

Unlike norm-referenced tests, criterion assessments show the extent of a student’s mastery of a specific subject matter. Criterion-referenced tests emphasize on individual differences and can provide useful data for pedagogical planning. 

Advantages of Criterion-referenced Tests 
  1. It spells out what students need to do to get outstanding grades and move to the next academic level.
  2. It is a reliable and valid judgment of a student’s knowledge.
  3. Criterion-referenced assessments allow instructors to give relevant feedback about the quality of a student’s work, and what they need to improve for future assessments.
Disadvantages of Criterion-referenced Evaluation
  1. It is time-consuming and requires a lot of resources and effort.
  2. Criterion-referenced assessments are only as good as the grading system in place. If there are biases in the evaluating standards, the results become invalid and unreliable.

Read – Assessment Tools: Types, Examples & Importance

Examples of Formal Assessments 


A test is a standardized evaluation that measures a student’s skill or knowledge using a standard grading scale. A common example is a final examination administered at the end of a term or session in schools, and promotional examinations like ACT (American College Testing), GRE (Graduate Records Examination), and SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test). 

Tests can be oral or written, depending on the evaluation criteria, context, and the type of result the teacher expects. For written tests, students have to respond to a set of questions within a specific timeframe, while being supervised by the examiner. 

These days, many written tests happen online, as opposed to the more traditional paper method. Teachers use quiz makers and data collection tools like Formplus to create surveys and questionnaires for tests. The advantage of this is that, it’s easier to review students’ responses and score the tests.  

Advantages of Tests
  1. It is an objective method of assessing a student’s abilities. Since there’s a standard grading system, subjectivity and bias are reduced to the barest minimum.
  2. It creates a level-playing ground for comparing each student’s knowledge.
Disadvantages of Tests 
  1. Many times, the test results are not a true reflection of how much knowledge a student has.
  2. Tests can be counter-productive, especially for students with anxiety.


Like tests, quizzes use a standard evaluation criterion to score a student’s knowledge. However, a major difference is that quizzes have fewer questions, and use a quick-fire approach. For example, students may be asked to respond to 10 multi-choice questions in one minute.


Sometimes, teachers organize oral quizzes as competitions. The instructor places students into groups, and each one of them takes a shot at the questions. When quizzes are used for formal assessments, they are always subject-specific; that is, they test students’ knowledge in one subject. 

Advantages of Quizzes for Formal Assessment
  1. Unlike tests, quizzes do not take so much time, and they are quick and easy to grade.
  2. It helps teachers to identify and address knowledge gaps on time.
Disadvantages of Quizzes for Formal Assessment
  1. Feedback from quizzes can be insufficient for the student’s growth.
  2. Quizzes limit the scope of assessment because they only ask a few questions.
  3. It doesn’t provide a true reflection of a student’s knowledge.


Surveys and questionnaires are originally used for data collection, but they also come in handy for formal assessment. 

A survey is a method of gathering relevant information from a large audience. Typically, it contains questions in different formats including dichotomous questions, open-ended questions, and scales. After collecting responses, the teacher grades them and gives students’ the correlating scores. 

Online surveys are your best bet for formal assessment. After creating them, you can send special email invitations to students asking them to complete the survey within a timeframe. Also, a tool like Formplus allows you to analyze a large number of responses seamlessly. 

Advantages of Using Surveys and Questionnaires for Formal Assessment
  1. It is very convenient to collect responses using surveys and questionnaires.
  2. Online surveys and questionnaires have a very small cost.
Disadvantages of Using Surveys and Questionnaires for Formal Assessment
  1. Poor interpretation of the survey questions can affect the responses given by the students.
  2. Accessibility issues can affect the overall experience students have as they complete the survey. For example, if your survey builder doesn’t have an offline feature, students can lose access to it when the internet fluctuates.

How to Use Formplus for Online Assessment 

With Formplus, teachers can create and administer different formal assessment methods as part of educational evaluation. You can create surveys with close-ended and open-ended questions, and use the email invitation option to share them with the members of your class.

Follow these simple steps to create online assessment forms with Formplus. 

Step 1: Log into your Formplus account via the author page. If you don’t have a Formplus account, you can sign up for one here. It’s free! 

Step 2: On your dashboard, click on the “create new form” button. If you don’t want to start building the form from scratch, you can check out existing templates and see what fits best. 

Step 3: Now you’re in the form builder. Go to the inputs section and drag your preferred fields into the work area. You have many options to choose from including text fields, numerical fields, rating scale and image as options. 

Step 4: After adding the fields, click on the pencil icon beside each one to edit them. In the edit tab, you can add specific questions, make the field compulsory, or include the form calculation feature. 

Step 5: Save all changes to access the form customization section. With the available options, change your form theme, add background images plus your school logo to the survey or questionnaire. 

Step 6: Copy the form link and share it with students to collect responses. 

Benefits/When to Use Formal Assessmen

As a rule of thumb, instructors turn to formal assessments when they need to grade students’ performances. It allows for objectivity and fairness because every student is evaluated using the same criteria. 

  1. Formal assessments are reliable and provide concrete and measurable evidence of learning. Using certain strategies, the teacher can make out if the students have learned and understood the subject.
  2. It creates an opportunity for feedback on a large scale. After grading standardized tests, teachers can identify the strengths and weaknesses of each student, provide feedback and adjust their instructional methods to address these gaps.
  3. Formal assessments eliminate examiner bias because it uses a standard grading system to score students’ knowledge.
  4. Formal tests motivate students to be more attentive in classes so they can perform better and get higher grades.
  5. Typically, formal evaluation happens at the end of a specific learning process. So, it determines whether a student moves to the next level in their academic pursuit; for instance, getting into college.
  6. They are also used to determine how effective educational programs are. Based on formal assessment results, instructions can make curriculum changes or new course placement decisions.
  7. It provides a sense of validation for students, especially when they perform excellently in the tests.

Disadvantages of Formal Assessment 

  1. For students who are not high performers, formal assessments can be demotivating. It can lead to low self-esteem, especially when they put in a lot of effort and end up with poor grades.
  2. Formal assessments are disruptive. They take the students out of their natural learning environment, and this can affect their performance during the evaluation.
  3. Typically, formal assessments are final. There’s no opportunity for second trials.
  4. It is not a true reflection of a student’s level of knowledge. Due to anxiety or nervousness, an A-list student can perform below expectations and end up with poor grades.
  5. In some cases, formal assessments measure the wrong aspects of a student’s knowledge.

Read More: Formal Vs Informal Assessment: 15 Key Differences & Similarities


To get valid and reliable results from formal assessments, you must ask the right questions and use objective criteria for grading. If the grading scale gets compromised, in one way or the other, it ruins the entire process. Students will end up with results that are not fair representations of their knowledge of a subject matter. 

In addition, ensure that your formal assessment tool matches the unique context and needs of your class. When combined with asking the right questions, it improves the quality of the evaluation. 

  • busayo.longe
  • on 8 min read


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