Mini Guide to Assessment

Although familiar to most teachers, this quick summary tells you most of what you need to know about assessment within the UK education system. Sharing, feedback and any comments most welcome on this Top Ten Mini Guide to Assessment.


1. Assessment receives a lot of attention in schools and in the media.

Too much assessment kills creativity and causes mental health problems. However, assessments are the best method we have to determine what progress students are making.


2. There are three different times during the learning process when students are assessed.
  • Diagnostic assessment– This happens prior to learning activity. It is used as a gage to understand what students already know, and at what level to pitch the lesson.
  • Formative assessment – Occurs during the process of learning and gives feedback to the teacher and student on progress made. Assessment for learning is a good example of this. (see below)
  • Summative assessment– At the end of a learning activity students are usually given a formal assessment which is used to measure understanding of what has been learnt.


3. Assessment for learning (AFL) can be used to inform students and teacher on progress made so far.

This can be used at any time during the learning activity. Students may be asked questions, assess each other or themselves. This is thought to address misconceptions and move students’ current understanding to where it needs to be.  


4. Assessment can be formal and informal.

Formal assessment is usually under controlled conditions which is arguably a more reliable judge of individual progress. Informal assessment usually involves teacher, peer and student collaboration. Also, see below from nfer.


5. The type and amount of assessment is mostly determined by schools.

However, Ofsted inspection criteria expect schools to show proof of student progress over time. The amount and quality of evidence required to show progress appears to be subjective, and so open to interpretation.


6. Secondary school progress is usually measured against Midyis and Yellis tests.

These are a set of computerised tests that are intended to measure student attitude towards learning and thus what progress they will make in school. They measure vocab, maths and non-verbal reasoning and are administered by the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring based in Durham.




7. Primary students conduct more compulsory testing than secondary.

Year 1 – Phonics screening check.

Year 2. – Teacher assessments in reading, spelling, punctuation grammar and maths.

Year 6. – Another set of tests in English and maths but marked externally.

Year 10 – Some students sit GCSEs early.

Year 11 – Students sit GCSEs and other vocational assessments.


8. The contents of summative assessments such as GCSEs is determined by 3 main exam boards.
  • AQA– A registered charity, this exam board had offices spread throughout the country. However, much of their work is carried out in Manchester and Guildford.
  • OCR– Originally set up to provide exams for the University of Cambridge, this exam board is over 150 years old.
  • Edexcel– Owned by Pearson, the largest education and publishing group in the world.


9. Exam boards operating within England are regulated by the ‘Exams Watchdog’, Ofqual.

Ofqual have the ability to fine the exam boards if they do not comply with certain regulations. This involves checking validity of assessments, ensuring student data is handled correctly and results are delivered on time.


10. And finally.

It is great to see this video from AQA, interviewing various assessments experts. Problems are highlighted, and solutions are suggested for what the future landscape for educational assessment could be.

  • Less reliance on end of course assessments. ✓
  • Different types of assessment for different types of learning. ✓
  • Use of technology to make the implementation of testing more efficient. ✓
  • More trust in teachers being responsible for determining assessments grades. ✓

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