Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-21, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 22 September, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


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Summative assessment

core definition

Summative assessment is the process of evaluating (and grading) the learning of students at a point in time.

explanatory context


analytical review

The University of Warwick (2011) defines summative assessment as:

Assessed work which contributes to the final outcome of a student’s degree, such as unseen examinations, essays, dissertations or presentations.

The University of Reading (2011) defines summative assessment as follows:

Summative assessment is any assessment which counts towards the final grade/mark of the module including both final examinations and formally assessed assignments. Assessments are considered both formative and summative when the work contributes to the final mark/grade and when there is also the opportunity for students to improve their performance in that module. The type and amount of feedback will vary depending on whether it is formative or summative. It is reasonable to expect that feedback on any formative work will provide students with enough information to help them to improve their performance in this and other modules.


The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) (2009) states:

Summative assessment can be either internal (conducted by the centre) or external (conducted by an awarding body, like SQA). What makes the assessment summative is that it is used to measure attainment against a particular specification or ‘standard’. Summative assessment will therefore be systematically designed and should always be quality assured.ividuals to become successful learners. Delayed feedback can cease to have meaning to the learner. (SQA, 2009, p. 5).


For Wojtczak (2002):

Summative assessment is testing which often occurs at the end of a term or course, used primarily to provide information about how much the student has learned and how well the course was taught.


The UK QAA (2000) states:

summative assessment provides a measure of achievement or failure made in respect of a learner's performance in relation to the intended learning outcomes of the programme of study.

This was modified in QAA (2006) to

Summative assessment is used to indicate the extent of a learner's success in meeting the assessment criteria used to gauge the intended learning outcomes of a module or programme.

The University of South Australia (2011) states:

Summative assessment provides information to judge the extent to which a student has achieved outcomes relevant to the Graduate Qualities in a course or program and is used to determine a final grade/mark. Summative assessment may take the form of examinations, written assignments, quizzes, reports, recitals, tests or other evaluations.

Informal summative assessment takes place during a study period. Students are normally given feedback in order to improve learning outcomes. This may involve individual or plenary review sessions, the return of annotated scripts, or distribution of model answers.

Formal summative assessment is held in the scheduled assessment/examination period at the end of a study period. Students normally receive minimal or no feedback on their performance, other than through notification of their final grade.

associated issues

related areas

See also

assessment of student learning

formative assessment

criterion-referenced assessment

assessment of teaching and learning

assessment [of quality]


Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), 2000, Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education, Section 6: Assessment of students, May 2000,, no longer at this address, 3 February 2011.

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), 2006, Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education, Section 6: Assessment of students, Second Edition September 2006, available at, accessed 2 February 2011, not at this address 25 January 2012.

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), 2009, Guide to Assessment, November 2009 edition, Glasgow, Scottish Qualifications Authority, available at, accessed 3 February 2011, page not available 11 January 2017.

University of Reading, 2005, A Guidance Note on Providing Students with Feedback on their Performance, Approved by the University Board for Teaching and Learning on 8 June 2000 and revised by the Board on 24 February 2005.

University of South Australia, 2011, General Definitions available at, accessed 23 July 2012, still available 11 January 2017.

University of Warwick, 2011, Course Specifications: Glossary of Terms relating to Course Specifications, last revised 18 October 2011, accessed 29 January 2012, still available 11 January 2017.

Wojtczak, A., 2002, Glossary of Medical Education Terms,, December, 2000, Revised February 2002, accessed 2 September 2012, page not available 30 December 2016.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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