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Achievement tests cover a broad range of formal and informal assessments that are given at various points in learning. This lesson looks at various types of achievement tests and their purposes.

Formal and Informal Tests

Students take many different types of tests for many different reasons. Achievement tests are designed to measure acquired knowledge or skills. Some achievement tests are formal, such as standardized tests that are purchased from a testing company. Examples of familiar, formal achievement tests include the American College Test (ACT), the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, and STAR Early Assessment.Standardized achievement tests provide a fairly accurate snapshot of student learning that can be used to compare students against either mastery of a set of standards, as is the case with criterion-referenced tests, or the norm, if it is norm-referenced.

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Formal achievement tests are used for accountability and college admissions. Informal achievement tests are used by classroom teachers to evaluate student learning and assign grades. Most assessments that students take are informal. Achievement tests may be taken before, during, or after a learning experience. Here’s a look at some different types of achievement tests and their uses.

Diagnostic

Why would students take a test before they were taught anything? Diagnostic assessments are pretests that are given before a learning experience that provide teachers with a reference point for each student’s baseline knowledge. Some examples of formal diagnostic assessments include Developmental Reading Assessments (DRA) and Dynamic Indicator of Basic Early Learning Skills (DIBELS).Informal diagnostic assessments include self-assessments, anticipation guides, KWL charts, and pretests. Anticipation guides probe students on the content they are about to learn. Anticipation guides activate prior knowledge and develop student interest, as well as helping teachers assess the student’s starting point.

Formative

How do teachers know when to speed up or slow down instruction? Formative assessments informally evaluate student knowledge through a learning segment to help teachers make instructional decisions. Examples of formative assessments include anecdotal notes, exit tickets, and pop quizzes.

Exit tickets are brief assessments of learning that students complete at the end of a lesson. Generally, formative assessments are only used to guide instruction.

Summative

Which type of assessment is used to determine grades? Summative assessments are achievement tests given after learning takes place to evaluate student achievement in relation to the objectives of a learning experience. The learning experience may take place over a unit, a semester, a year, or some other specified time segment during which a set of learning objectives should have been mastered.

Standardized state tests are examples of formal summative achievement tests. End of unit tests and benchmark tests are examples of informal summative assessments. Summative assessments are used to assign grades or as a measure of accountability.

Lesson Summary

Achievement tests are any type of test that measures a student’s content knowledge. Some achievement tests are formal standardized tests while others are informal checks for understanding. Tests that are taken prior to a learning experience are called diagnostic tests. Some diagnostic tests, such as reading diagnostics, are formal, but many, such as anticipation guides are informal.

They’re designed to find out what students already know so that teachers know how to plan.Formative assessments are informal assessments that are used to evaluate student progress during a lesson and to help the teacher adjust instructional practices. Exit tickets, observations, and questioning techniques are examples of formative assessments. Summative assessments are used at the end of a unit, semester, or academic year to evaluate students’ acquisition of content knowledge.

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