UTS site search


Types of assessment

Examinations and assignments are the two most commonly used approaches to assessment in higher education. Negotiated and computer-based assessment are emerging approaches that are gaining popularity among some disciplines.

Examinations. It is a common misconception that examinations are a type of assessment rather than an approach. An examination defines the conditions under which student's abilities will be tested. They usually restrict the time and place where the assessment task will be performed. Any of the methods of assessment below can be taken under examination conditions.

Assignments. Assignments are unsupervised pieces of work that often combine formative and summative assessment tasks. They form a major component of continuous assessment in which more than one assessment item is completed within the semester. Any of the methods of assessment below can be set as assignments although restrictions in format, such as word limits and due dates, are often put on the assessment task to increase their practicality.

Negotiated. Negotiated assessment involves agreements between staff and students on issues associated with learning and assessment. The most common negotiation method is to develop a written learning contract that outlines the conditions of assessment.

Computer-based. Using computers to administer student assessment can provide flexibility in the time, location or even the questions being answered of students. The most common type of online assessment is based on multiple-choice questions which can assist lecturers manage large volumes of marking and feedback.

Different methods of assessment provide the means of ensuring that students are able to demonstrate the range of their abilities in different contexts. Stiggens (2005) groups the different methods of assessment into 4 main categories: Selected Response; Essays; Performance Assessment and Personal Communication. Each category has advantages in assessing different learning outcomes. For example, a selected response assessment task, such as a series of multiple-choice questions, is able to assess all areas of mastery of knowledge but only some kinds of reasoning.

Alternative assessment methods are:

Selected Response
Multiple choice questionsSelect the correct answers
Short answer questionShort, usually descriptive, qualitative, answers of between one word to over a page. Might include diagrams with explanation
EssaysWritten work in which students try out ideas and arguments supported by evidence
Poster presentationDisplay of results from an investigative project
Written ReportMethodically written account of a project or investigation
Performance Assessment
Case studiesDescribes a scenario and asks students to respond as the scene changes
PracticumAssessment of practical skills in an authentic setting
ProjectsIn-depth exploration of a topic or field
Reflective journalsDevelops an awareness of process
Personal Communication
Class PresentationsOral reports on projects or other investigative activities.
InterviewVerbal interaction between assessor and assessed
Learning ContractA structured method whereby the student designs and implements manageable learning activities in consultation with a staff advisor


Reference: Stiggins, R. (2005). Student-involved assessment for learning. Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Prentice Hall