Welcome to the assessment methods compendium
This page offers information about a wide range of potential assessment methods. It is not an exhaustive list but provides some indication of both the common and more innovative methods that might be employed in the design of an assessment strategy. Methods are grouped into coursework, practical and examination-based approaches for ease of navigation.
Coursework assessment methods
Coursework is valuable in enabling students to demonstrate interrelated knowledge, skills and understanding in modes that more readily mirror the needs of the wider professional environment.
Description – Format for substantiation of secondary research and literature review work. Abbreviated text review summaries of set reading.
Advantages – An efficient format for the assessment of secondary research of set texts.
Considerations – May limit scope for synthesis of knowledge and understanding.
Description – Online coursework assessments developed incrementally and/or collaboratively. Generally less formal in tone than more traditional academic writing assignments.
Advantages – Online format can be developed collaboratively and can encourage group work, including in multisite/mode learning. Openness of blogs and scope for comment and response can encourage focused effort.
Considerations – Openness of assessable work may be uncomfortable or challenging for learners.
Book / paper review
Description – Review of a prescribed academic text requiring analysis and evaluation of concepts, ideas, research methods, and cohesion of research arguments.
Advantages – Facilitates deep levels of engagement with secondary research. Focused and standardised format supports consistency of assessment outcomes.
Considerations – Potential for 'copy-and-paste' editing approach to assessment preparation and for isolation of assessment development process.
Description – A review and critique of sources, with specific emphasis on engaging with and challenging concepts, ideas and theory.
Advantages – Encourages debate and criticism of concepts and ideas. Can foster development of confidence and critical thinking.
Considerations– Clarity over scope and expectations is important to reduce the risk of superficial critique.
Description – Extended text documenting defined primary and secondary research. Subject definition often a significant component of the prescribed task. Primarily associated with later stages of undergraduate and postgraduate study.
Advantages – Closely aligned with academic conventions and professional research environment. Open opportunity for personalised learning and for innovation. Considerable scope for generating meaningful feedback and dialogue between tutor and student about learning.
Considerations – Traditionally very text-based with the potential for research and enquiry to be subsumed within a process of writing and text editing.
Description – Assigned task that requires the student to demonstrate their involvement and production of a tangible, coherent written outcome in their own words.
Advantages – Personalisable and flexible with potential for provision of standardised or optional title selection. Focused context for practice of academic referencing techniques.
Considerations – Difficult to connect directly with identifiable vocational parallels. Potentially overtly academic in format and difficult to engage effective learning. There are many forms and conventions of essay, and students may be unclear about the focus in any given context.
Description – Mapped to specific editorial and formatting guidelines, journal articles are a useful formative or summative assessment tool.
Advantages – Provides formative opportunity for development of scholarly writing techniques.
Considerations – Potentially overtly prescriptive format, although in some disciplines this may be desirable.
Description – Documented report of lab-based research activity.
Advantages – Encourages critical reflection and evaluation, and formalises planning and research methods adaptation.
Considerations – Potential for lab report development to become a distraction in the experimentation process.
Description – Formal component of secondary research projects. Primarily mapped to specific topics rather than set texts.
Advantages – Flexible and personalisable.
Considerations – Potentially somewhat text centred with emphasis on writing and editing rather than synthesis and understanding.
Mock news broadcast
Description – On-camera presentation of research material requiring scripting, verbal dexterity and clarity of expression.
Advantages – Dynamic format with potential for sharing of outcomes more widely. Engaging and exciting format.
Considerations – Potentially technically complex with implications for resources and student skills.
Mock newspaper article
Description – More journalistic approach to the review of information and the identification of key data.
Advantages – Accessible and personalisable format. Potential for collation of group work into peer-reviewable outcomes.
Considerations – Potential for informality and lack of criticality.
Mock research funding bid
Description – Mapped to specific funding guidelines, learners pitch their research ideas through a given evaluation framework.
Advantages – Encourages comprehension by learners and can help measure students’ innovation or evaluation.
Considerations – Potentially overtly simulated learning experience.
Patchwork text assignment
Description – A series of written pieces on discrete topics, drawn together with a final summary synthesis.
Advantages – Typically deployed over the course of learning, rather than at the end. Enables students to iterate patches as their understanding develops. Final synthesis requires higher order cognitive skills and the ability to consolidate and deepen learning.
Considerations – Patchworks may afford scope for diversity in methods, although care ought to be taken not to dilute the purpose of the assessment. Sequential timings of interim assessments need enforcing if to effectively support the distribution of student workload.
Personal development plan
Description – Preparation of a structured plan for development of given knowledge and skills.
Advantages – Can encourage more focused planning and consequent perception of progress and achievement.
Considerations – Potential for planning to become more abstract and idealised.
Description – A collection of artefacts representing learning over time.
Advantages – An agile means for students to gather evidence of learning over time. Can support the distribution of assessment workloads, and provide opportunities for synthesis of ideas once a range of evidence has been captured. Technology can be harnessed to enable students to capture learning in progress.
Considerations – Potential for some students to not gather portfolio evidence in a timely way, risking a more surface approach to their assessment.
Description – Open opportunity to consider specified problem and to develop meaningful responses to problem resolution.
Advantages – Can encourage lateral thinking and innovation. Adaptable according to subject context.
Considerations –Can be difficult to promote lateral thinking and innovation.
Description – Open, often learner designated context of study with longitudinal development and realisation. Outcomes may include text, practical artefacts, presentations etc.
Advantages – Can assess students’ creative and innovative ideas, transforming their understanding of one subject to solve an alternative problem.
Considerations –Potential for development of assessed work to become isolating if developed individually and for group dynamics to compromise team-based project work.
Description – Potentially developed in the form of a blog, reflective accounts of development of given area of study.
Advantages – Good context through which to develop more reflective approach to study.
Considerations –Potential for overt informality and lack of criticality.
Description – Reviewofgivensubject with due regard to secondary literature and contextual exploration of a given topic.
Advantages – Good for assessing the development of arguments, reflection, information literacy, judgement and expression.
Considerations – Potential for surface-level learning of knowledge and facts, risk of plagiarism and tendency for the development of assessed work to become isolating or an overtly individualised experience.
Description – Development of single-page poster communicating complex research data in an accessible form.
Advantages – Opportunity for visualisation of ideas and for interaction with knowledge and information in different domains. Outcomes shareable, for example, at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR).
Considerations –Potential for supplementary design, visual literacy, specialist software knowledge and skills development.
Practical assessment encompasses non-text based methods that involve the application of knowledge, skills and understanding in practice. Such assessments involve practical processes leading to event-based or artefact-based assessment outputs.
Description – Primarily associated with arts-based disciplines, portfolio work draws together a body of work developed within a defined brief.
Advantages – Highly personalised and transferable outcomes. Highly adaptable and flexible format.
Considerations –Potential for highly variable outcomes making summative assessment complex.
Description – Vocationally orientated pitch of given concept within the context of a defined brief.
Advantages – Vocationally relevant and opportunity for development of transferable skills. Potential for involvement by industrial partners.
Considerations –Can be logistically challenging to develop a 'real-world' context of assessment.
Exhibition or demonstration
Description – Often associated with arts-based disciplines but with relevance to many other subjects, practical outcomes are presented or exhibited for wider appraisal.
Advantages – Excellent context for sharing of outcomes and opportunity for wider critique.
Considerations –Can be logistically challenging but technology does provide opportunity for more virtual approaches.
Description – Relevant to forms of ethnographic study, observational reports document reflection of specific research activities.
Advantages – Can promote deeper levels of engagement with observed research events and activities.
Considerations –Documentation during observation sessions can prove distracting.
Description – Assessed work centred on dynamic, external fieldwork.
Advantages – Physically dynamic and involving learning in different contexts and spaces.
Considerations –Logistically complex and factors organising, including the extent to which the assessment is inclusive.
Description – Presentation of project outcomes or research work prepared in teams/groups.
Advantages – More dynamic and interactive and can encourage shared learning.
Considerations – These can be useful means of reducing individual anxiety in presentation contexts.
Description – Individual presentation using material aids to demonstrate knowledge, understanding and insight.
Advantages – Intellectually challenging format requiring and encouraging deep learning and development of communication skills.
Considerations –Can be significantly challenging and may lead to anxiety in some students.
Description – Organisation of a mock interview related to a specific job, industrial role, or other opportunity.
Advantages – Excellent context for development of transferable skills.
Considerations –Simulation can produce superficial engagement.
Description – Associated primarily with arts-based disciplines, performance events test learners' ability to realise stipulated technical abilities under pressure of an audience and formal assessment.
Advantages – Directly relevant to vocational context and highly focused source of learning motivation.
Considerations –Can prove challenging if not accompanied by necessary development of coping mechanisms and preparatory techniques.
Role play simulation
Description – Simulation of given learning scenario and opportunity for projection of ideas.
Advantages – Highly dynamic. Encourages deep learning.
Considerations –Simulation, improvisation and more theatrical formats can prove difficult for some learners. May be more appropriate for some disciplines.
Description – Formal, mentored and observed placement in a given vocational context.
Advantages – Excellent opportunity for development of work experience and to improve employability.
Considerations –Difficult to organise for large cohorts and management of learning can prove logistically challenging.
Typically time-constrained, individual assessments. Traditional written examination papers and multiple-choice tests are common forms that can be valuable for efficiency of marking, although there are many alternative forms of exam-based assessment.
Description – Traditional examination method requiring recall of facts and information plus some synthesis of knowledge.
Advantages – Equity of assessment and consistency of cohort assessment outcomes. Efficiency of assessment processing.
Considerations – Can be alienating for some learners and can encourage narrow range of skills development and surface learning.
Description – General term for integrated use of software to develop more dynamic examination formats. Can lead to the incorporation of more dynamic graphical, video graphics, audio-based, and media-based examination content.
Advantages – More flexible and dynamic examination.
Considerations – The development of computer-based assessment can be time-consuming and logistically challenging in organisation.
Description – Formal Socratic process exploring given topics and subjects.
Advantages – Can encourage critical thinking, rhetorical skills and evaluation of different perspectives.
Considerations – Time-consuming and potential to favour the verbally fluent.
Description – Time-constrained development of discursive text in response to set question.
Advantages – Personalisable and flexible.
Considerations – Inefficient in assessment processing but can promote deeper learning in research preparation.
Description – Quick self-evaluation assessment useful for development of ongoing learning.
Advantages – Quick feedback through self-evaluation or automated computer responses. Potential for more dynamic approaches through modelling of broadcast quiz formats.
Considerations – Can be difficult to organise ad hoc, but can be deployed quickly if prepared in advance.
Description – Exam with selection of answers from a given range.
Advantages – Efficient processing and completion. Potential for use of technology to automate marking processes.
Considerations – Weak question sets open potential for surface learning and inaccurate results as a consequence of guesswork.
Description – Exam allowing use of research sources.
Advantages – Encourages development of scholarly approaches and more sophisticated information literacy.
Considerations – Can compromise ownership and lead to surface learning.
Description – Assesses student's ability to present complex ideas in a structured logical way.
Advantages – Flexible and personalisable.
Considerations – Can be time-consuming to manage with large cohorts.
Revealed exam question
Description – Formal examination with exam questions published with time for preparation and research.
Advantages – More reflective of real-world application of knowledge and can reduce anxiety and abstract approaches to exam preparation.
Considerations –Can exacerbate surface learning problems.
Student generated quiz
Description – Quiz developed by learners through collaborative submission of individual questions.
Advantages – Dynamic, inclusive and fun assessment format. Question setting demands thorough comprehension of topics.
Considerations –Can be complex to organise and may not cover full range of necessary topics.
Time-constrained practical / OSCE
Description – Relevant to a wide range of subjects, time-constrained practical challenges are realised related to specific technical knowledge and skills.
Advantages – Vocationally relevant and dynamic assessment.
Considerations –Can be logistically complex and require significant resourcing.
This page is based on a resource originally produced on behalf of the Higher Education Academy. Adapted from Wilson, C. (2012) Assessment methods and descriptors. HEA Toolkit Project, Learning, Teaching and Assessment Group.