An Informative Guide to Redefining Student Assessments: What NEP 2020 Says

June 29, 2023 | By: Extramarks

NEP Assessment

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, introduced by the Government of India, is the third in series after the education policies of 1968 and 1986. Being a catalyst for change, the policy is in the process of implementation and marks a huge milestone in the country’s education landscape. In this blog, we learn about the significant transformations the NEP 2020 is set to bring about in assessment methodologies.

NEP 2020 proposes a shift from summative assessments to competency-based formative assessments in an attempt to do away with ‘rote-learning’. So, what does this mean for students? Formative assessment enables sound development of core skills, competencies and higher-order learning. This approach inturn enables continual improvement across varied aspects of the teaching-learning processes. 

What is Formative Assessment?

Formative assessments, also described as ongoing assessments, refers to a continuous evaluation technique that monitors student comprehension and progress in real-time. It commonly involves a series of quick-fire questions or activities that help teachers test students on their understanding of topics, identify learning gaps and accordingly make modifications to the teaching strategy.   

Effective performative assessment practices involve asking students high-order questions like ‘why’ and ‘how’ in order to boost critical and analytical thinking abilities. This ensures that students have developed conceptual clarity and gained a thorough understanding of topics. It provides teachers with instant feedback that allows them to check how well students are learning. 

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What is Summative Assessment?

Summative assessment is a method of evaluation that is performed at the end of an instructional unit. This is carried out by comparing student learning to a standardized criteria. The goal with this method is to get a comprehensive overview of how much students have learned in a semester or a course and assess the skills they have acquired over time. Summative assessments are generally cumulative and test a student’s long-term retention. 

They are a great way to analyze a student’s progress and check if they are prepared to go to the next academic level. Some notable examples of this method are final examinations, reports, unit tests, end-of-semester projects, etc.  

Key Differences Between Formative and Summative Assessments

An Informative Guide to Redefining Student Assessments: What NEP 2020 Says

The primary difference is the time period in which formative and summative assessments are carried out. Formative assessment is an ongoing method of evaluation that essentially collects real-time feedback from learners.  Summative assessment, on the other hand, is a final evaluation that happens at the end of a course that measures student performance based on a specific criteria such as an exam or project. 

Besides this, a key difference between formative and summative assessments is that the former is conducted to monitor and enhance a student’s learning through a variety of assessment methods and practices. On the other hand, the latter is a defined standard that is conducted to evaluate a student’s performance. In addition, formative assessments involve making changes to the instructional process to boost student learning whereas summative assessment only focuses on grading student performance.

Similarities Between Formative and Summative Assessment 

Formative and summative assessments both serve distinct purposes in enhancing the teaching-learning process. Although, it is essential to acknowledge the correlation between the two types of evaluation methods. Here are three main similarities between formative and summative assessments: 

1. Evaluation 

Formative and summative assessments both involve aspects of course evaluation. Both take student participation and performance into account and assess the effectiveness of the course; whether as an ongoing process or at the end of the semester.  

2. Tools 

Both forms of assessment enable student involvement using activities and tools such as assignments, quiz sessions, surveys and projects. Although each of these tools will be interpreted differently based on the type of assessment. 

3. Feedback 

Gathering student  feedback is a key element of both formative and summative assessments. While in the former, student’s learning outcomes are determined based on real-time feedback in order to make modifications to teaching methodologies, the latter only determines feedback with no influence over teaching practices or how students are graded. 

Which Assessment is More Important – Formative or Summative? 

If we imagine an ideal educational landscape, both formative and summative assessments play an equally important role in contributing to a valuable teaching-learning experience. Where formative assessments help us understand if students are learning and grasping concepts effectively, summative assessments show us what they have learned. The goal of both these assessments is to create valuable learning environments where students can develop their knowledge and skills efficiently. 

The new NEP 2020 guidelines lay a greater emphasis on implementing competency-based formative assessments that test higher-order skills such as critical thinking, conceptual clarity etc. and focus on an ‘assessment for learning’ approach. This type of assessment enables educational institutions to continuously revise the teaching-learning process and optimize learning. Besides, it encourages group work and role-plays to be used as part of the assessment process along with peer-assessment and self-assessment. 

A Comparison Chart of Formative and Summative Assessments

Formative AssessmentSummative Assessment 
Diagnostic in natureEvaluative in nature
On-going assessment that monitors students learning in real-time Evaluates students learning at the end of an instructional unit or semester 
Implemented to assess student learningImplemented to assess student learning outcomes and competency
Teachers can modify instructional strategies mid-streamProvides a final evaluation of student learning and progress 
Provides students with feedback Students yield a specific score or results 
Identifies learning gaps and improves learningCollects evidence of student knowledge, retention and proficiency
Higher frequency – occurs monthly or quarterly Lower frequency – occurs only few times a year around term end
It is process-orientedIt is outcome-oriented
Can use a wide range of questions asked by teachers, student groups or individual peersCan use a limited number of question formats based on the curricular structure 
Low stakes testing that identifies areas of improvement for both teachers and students High stakes testing that involves marks and ranking 

Formative and Summative Assessment Examples 

A great way to solidify your understanding of these two types of assessments is to look at formative and summative assessment examples. Formative assessments involve both formal and informal methods to identify student’s strengths & weaknesses, target areas of improvement and help teachers address these aspects using refined instructional practices. Some common examples of formative assessment include pop quizzes, check-in questions, written feedback, exit tickets, concepts maps, polls, in-class games and group discussions. 

On the other hand, summative assessment involves performance evaluation against a standard benchmark. A few examples of this are end-of-term examinations, standardized admission tests, practical assignments, formal essays, final projects, unit tests, etc.   

Best Practices for Effective Assessments 

Today, most schools and educational institutions focus on standardized summative assessment practices where a number, grade or percentage is the sole reflection of a student’s total learning experience. While there’s nothing wrong with these assessments, they fail to capture the entirety of the student learning experience and determine how well they interpret and retain concepts. 

In today’s fast-paced learning environment where students are constantly surrounded by change, it is essential to develop an assessment practice that mirrors this reality. It is important for assessment to be integrated in the teaching and learning cycle rather than just summarizing a student’s progress in the form of a numerical value. 

For the modern learner, formative assessment is likely to be more valuable as teachers can identify individual student’s learning needs and conduct ongoing assessments as part of the teaching-learning cycle. It gives teachers a clear insight on the need for any modifications to the instructional practice. On the other hand, students can review their progress, identify areas of improvement and develop a better sense of direction on further learning. 

Using Assessment to Gain Insights into The Future 

Effective assessment is a key element for identifying strengths and weaknesses in learners. It encourages teachers to share valuable feedback which, in turn, helps students learn better and improves their performance. Besides, curating instructional practice and activities that cater to individual student needs helps them develop deeper levels of understanding, enhanced conceptual clarity and  better control over learning. 

Use Formative and Summative Assessment and Meet Your Challenges 

Based on the new assessment reforms as part of the NEP 2020, it is crucial for teachers to strike a balance between formative and summative assessment approaches in order to enhance the academic learning experience effectively. While summative assessments are an existing part of educational institutions across the country, the NEP emphasizes the need to integrate formative assessment to identify learning gaps and make personalized learning a reality for students. 

Using Extramarks Smart Class Plus, teachers can carry out both formative and summative assessments with ease. They can access intuitive assessment tools that enable hassle-free adaptive tests, generate AI-backed reports & analysis of student’s performance, automated marking and so much more. Moreover, they can monitor learner’s understanding in real-time using interactive digital boards and chat features to identify any existing learning gaps  

With such a solid assessment management system in place – get ready to revolutionize your education journey with cutting-edge features from Extramarks

To conclude, the NEP 2020 is all set to transform the education system in India. Integrating formative assessment practices will help educators focus on the right learning outcomes by helping students build critical thinking skills and conceptual clarity, rather than rote memorization. This will give rise to a new culture of stress-free learning and reducing exam fear to a great extent. This robust system of assessment will enable educators to prioritize individual learning needs and customize instructional practices, which is essentially what NEP 2020 is striving towards. 


1. What does NEP 2020 say about integrating technology for assessment? 

The policy supports the use of technology like AI-based software to monitor real-time progress and help teachers address students’ learning needs more effectively. Extramarks Smart Class Plus is a great platform for both students and teachers to experience transformative assessment tools. 

2. What will report cards look like once the new assessment reforms are implemented? 

Besides summative assessment data such as grades and marks, report cards will also carry data regarding the student’s progress. This includes their growth in cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains. In addition, it will also showcase self-assessment, peer assessment, project-based and inquiry-based learnings. 

Last Updated on November 30, 2023

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