What Makes a Good Assessment?



 To ensure that formal, summative and traditional assessments as well as informal-formative and alternative assessments are good and effective assessments, they need to:

  • be well-aligned with learning objectives and outcomes
  • be valid (accurate; should measure what it’s supposed to measure)
  • be reliable (consistent)
  • be fair; free from any biases and distortions
  • be guided by clearly defined rubrics/criteria/standards
  • enable students and teachers to provide and use feedback effectively, reflect and improve their teaching and learning
  • enable students to successfully demonstrate what they have learned
  • effectively measure whether or not the students have learned the content

Formal summative and traditional assessments can be made more effective when questions are crafted carefully in a way that will tap not only the low level cognitive skills, but the higher level ones too. Carefully design tests that will help students to think more deeply, reason, solve problems, analyze, synthesize, apply and evaluate knowledge.

Alternative assessments can be made more reliable, valid and objective by setting clear and well-defined criteria and rubrics when planning and designing alternative assessment strategies. There is also a need to standardize these alternative assessments.

Alternative and traditional assessments both have their advantages and disadvantages. Since no single assessment can fully measure the students’ learning progress and proficiency, I believe it is better to have a balance between traditional and alternative forms of assessment, that is, to complement each other and achieve best results.  If I have a say, I’ll make traditional assessments more fun and flexible, and make alternative assessments more reliable, valid, and truly guided by standards and criteria.


Dikli, S. (2003). Assessment at a distance: Traditional vs. alternative assessments. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 2(3) Article 2 [PDF document]. Retrieved from http://www.tojet.net/articles/v2i3/232.

Kwako.  A brief summary of traditional and alternative assessment. Retrieved from www.stat.wisc.edu/~nordheim/Kwako_assessment4.doc

Traditional vs. Authentic Assessment. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.cssvt.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Traditional-vs-Authentic-Assessment.pdf

Wiggins, G. (1990). The case for authentic assessment. Retrieved from http://pareonline.net/getvn.asp?v=2&n=2