Evidence from on-going learning can be supplemented by the periodic use of tests. However, care should be taken in interpreting the information provided by tests. They necessarily assess only some aspects of the curriculum, with pupils’ responses constrained by the time limits of the tests and with pupils’ responses heavily dependent on how they have related to the particular tasks or test items.
If summative judgements are based on one-off assessments, such as a test or particular assessed task, this can lead to very spiky and unreliable profiles of attainment and progress for individual pupils. However, test outcomes can make a contribution to assessments of pupils’ attainments if used in conjunction with cumulative assessment information from on-going learning.
For tests to make the best contribution, the outcomes should be analysed at question level to inform planning. The ‘deconstructing’ of test questions and responses with pupils can also support subsequent learning and develop pupils’ skills in responding to tests.