Mastering Assessments: A Guide to Formal vs. Informal


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Assessment is referred to as assessing someone or something. Teachers use assessments on students regarding their test performances, behaviors, and overall performance. 

Well, teachers can choose formal assessment or informal assessment depending on the situational demand. Though, to make better use of both of these, one needs to understand the difference and similarities between both formal and informal assessments. 

In this blog, we will dive into formal vs. informal assessment. Let’s start with a comparison chart before we dig deep.

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Formal Vs. Informal Assessment: Key Differences





Formal assessment refers to a grading system-based evaluation to monitor students’ knowledge.

Informal assessment refers to a method of student evaluation that does not have any standard grading criteria. 


Norm-referenced: teacher measures students’ performance based on their average performance in class.

Criterion-referenced: student’s performance is evaluated individually. 

Quizzes, writing samples, project-based assignments, presentations, etc.


Tests, quizzes, surveys, and questionnaires.

Exit surveys, observation, and oral presentations.


When teachers want to measure students’ performance based on specific standards or criteria.

When teachers want to have immediate feedback on the student’s knowledge so far.


  • Minimum chances of examiner bias due to criteria standards.
  • Makes students pay more attention in classes.
  • Acts as a pass for students to move further with the next learning stages.
  • Teachers have better look at students’ learning abilities.
  • They can observe performance at various learning stages.
  • Gives a chance for improvements.
  • Allows students to approach a subject from various angles. 

Grading system

Uses a rubric or standard assessment criteria.

Teachers use students’ past performances to judge their recent performance. 


To know students’ overall performance at the end of the learning process. Teachers sometimes compare students’ performances with each other.

To track students’ learning progress and any doubts or difficulties they face.


  • Provides a broader view of student knowledge.
  • Evaluate the performance at surface level to assign a grade or score in the end.
  • Provides a narrow but detailed view of student knowledge.
  • Focuses on individual student improvements.
  • Teachers can modify their teaching methods according to students’ performance from time to time.


It is controlled by the instructor and they can modify it based on individual student requirements.

It has a pre-defined method of evaluation and instructors have no control over it.

Score comparison

Students’ performances are used to compare with other students in the same class or age group.

Students’ performances are compared to their own performances from the past. Hence, it is an individual assessment. 

Formal Vs. Informal Assessment: Definition

The best way to differentiate between any two things is to look at their definition. So, we will start by defining formal assessment and informal assessment to form the solid ground. 

What Is formal assessment?

A formal assessment is a strategy that is utilized to check the information level of an understudy by giving them a score in an objective type test. It is the method for figuring out what the understudy has realized during their talk or guidance period. 

Tests and quizzes are the most widely recognized example of formal assessment.

Educators use this type of assessment when they need to know the information measures of their understudies. Formal strategies for evaluating tests assist the instructors with being familiar with the exhibition of their understudies. This helps understudies focus closer during their talk and go to it cautiously.

It assists the understudies with getting better grades by performing great in the class. It gives an outline of an understudy’s information. 

A few different reasons for formal assessments are as per the following:

  • It assists the educator with understanding the learning holes among understudies and lets them in on which subject should make sense of something else.
  • The proper assessment additionally assists the educator with perceiving the qualities and shortcomings of understudies contrasted with different understudies.
  • It likewise assists them with being familiar with how much information that understudies gain from the point.

What Is Informal Assessment?

The informal assessment method is an intuitive assessment method where teachers do not evaluate student performances on some grade or metrics. Rather they focus on observing students’ performances and progress at different stages of their learning time frame. 

It is conducted using various forms of evaluation. An example of informal assessment could be a teacher asking her students to summarize their learnings at the end of the day. She can then understand how much the students have understood the topics. 

Another way for teachers to evaluate the student performance is that the teacher can ask students to fill out an exit survey, with close-ended questions where students can express their understanding and doubts regarding their learnings. 

Informal assessment is dependent on how a teacher wants to conduct it and provides immediate feedback from students.

Now that we established some base, let’s look at the similarities so that we can differentiate formal vs. informal assessment better.

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Similarities Between Formal Assessment And Informal Assessment

Learning about how formal and informal assessments are similar can help highlight the differences better. 

The three characteristics both assessments share are – 

  1. Instructor feedback. 
  2. Educational assessment. 
  3. Instructional needs. 

Let’s find out more about these shared characteristics. 

  1. Instructor feedback – both of the assessment methods allow the instructor to give their feedback on the student’s performance. In the case of formal assessment, the feedback is general (grade, score, marks) and is sent to students without any personal notes or suggestions. 

In the case of informal assessment, as it is an individual assessment, instructors can give personal feedback to the students and advise them in person.

  1. Educational assessment – educational systems use both these types of assessment to measure students’ performance in their academics, and then decide how to mold the learning process for them.
  2. Instructional needs – depending on the results from formal and informal assessments, educational stakeholders can further decide to make changes regarding the learning process, grading system, assessment criteria, academic curriculum, etc.

To learn about the differences between the two we thought of exploring the benefit of one over the other. So, let’s see how the two differ in the benefits they offer.

Formal Vs. Informal Assessment: Advantages

In this section, we will see how each assessment type overpowers the other in terms of the benefit it offers. 

Let’s first start with the benefits of formal assessment. 

Advantages of formal assessment over informal assessment

Since formal assessments have standard assessment models, there’s almost no chance of analyst bias. This varies fundamentally from informal assessments, where the teacher’s subjectivity decides how they rate the understudy and the sort of input given.

One more benefit of formal assessment over informal assessment is that it encourages students to pay more attention during classes. Since a proper evaluation is high stakes, it motivates students to perform better and get higher grades.

Likewise, formal assessment decides if an understudy moves to the next stage in the educational experience. A person who needs to acquire entrance into school must ace the expected special assessment.

Advantages of informal assessment over formal assessments

Somewhat, formal assessments are a shot in the dark — an understudy can ace a test due to the inquiry choice. With informal assessment, the teacher has a superior image of a student’s capacities. The instructor can notice an understudy’s performance at various places in the educational experience.

Likewise, informal assessment allows for improvement, in contrast to one-off tests. Since there’s barely anything in question, understudies can commit errors and work on their insight without excessive tension. Informal assessment strategies permit understudies to investigate various points of a specific subject.

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This sums up our take on formal vs. informal assessment. Both assessments are fundamental pieces of the learning stage. They can be utilized to further develop learning and education. 

The two assessments are utilized for the intellectual and useful presentation of the understudies. The two of them have their advantages, yet when they consolidate, they give a great deal of understudy data that assists the instructors with finding out about them. The formal and informal assessment likewise builds the inspiration level of understudies to improve.

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