17 Easy To Use Formative Assessment Examples To Develop Your Approach To Teaching and Learning

Here we’ve collected 17 formative assessment examples that can be easily incorporated into any lesson to quickly get individual feedback and then inform the next stage of tailored instruction to meet the unique needs of your students.

What are formative assessment examples?

Effective formative assessment can be achieved through a range of assessment techniques. Teachers can use many examples of formative asssessment even in a single lesson to evaluate students’ learning inform the next stage of teaching.

The formative assessment examples we’ve collected here will help you identify misconceptions and assess students’ needs so you can then adapt teaching accordingly to improve student progress. 

These formative assessment tools play a vital role in the learning process as they are employed to gather students’ responses, which in turn inform both present and future lesson plans.

Moss and Brookhart (2019) reported that when formative assessment strategies are in place within a classroom, teachers:

  • share lesson objectives and success criteria with students.
  • offer feedback that effectively moves students’ learning forward.
  • are strategic with their questioning to assess students’ understanding.

At the same time, students:

  • set goals and ask effective questions.
  • undergo self-assessment and peer assessment regularly.

How these formative assessment examples differ from summative examples

The differences between formative and summative assessments lies in their purpose, frequency, type and outcome.

Formative assessments serve the purpose of enhancing learning, whereas summative assessments aim to measure attainment, by providing a final grade. While formative assessments are conducted regularly throughout lessons, summative assessments take place at the end of a teaching-learning cycle. 

Typically, formative assessments have lower stakes, while summative assessments are likely to be high-stakes. Teachers provide feedback following formative assessments to facilitate learning improvement, while the outcome of a summative assessment is a final grade or score used as a measure of achievement.

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17 formative assessment examples

Here are 17 ready to use examples of formative assessment for you to test out in your classroom.

1. Low stakes quizzes 

Low stakes quizzes are a fundamental formative assessment example. They’re also one of the most powerful and easy ways to assess pupils’ prior knowledge and provide quick feedback to improve learning. They take between five and ten minutes at the start or end of class and can test one topic or a collection of topics. 

They can also be used as part of a well planned sequence of lessons to provide assessment on a given topic one week, one month and three months after it was initially taught. As well as spacing out the retrieval of learning like this, a low stakes quiz also provides an opportunity for interleaving topics together; for example, you could combine finding the area of a trapezium with Pythagoras and surds:

formative assessment examples quiz

2. Mini whiteboards 

Mini whiteboards provide a quick, effective and low-stakes way to check whole-class understanding. To qualify as a formative assessment strategy, it must be followed by feedback to improve learning and students should have time to demonstrate the impact that the teacher’s feedback has had. 

Mini-whiteboards can be used to complement many of the examples listed below. Any task completed on a mini-whiteboard will be viewed as low-stakes by students because there will be no record of their response in an exercise book. 

Consequently, students are often more willing to take risks when using a mini-whiteboard and are more likely to commit to answering a question than if they were required to write it into their book.  

Be aware of the potential drawbacks to mini whiteboards such as students waiting and quickly answering when they see other answers. These can often be mitigated with good classroom behaviours and routines.

3. Diagnostic questions 

Diagnostic questions are closed, multiple choice questions with very carefully selected answer options. One is the correct answer, the others (sometimes called distractors) are carefully chosen to reveal different misconceptions.that have been carefully designed so that each incorrect answer relates to a specific misconception that can then be addressed by the teacher to improve learning. 

Diagnostic questions can take a long time to formulate but they are a fantastic resource that can be added to departments’ schemes of work for use year after year.

A key element of diagnostic assessment, diagnostic questions are becoming increasingly popular in mathematics lessons and there are many teachers online who are sharing their multiple-choice questions with the wider education community. 

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4. Problem pairs or example problem pairs

‘Problem pairs’ is a very useful formative assessment example for the start of the learning process, particularly when the teacher is introducing a new skill. It involves writing two very similar examples or problems on the board, one for the teacher to complete and one for the pupils to complete. 

The teacher models a complete solution first and then all the students try to replicate the new skill independently using the other example. The teacher can use the students’ solutions to see whether they have mastered the new skill or if further teaching is required. Problem pairs can be completed on mini-whiteboards to make it easier for the teacher to get whole class feedback while standing at the front of the room. 

formative assessment examples
An example slide from Third Space Learning’s online one to one maths tuition

In Third Space Learning’s online one to one maths tutoring, lessons are broken down into 4 stages in an ‘I do, we do, you do’ structure. This encourages students to move from guided to independent practice. The ‘Your turn’ sequence allows students to work through a scaffolded example with the support of their dedicated tutor.

5. Examples and non-examples

Sometimes the most effective way to know if students have understood a definition is to ask them to write down an example and a non-example using the definition. 

For example, a pupil could be asked to draw an example of a square and then draw a non-example of a square. This would enable the pupil to demonstrate that they know what a square is but also what a square is not. It takes an extra layer of thinking to understand the properties of something and then apply them to a non-example.

Correct examples are often easier to produce than correct non-examples, and students’ errors effectively highlight the nature of their misunderstanding, which can then be directly addressed by the teacher. 

In mathematics, a teacher could ask for an example and non-example of:

  • Discrete data
  • A prime number
  • A function
  • A quadratic equation with two positive roots

6. Exit tickets or exit slips

These are short low-stakes questions that are issued at the end of a lesson and often handed in as the pupil leaves the classroom. They are used to assess whether students have met the learning outcomes from the lesson to inform the teacher’s plan for the following lesson. 

In most cases, students won’t receive their exit tickets back; their purpose is to provide the teacher with feedback about whether the lesson’s learning objectives were achieved by the class. If the exit tickets reveal many incorrect answers, the teacher would need to address the misunderstanding with the class at the start of their next lesson.

7. Shadow tests

Shadow tests allow students and teachers to test whether a teacher’s feedback following an assessment has been successful. A shadow test is a replica of another test but with slightly different questions. 

In maths, the questions in the test and shadow test could be identical other than the numbers that they used. After students have received and acted on the feedback from the original test, a shadow test can be used to test whether the teacher’s feedback has led to an improvement in understanding. 

8. Comment-only marking

Grades and scores are not necessary for formative assessment and research has shown that they are actually counterproductive at improving learning. When students receive a grade or score for a piece of work, they are significantly less likely to read or act upon their teachers’ feedback. 

For this reason, marking work by only giving written feedback and having a dedicated time for students to act upon this feedback can enable any piece of work to become an example of formative assessment.

Download an example of this kind of formative assessment: Worked Examples: Place Value

9. Metacognitive prompts 

Giving students metacognitive prompts to complete at the end of maths lessons has been shown to significantly increase students’ attainment compared to a randomised control group (Baliram & Ellis, 2019). 

The teacher in the study used the students’ responses to the following prompts to plan a ten-minute starter activity for the next lesson:

  • ‘Today, I learned…’
  • ‘I can now apply…to solve…’
  • ‘I understand…but still don’t understand…’ 

These metacognitive strategies can be used to quickly gain feedback from students about how well they have understood and achieved the learning objectives and what can be done in the following next lesson to improve learning. 

Read more:

10. One-minute papers

One-minute papers (or brain dumps) require pupils to spend a short amount of time writing down everything they know on a given topic (e.g. angle properties). The purpose of this activity is to assess prior knowledge so that the teacher knows where they need to begin teaching the new topic. 

Below is an example.

formative assessment examples one-minute paper activity

11. Always, sometimes, never

‘Always, sometimes, never’ is an excellent activity that can uncover students’ misconceptions quickly and allow the teacher to move learning forward. It is particularly effective in maths where students can be presented with a simple statement and to decide (and justify) whether the statement is always true, sometimes true, or never true. 

Examples that work well are:

  • Prime numbers are odd.
  • a3 is greater than a2 .
  • The sum of two even numbers is even. 

See more always sometimes never examples:

12. Directed questioning 

It can be tempting, particularly in a mixed ability class, to only take answers from students who have raised their hands. The danger of this approach is that some students will not even attempt to answer questions, knowing that they won’t be called on if they don’t raise their hand. 

Having a ‘no hands up’ policy will instantly engage all students because they know that you could direct your question from anyone in the room. You can also utilise mini-whiteboards with this strategy by asking all pupils to put an answer on their board and then selecting one person to read out what they have written to the rest of the class. 

13. Open-ended questions

Open-ended questions can help teachers to understand students’ reasoning and thought processes, which allows them to better meet the needs of their pupils and improve learning. Even asking ‘why?’ or ‘what do you mean by…?’ can encourage students to expand their answers and uncover valuable information. 

In maths, you could remove the text from an exam question, leaving just the image, and ask pupils to write down anything they know or can work out about the image. This formative assessment example can also encourage pupils to start questions by writing down anything they know even when they are not sure how to answer the specific question they have been presented with. 

Another useful open-ended question that can be used in maths is ‘how many ways can you find to solve…’. This type of effective questioning works particularly well with simultaneous equations. Students might suggest the methods of substitution or elimination, trial and error, or drawing two graphs and seeing where they intersect.

14. Identifying misconceptions

Instead of using questioning to identify students’ maths misconceptions, teachers can present students with a mixture of facts and common misconceptions and ask them to separate them into the appropriate category.

An extension to this is to ask students to explain why each misconception is incorrect. 

15. Concept map

This is similar to a one-minute paper but it explicitly encourages pupils to look for connections between topics. Students could draft their own concept map on a mini-whiteboard before contributing to a whole class version on the board. 

The purpose is to give feedback to the teacher about the students’ prior knowledge so that the new topic can be introduced at the most appropriate level. 

formative assessment examples concept map

16. Mark scheme or rubric 

Exam boards will often provide examples of student work that can be used in class by students to test their understanding of the mark scheme or rubric provided by the exam board. 

The benefit of this activity is that it gives teachers feedback about whether students can recognise and understand the difference between the different assessment objectives. If they cannot identify correct responses in other students’ work, it is unlikely that they will be able to reproduce it in their own work.

17. Homework tasks

Last, but not least, homework can be used as formative assessment in two important ways. Firstly, it can be used for teachers to check students’ understanding by producing work that can receive detailed formative feedback. 

Secondly, homework can be used for students to act upon their teacher’s formative feedback. For example, if a student forgets to subtract when using Pythagoras’ theorem to find one of the shorter sides of a triangle, their teacher could give them verbal feedback at the start of the next lesson to move their learning forward. 

The following week, that pupil could be given a sheet of mixed Pythagoras theorem problems to complete for homework to check that the verbal feedback has been effective.

Other formative assessment examples

Other formative assessment examples you may encounter are activities like Think pair share and Detective marking. We’ve not included them in our main list because both, for different reasons, can be difficult to manage effectively and thus take up classroom time that could be better used.

Think pair share where students work together to answer a question risks students just having a chat or one not admitting to their peer that they don’t understand and just ‘going along with’ the other’s answer.

Detective marking in which a teacher marks a test and writes down the number of correct answers without indicating which ones are correct will, for some students, just lead to confusion.

Knowing which formative assessment technique is likely to be successful with your class is a key part of being able to move the students forward as a result. It’s our recommendation therefore you try any of the other formative assessment examples on this list rather than these two.

Common formative assessment misconceptions

1. Feedback in formative assessment is limited to teachers 

Formative assessment is about providing feedback to improve learning. It is important to remember that the feedback can come from students; it should not be limited to written and verbal feedback from teachers. 

Formative assessment can be used to tell a teacher that the lesson outcomes have not been achieved. In this case, learning improves by the teacher adapting a lesson plan or changing the type of instruction being used. 

2. Clickers, thumbs up/ down responses and emojis qualify as formative assessment

Using clickers or a thumbs up, thumbs down response to ‘does that make sense?’ or ‘does everyone know what to do?’ are not examples of formative assessment. 

Similarly, when students use emojis to indicate their mastery of a new topic, the teacher is not provided with useful information that can improve learning. 

These measures may be a useful reflection of students’ confidence but they are not an accurate reflection of learning and they provide no insight into what part of the learning process has been unsuccessful. 

Formative assessments should provide useful information that can be used by a teacher or a student to improve learning; if this is not the case, it is not an example of formative assessment.

You may also be interested in:

Formative assessment examples FAQs

What is the purpose of formative assessment?

The purpose of formative assessment is to improve learning.

What is the difference between formative and summative assessment?

Summative assessment provides an assessment of learning, while formative assessment provides a way to improve learning. 

Who receives feedback from formative assessments? 

Formative assessment can provide feedback to teachers about students’ understanding or it can provide feedback to students about what they need to do to improve.

Why are mini-whiteboards useful for formative assessment?

They allow teachers to check the understanding of every pupil in their class and adapt their teaching strategies if necessary.


Wiliam, D. and Leahy, S., 2016. Embedding formative assessment. Hawker Brownlow Education.

Moss, C.M. and Brookhart, S.M., 2019. Advancing formative assessment in every classroom: A guide for instructional leaders. ASCD.

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