Formal Assessment vs. Informal Assessment: 6 Key Differences

When should teachers use formal tests instead of informal ones, and when should they do it the other way around?

All of it comes down to knowing the main differences between these two types of educational testing. When you know the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to make the best choice.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between formal and informal evaluations. One thing they have in common is that they both use tools like quizzes and surveys. But they are not the same because of how they apply these methods to different topics.

In this article, we’ll look at the main ways in which formal and informal assessments are alike and different.

What is a Formal Assessment?

Formal assessments include a wide range of data-driven methods that teachers use to evaluate their students.

In these kinds of tests, teachers often use a consistent grading system that lets them give each student an objective score.

Formal Assessment vs. Informal Assessment

Depending on the situation, formal assessments can be based on norms or criteria. A norm-referenced test is your best bet if you want to know how a learner’s score compares to the average score of the class.

What is Informal Assessment?

Informal assessment is a type of intuitive assessment in which the teacher evaluates the students without using a rubric or statistics to compare their work.

With the help of informal evaluation methods, teachers can keep track of their students’ progress at different points in the learning process.

Different kinds of informal tests are used in the classroom. For example, at the end of a lesson, a teacher can have students fill out an exit survey with closed-ended questions.

Students can use this form to talk about problems they had in class and highlight the most important things they learned.

The teacher may also ask students to take group tests or give short talks about a certain subject.

Informal assessments let teachers give students feedback quickly and fill in any learning gaps right away.

Key Differences Between Formal and Informal Assessment

ComponentsFormal AssessmentInformal Assessment
DefinitionIt is a way to judge the student’s performance with the help of standardized tools and tests.It is the type of assessment that doesn’t use standardized tools but checks the student’s performance through observation.
TypesThere are two major types of formal assessment: norm-referenced assessments and criterion-referenced tests.Common types of informal assessments are Quizzes, writing samples, and assignments.
ScopeA formal assessment can provide a broad view of a student’s knowledgeInformal assessment allows the instructor to go through the analysis of the experience of individual student
FlexibilityWell-defined criteria are used in formal assessment, and the instructor cannot deviate from the grading system.The instructor can adjust informal assessments according to the needs of students.
Score ComparisonThe instructor compares the student’s performance or score in the same class in a formal assessment.The instructor compares the student’s performance with his past ones in formal assessment.
PurposeThe main purpose of formal assessment is to know about students’ academic progress.Informal assessment is used to determine the student’s progress and skill level.

Similarities Between Informal and Formal Assessment


The teacher can comment on a student’s performance in both formal and informal assessments. Feedback is frequently provided when evaluating informally, but it is not always included in summative evaluation.

Another thing to keep in mind is that feedback in informal evaluation is always specific to the student, while formal evaluation can give students of different grades the same comments. For instance, the teacher could send everyone who got a “B” on a test an email.

Educational Assessment

There are both official and unofficial ways to evaluate education. A student’s knowledge, skills, strengths, and weaknesses can be found out in many ways through an educational evaluation.

Evaluation methods for education use data to prove that many parts of the learning process work.

Instructional Needs

Teachers use both formal and informal assessments to improve the ways they teach. The results and comments from both types of educational evaluation can be used to change the subject curriculum, the way grades are given, and the way classes are taught.

Informal vs. Formal Assessment Examples

Formal Assessments Examples

  • Test
  • Quizzes
  • Surveys
  • Questionnaire

Informal Assessment Examples

  •  Exit Surveys
  • Observation
  • Oral presentation

Formal Assessment vs. Informal Assessment Pros and Cons

Formal Assessment Pros and Cons

Pros of Formal Assessment

  • Formal assessments push students to do better in school and work harder so they can get better grades.
  • Formal assessments have certain rules that the teacher must follow when judging the students.

Formal Assessment vs. Informal Assessment

Cons of Formal Assessment

  • Formal evaluation can sometimes be little more than a game of chance. If the questions are easy to answer, a student can do well.
  • Formal assessment is a one-time test that doesn’t let students make mistakes and learn from them.

Informal Assessment Pros and Cons

Pros of Informal Assessment

  • The informal evaluation gives the teacher a more complete picture of the student’s skills, which helps her judge how well he did.
  • When you compare informal assessment to formal assessment, informal assessment gives a student more room to grow.

Cons of Informal Assessment

  • In informal assessments, the teacher decides how many points to give each student and what kind of feedback to give.
  • Since there are no clear standards for grading students in informal assessments, it may be hard to see how they change over time.

Formal Assessment vs. Informal Assessment FAQs

Why Are Formal and Informal Assessments Important?

Formal and informal assessments are important for figuring out how students are growing and learning.

Is Authentic Assessment Formal or Informal?

In authentic assessment, which is more like informal assessment, students are asked to do tasks related to the real world to show what they know and how well they can do them.

What Is the Main Purpose of Informal Assessments?

The main goal of informal assessment is to figure out how much someone has learned and grown.

Formal Assessment vs. Informal Assessment

How Are Formal and Informal Assessments Similar?

Both of these tests are part of teaching and give the teacher information about how the students are doing.


The most important thing for teachers to think about when deciding which type of educational evaluation to use is the context.

Ask yourself, “What do I want to get out of this?” as well as, “How does this fit into the way we teach and learn now?”

Teachers often use a mix of formal and informal ways to evaluate students. Methods of informal evaluation like idea mapping and straw polls help the teacher keep track of each student’s progress as they learn.

The teacher uses formal evaluations, such as end-of-term tests, at the end of the learning period to judge how much each student knows and how well they did.

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