This page covers:

  • What is assessment?

  • Support for assessors

  • Assessment types and methods

  • Principles of assessment

  • Formative and summative activities

  • Informal and formal assessment

  • CASLO qualifications

  • The use of technology

  • Qualification upgrades

  • Minimising risks when carrying out assessment activities

  • Situations which could pose a risk to assessment

  • Making a decision and providing feedback

  • Initial assessment weblinks

  • Assessment resources for immediate download

What is assessment?

Assessment is a way of finding out if learning has taken place. It enables you to ascertain if your learner has gained the required skills, knowledge, understanding and/or attitudes and behaviours needed at a given point in time towards their learning programme.

Assessment also provides your learners with an opportunity to demonstrate what progress they have made and what they have learnt so far. If you don’t plan for and carry out any assessment with your learners, you will not know how well, or what they have learnt.

Assessment is not another term for evaluation; assessment is of the learners whereas evaluation is of the programme.

You are therefore constantly making judgements and you should also be aware of the impact that your comments and grades can have on your learners’ confidence when you make a decision and provide feedback. Comments which specifically focus on the activity or work produced, rather than the individual, will be more helpful and motivating to your learners. 

End-point assessment (EPA) is the term used in apprenticeship programmes. The end-point assessor is independent from the person who has trained the apprentice, and only assesses them at the end of their programme. There are end-point assessment qualifications available for those who carry out EPA.

You should be qualified and experienced in the subject you wish to assess. You might also need to have an assessment qualification if the subject requires you to, and/or if you would like to become a qualified assessor. You can take an online module if you wish. 

Scroll to the end of this page for resources regarding assessment.

Support for assessors

Scroll to the end of this page for downloadable assessor resources and templates. 

  • Videos can be seen by clicking here.
  • Resources to support teachers and learners of the assessment qualifications can be found by clicking here
  • End-point assessment resources can be found by clicking here
  • Online modules for assessors can be found by clicking here.
  • Information regarding assessment qualifications can be found by clicking here.

A report from Jisc 'The future of assessment: five principles, five targets for 2025' can be downloaded here

Assessment types and methods

Assessment types relate to the purpose of assessment i.e. the reason assessment is carried out. Types include: 

  • initial (at the beginning and often referred to as assessment for learning)

  • formative (ongoing to check progress)

  • summative (at the end to confirm achievement, often referred to assessment of learning, or end-point assessment for apprenticeship programmes)

  • holistic (assessing several aspects of a programme or qualification at the same time). 

Assessment methods are how the assessment types will be used i.e. the activities which are used to assess learning and to make a decision as to progress and achievement. For example: questions; discussions; observations; tests and assignments.


All assessment methods should be suited to the level and ability of your learners. A level 1 learner might struggle to write a journal; a level 2 learner may not be mature enough to accept peer feedback; a level 3 learner may feel a puzzle is too easy, and so on. You can find out more about levels here.

Scroll to the end of this page for resources regarding assessment. 

Principles of assessment

Principles of assessment relate to how the assessment process is put into practice. Two important principles are known as VARCS and SMART. 

Following VARCS will help ensure assessment is conducted and assessed correctly. 

  • Valid – the work is relevant to what has been assessed and is at the right level.

  • Authentic – the work has been produced solely by the learner.

  • Reliable – the work is consistent over time.

  • Current – the work is still relevant at the time of assessment.

  • Sufficient – the work covers all of the requirements at the time.

Planning SMART assessment activities will ensure all the assessment requirements will be met by learners, providing they have acquired the necessary skills and knowledge beforehand. 

  • Specific – the activity relates only to what is being assessed and is clearly stated.

  • Measurable – the activity can be measured against the assessment requirements, allowing any gaps to be identified.

  • Achievable – the activity can be achieved at the right level.

  • Relevant – the activity is suitable and realistic, relates to what is being assessed and will give consistent results.

  • Time bound – target dates and times are agreed. 

The assessment process should always be:

  • ethical: the methods used are right and proper for what is being assessed and the context of assessment. The learner’s welfare, health, safety and security are not compromised.

  • safe: the learner’s work can be confirmed as valid and authentic. There should be little chance of plagiarism, confidentiality of information should be taken into account and learning and assessment should not be compromised in any way, nor the learner’s experience or potential to achieve. Safe in this context does not relate to health and safety but to whether the assessment methods are sufficiently robust to make a reliable decision.

  • fair: the methods used are appropriate to all learners at the right level, taking into account any particular needs. All learners should have an equal chance of an accurate assessment decision.

Formative and summative activities

Formative assessment is to check progress and is usually ongoing and informal. Formative activities can be carried out as part of group work, but you will need to check that everyone in the group is contributing, not just the confident learners. 

Summative assessment is to confirm achievement and is usually at the end and formal.

You must use the activities which are stipulated for the programme or qualification (if applicable) e.g. assignments, observations, tests or exams. This information can usually be found in the programme handbook or qualification specification provided by the relevant awarding organisation. Summative activities should be individual, to enable you to confirm what a learner has achieved on their own (unless it's a requirement that they work with others).

See the table for some examples. However, depending upon the purpose and context of assessment, some formative activities might also be summative, and vice versa.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Informal and formal assessment

Informal assessment helps you to measure how your learners are progressing at a given point, and activities are often formative. It's also a way to plan for further learning and development by identifying any gaps in learning. 

Formal assessment means the results will count towards something, such as a qualification or an apprenticeship programme, and the assessment activities are often summative. 

You will need to plan ahead with your learners as to what will be assessed and when based on whether it's formal or informal. The WWWWWH approach is useful:

  • Who

  • What

  • When

  • Where

  • Why

  • How

Always make sure that you keep records to prove each learner's progress and achievement. Examples of assessment records (as templates) and completed examples are available in the resources section at the end of this page. Just scroll down until you see AT001 and A9059.

CASLO qualifications

Many of the vocational and technical qualifications that Ofqual regulates have the following three characteristics in common:

  1. unit content is specified in terms of discrete learning outcomes

  2. the unit standard is specified in terms of assessment criteria for each learning outcome

  3. a learner will only be judged to have passed the unit if they demonstrate that they have acquired all specified learning outcomes (known as ‘mastery’).

Ofqual refer to them as CASLO qualifications because they require assessors to Confirm the Acquisition of Specified Learning Outcomes. Apart from these three defining characteristics, CASLO qualifications take many different forms.

In comparison with General Qualifications, including GCSEs and A levels, CASLO qualifications are documented less comprehensively, researched less thoroughly, and theorised less well. Although individual assessment organisations (AOs) may know how their qualifications work, knowledge of this sort is not easy to access. Where information has been made available, i.e. in qualification specifications, handbooks, and suchlike, this has tended to be at a very practical level. The principles underpinning the effective operation of CASLO qualifications, especially in relation to quality assurance, appear never to have been articulated.

Ofqual have produced a report based on extensive research to fill this gap. The report identifies several principles that appear to underpin the effective operation of CASLO qualifications. These principles help to explain how it is possible for an awarding organisation to remain fully accountable for each CASLO qualification that it awards, despite devolving substantial responsibility for assessment processes to centres.

The use of technology

Technology can be combined with traditional methods of assessment; for example, learners can complete a written assignment by word-processing their response and submitting it by e-mail, or uploading it to a virtual learning environment (VLE) or a cloud based application. Combining methods of assessment helps to promote differentiation and inclusivity; for example, learners could complete assessment activities online to test their knowledge, but be observed in person to assess their performance.

Alternatively, assessment can be solely online; for example, when a learner is taking an online course, their assessment will also be online.

Technology is great for formative assessment; for example, by the use of quizzes and online activities. Scroll to to the end of this page to find lots of examples of applications which you could use.

Jisc have produced a guide 'Effective assessment in a digital age' which you can download here

If you are considering taking an online assessment course, check out these tips to help you find a legitimate provider.

Qualification upgrades 

If you completed the D32/33 or A1/A2 Assessor's Award many years ago, and you need to upgrade to demonstrate that you are now working at the current TAQA assessment and quality assurance standards, you can work through these online CPD modules

Alternatively, you can read this page of information about upgrading your qualification, and then complete a self-assessment grid as evidence of your knowledge and practice.

Minimising risks when carrying out assessment activities

If your role involves the assessment of learning, whether in a classroom, the workplace or another setting, there are often risks involved. 

These risks don’t always relate to health, safety and welfare, but to the assessment process and the decisions made. 

Assessors should regularly standardise their practice to help alleviate risks.

See the list below for some examples of possible risks. Information regarding plagiarism checkers can be found here.

Situations which could pose a risk to assessment

 (in alphabetical order)

  • a lack of confidence by the assessor to make correct decisions

  • a lack of standardisation activities leading to one assessor giving more of an advantage to a learner than another assessor of the same subject

  • a learner copying another learner’s work

  • a learner’s lack of confidence or resistance to be assessed

  • an assessor not taking into account a learner’s particular needs

  • an unsuitable environment for assessment to take place

  • answers to questions being obtained inappropriately by learners, which leads to cheating e.g. gained online, from another learner, or via artificial technology (AI)

  • assessing relatives or not disclosing conflicts of interest

  • assessing written work too quickly, and/or not noticing errors, plagiarism, cheating, or the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to answer questions

  • assessors giving learners the answers or doing some of the work for them

  • assessors using leading questions to obtain the correct answers they require

  • assessors visiting unfamiliar places and under pressure to arrive by a certain time therefore rushing an assessment activity

  • awarding organisations prescribing assessment methods which might not complement the qualification; a learner’s needs or the learning environment

  • changes to qualifications or standards not being interpreted correctly by assessors, or not being communicated to assessors by others

  • employers who are not supportive of assessment in the workplace, or are not good at communicating with the assessor regarding the learner's progress and achievements

  • favouritism and bias by an assessor towards some learners over others

  • feedback to the learner which is unhelpful or ineffective

  • high turnover of staff resulting in inconsistent support to learners

  • ineffective internal quality assurance system

  • instructions too complex or too easy for a learner's ability

  • insufficient or incorrect action/assessment planning

  • internal and external quality assurance action points not being correctly communicated to those concerned, or not carried out

  • lack of resources or time to perform the assessment role correctly

  • learners creating a portfolio of evidence which is based on quantity rather than quality, i.e. submitting too much evidence which does not meet the requirements

  • learners not registered with an awarding organisation prior to being assessed for a qualification

  • learners submitting the work of others as their own, or using artificial intelligence to create answers to questions

  • learners using quotes from others when answering theory questions and not referencing them, leading to plagiarism

  • marking and grading carried out incorrectly by assessors

  • misinterpreting the assessment requirements and/or criteria (by learners and assessors)

  • pressure on assessors to pass learners quickly due to funding and targets

  • time pressures and targets put upon learners which are unrealistic

  • unreliable witness testimonies from the workplace

  • unsuitable assessment methods i.e. an observation when questions would suffice

  • unsuitable assessment types i.e. summative being used instead of formative

  • unwelcome disruptions, distractions and interruptions when carrying out assessment, such as noise or telephone calls.

Making a decision and providing feedback

Once assessment has taken place, you will need to make a decision as to your learner's progress and achievements, and then provide them with feedback. 

You must always remain objective, i.e. by making a decision based on your learner’s competence towards set criteria. You should not be subjective, i.e. by making a decision based on your own opinions or other factors such as your learner’s personality. When making a decision, you will need to base it on everything you have assessed. If you are observing a learner’s skills, you could follow this up by asking questions to check their knowledge and understanding. 

You may find, when assessing, that your learner hasn’t achieved everything they should have. You need to base your decision on all the information and evidence available to you at the time. If your learner has not met all the requirements, you need to give constructive feedback, discuss any inconsistencies or gaps, and give advice on what they should do next. If your learner disagrees with the assessment process or your decision, they are entitled to follow your organisation’s appeals procedure. Don’t get too engrossed with your administrative work or form filling when making a decision, that you forget to inform your learner what they have achieved. 

Feedback can be given informally, for example during a discussion, or formally after an assessment activity. Feedback can be verbal or written depending upon the type of assessment you have carried out. If you are with your learners, for example, observing an activity, you can give verbal feedback immediately (but do keep written records too). If you are assessing work which has been handed in for marking, you can give written feedback later. Written feedback can involve providing it electronically.

It's always useful to start by asking your learner how they think they have done. This gives them the opportunity to identify their own mistakes before you have to tell them. Comments which specifically focus on the activity or work produced, rather than the individual, will be more helpful and motivating to your learners. 

The advantages of providing feedback are that it:

  • can boost your learner’s confidence and motivation

  • creates opportunities for clarification, discussion and progression

  • emphasises progress rather than failure

  • enables your learner to appreciate what they need to do to improve or change their practice

  • identifies further learning opportunities or actions required

  • informs your learner of what they have achieved.

You should always provide feedback in a way which will make it clear how your learner has met the requirements, what they have achieved (or not) and what they need to do next. 

For example: Peter, you have given a really interesting and informative presentation which engaged everyone in the group. However, you could consider providing a handout which covers the key areas you have explained, so that your learners can read it in their own time as a recap. Well done, and I look forward to seeing your next presentation. This is known as the 'feedback sandwich', a developmental point is sandwiched in the middle of two positive points. If you have time, you could expand on 'what' was interesting and 'how' it was informative.

Two other feedback methods are known as: WWW (what went well) and EBI (even better if). You can state what went well first, and then follow it up with how it could be even better.

You will need to try out what works for you and your learners. Just remember not to demoralise or upset your learner with the words you use or the tone of your voice. It's also helpful if you can relate your feedback to any specific criteria which your learner has met, and what they need to do next.

Assessment resources available for immediate download

If you are working towards an assessment qualification, guidance for completing the units can be found by scrolling down this page until you see the heading Level 3 Assessment.

Information Leaflet - Key Concepts and Principles of Assessment (£1.50)
(Ref A9001) 
7 pages covering: • Why should assessment take place? • The key concepts of assessment • Principles of assessment • VARCS & SMART • Role & responsibilities of an assessor • Regulations & legislation relating to assessment • Policies and procedures • Reading list • Website list 

Handout – Table of Assessment Methods & Approaches: Strengths and Limitations (£2.50)
(Ref A9051)
14 pages of information detailing over 45 different assessment methods & activities, along with the strengths and limitations of each.

Handout -  Table of Assessment Types (£1.50) (Ref A9050)

3 pages of information detailing over 40 different assessment types.

Template - Initial Assessment (in Word) (£2.00) (Ref AT018B) 

2 page template with 10 initial assessment questions for potential applicants to complete. Can be used/adapted to gain information prior to learners commencing.

Information leaflet - Involving Learners and Others in the Assessment Process (£1.50)
(Ref G9009)
5 pages covering • How to involve learners in the assessment process • Self-assessment: examples, advantages and limitations  • Peer-assessment: examples, advantages and limitations  • Questioning • Involving others in the assessment process • Sources of information • Reading list • Website list 

Information leaflet - Making Assessment Decisions and Providing Feedback (£1.50)
(Ref A9005) 
6 pages covering • How to make a decision • Factors influencing decisions • Appeals and complaints • What is feedback? • Different feedback methods • How to provide feedback • Feedback hints • Reading list • Website list 

Information leaflet - Record Keeping (£1.50)
(Ref G9006)
3 pages containing covering • Reasons for record keeping • Examples of records • Data Protection • Confidentiality • Freedom of Information Act (2000) • Assessment records • Examples of assessment records • Reading list • Website list
(See below for sample records and completed examples)

Templates – A full set of assessment records (in Word) (£3.00)
Can be used by assessors who do not have their own assessment record system
(Ref AT001)
5 templates in Word (with instructions) for you to amend to suit your own requirements: initial & diagnostic assessment, action plan, assessment plan, feedback and action record, assessment tracking sheet. They can easily be amended to suit your own requirements.
Completed examples are available to purchase below: Ref A9059

Completed example of a full set of assessment records (£4.00)
(Ref A9059) 
5 completed examples of initial & diagnostic assessment, action plan, assessment plan, feedback and action record, assessment tracking sheet.
A set of blank templates in Word is available to purchase above: Ref AT001

  • Resources to support teachers and learners of the assessment qualifications can be found by clicking here.

  • Online modules for assessors can be found by clicking here.

  • Information regarding assessment qualifications can be found by clicking here. 

  • Videos regarding assessment can be seen by clicking here.

You can read my blog regarding the basics of assessment on the Cambridge Assessment website.

More resources are available, 

click here for details.