Assessment is said to be a 'parent concept', covering:

Evaluation - judging the value of.  It refers to the process through which evidence is secured and judged with respect to its educational value;

Testing - one procedure through which some kinds of evidence are obtained; it secures a sample of a students' or group's behaviour or product through a mechanism - a 'test';

Examination - a formal process whereby a student's achievement over specified period of time in a particular place is measured against stated criteria;

Measurements - deals with a quantification of data;

Grading - the assignment of a symbol to a person's performance, often a letter (ABCDE) is used to indicate some level of performance, relative to some criteria;

Achievement - the overall accomplishment of a student, including personal factors;

Attainment - the standard or quality of work measured against set criteria. It can also refer to the level of achievement reached by a child in respect of a sequence of learning.

See also: criterion referencing


Forms of assessment include:

Entry assessment

Assessment procedures that can be used when children enter school for diagnostic purposes and to provide a baseline for later calculation of progress made and ‘added value’.

Formative assessment

Continuous assessment, often in diverse, non-standardised forms, made for the purpose of informing on-going teaching.

Summative assessment

Assessment procedures, often at the end of a programme of teaching and of a consistent or standardised type, used to assess learning outcomes.


Assessment by a learner for the purpose of self-knowledge, reflection and self-improvement.

Teacher assessment (TA)

A form of formative assessment required of teachers by the Education Reform Act, the results of which are reported to parents.

End of Key Stage National Curriculum Assessments

A form of summative assessment used to test pupil learning of the core subjects of the National Curriculum at the end of Key Stages.  The results are reported to parents.


The capacity which a child has to learn, which may be specific to particular areas of learning.


Achievement refers to the overall accomplishment of a pupil, including personal factors.  See Assessment and RoA.

A level

Advanced level GCSE examination.

Advanced GNVQ

Advanced General National Vocational Qualification. This is similar to BTEC and the equivalent of 2 A levels. The subjects offered have a vocational element.


 Advanced Extension Award.


Advanced International Certificate of Education; an academic 2-year program (similar to A levels) taken between the age of 16 and 18 where students concentrate on 2 or 3 subjects while maintaining an incorporated international focus.


Award in digital applications (see also DiDA; CiDA).


Advanced Level Information System.


Advanced Level Performance Systems.


Assessment & Qualifications Alliance – A 'Unitary Exam Body' formed by amalgamation of NEAB, AEB, SEG and C&G).


Awarding Organisation.


Accreditation of Prior Learning - Credit for a previous award, towards a further award.


Accreditation of Prior Experience and Learning.


Assessing Pupils’ Progress; Assessment of Pupil Performance


Assessment and reporting arrangements.


Advanced Subsidiary, replacing Advanced Supplementary National examinations.


Award Scheme Development Accreditation Network. A course seen as an alternative to GCSE examinations for disapplied pupils.

Alternative assessment

An assessment in which students originate a response to a task or question. Such responses could include demonstrations, exhibits, portfolios, oral presentations, or essays.


Advanced Level 2nd stage. (It also refers to a size of paper often used in art rooms: half the size of A1, twice the size of A3 and four times the size of A4).


Assessment for learning.

Authentic assessment

An assessment based upon tasks that reflect the kind of competence demonstrated by experts.

Baseline Assessment

An assessment of a child's skills and abilities usually made by a teacher within the first seven weeks of starting primary school. It shows teachers what children can do when starting school and helps teachers to plan lessons and measure progress.  Areas covered include Language and Literacy, Maths and Personal and Social Development.


Business & Technician Education Council (see EdExcel).  A National Qualification equivalent to two A level courses.  Subjects include Nursery Nursing, Business Studies and Art and Design. There are considerable practical elements to the courses with work placements offered.


Cognitive Ability Test, produced by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER). Can also stand for Capability Assessment Toolkit and Computer Aided Teaching.

CATs points

Score achieved on Cognitive Ability Tests.

C & G

City & Guilds (see AQA and CGLI).


Certificates of Competence.


Certificate in digital applications.  See also AiDA and DiDA.


Certificate of Achievement (awarded by the examination boards MEG/OCR).


Certificate of Secondary Education.  A public examination that was introduced in the mid 1960's as a less academic alternative to O level; it was abandoned with the advent of GCSE.


Continuous Student Record.

Criterion-referenced assessment

An assessment that measures what a pupil understands, knows, or can accomplish in relation to specific performance objectives. It is used to identify a pupil's specific strengths and weaknesses in relation to skills defined as the goals of the instruction, but it does not compare pupils to other pupils. (Compare to norm-referenced assessment and ipsative referencing.)


Certificate of Sixth Year Studies (Scotland).


A Unitary Exam body formed by the amalgamation of London Exams and BTEC.


End of Key Stage descriptions. Generated statements, for some subjects only, of the knowledge, skill and understanding which it is expected children will acquire by the end of each Key Stage.


Educational Performance Analysis Software.

Exhibition of mastery

A type of assessment in which pupils display their grasp of knowledge and skills using methods such as video presentations, posters, oral presentations, or portfolios.


Judging the value of something.  It refers to the process through which evidence is secured and judged with respect to its educational value.  See Assessment.


General Certificate of Education.  Currently refers to A (Advanced) Level; O Level (Ordinary) was replaced by the GCSE in the UK in 1988.


General Certificate of Secondary Education. O levels and CSEs were replaced in1988 with GCSEs. O-level (Ordinary level) qualifications were designed for allegedly more able secondary school pupils and were seen as being necessary for progression into A-level and beyond. The Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) qualification was intended for pupils of all abilities in mainstream secondary education, though they were not taken by the most academic pupils who would have taken only O levels. There was an overlap between these two types of certificate in that a CSE grade 1 result was regarded as equivalent to an O level. The GCSE examination was designed for pupils of all abilities; GCSE grades A-C are seen by most schools and employers as O level (or CSE grade 1) equivalents and GCSE grades D and below represent to many what would have previously been CSE grade 2 and below.

GCSE Bitesize

A BBC revision guide that uses TV, books and the Internet to help children prepare for GCSE exams.


General National Vocational Qualification Vocational qualifications taken mainly by pupils age 16 and in full-time education.  After October 20007 it is replaced by alternative BTEC qualifications.


General Scottish Vocational Qualification.


Higher Grade (Scotland - 'Highers').


Higher National Certificate.


Higher National Diploma - a two-year course that equates to two years of a degree course.  HNDs are offered in many subject areas, mostly with a practical application; they may also have an industrial or commercial placement as part of the course.

Holistic scoring

Assigning a single overall score to a pupil's performance.


International Baccalaureate.


The International English Language Testing System.  It is said to measure ability to communicate in English across four language skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking.  It is an internationally recognised test aimed at people who intend to study or work where English is the language of communication

Ipsative referencing

One of several contexts for assessing learners' achievement (see Norm referencing and criterion referencing).  Ipsative referencing (sometimes known as ‘Developmental’) compares a pupils' present performance with past performances is more learner-centred.  It is concerned with individuals' growth and development; assessment is often made by negotiation between teacher and taught and is linked to self-assessment. Ipsative referencing reinforces positive qualities.


Information sharing and assessment


Joint Council for Qualifications.  An official (UK) body that oversees national qualifications.


Measurements deal with a quantification of data; there is a notion that everything that exists, exists in some quantity and can therefore be measured.  See Assessment.


Monitoring and Evaluation.


Master of Arts


Middle Years Information System.


Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations Board.


National Curriculum Tests.


National Council for Vocational Qualifications. It merged with SCAA in 1997 to form the QCA.


National Database of Accredited Qualifications.


Northern Examination and Assessment Board (see AQA).

Norm-referenced assessment

An assessment designed to discover how an individual pupil's performance or test result compares to that of an appropriate peer group.  Norm referencing has been the normal procedure for the distribution of grades in public examinations. (Compare to criterion-referenced assessment and Ipsative referencing.)


National Vocational Qualification - a work-based qualification.


Optical Mark Reader.


Ordinary National Diploma.

Performance assessment

Systematic and direct observation of a pupil performance or examples of pupil performances and ranking according to pre-established performance criteria.  Pupils are assessed on the result as well as the process engaged in a complex task or creation of a product.

Performance criteria

A description of the characteristics to be assessed for a given task.  Performance criteria may be general, specific or holistic.

Performance management

This refers to the process for assessing the overall performance of a school principal or assistant teacher with reference to that person's job description (within the context of the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document - the STPCD).  This assessment is then used for making plans for the individual's future development in the context of that particular school's improvement plan (SIP).

Performance Tables

The government publishes secondary and 16-18 performance tables each year. The tables report achievements in public examinations and vocational qualifications in secondary schools (and colleges of Further Education) so that schools can be compared with each other.  Primary school performance tables are published by local education authorities and report pupils' achievements at the end of Key Stage 2.

Performance task

An assessment exercise that is goal directed. The exercise is developed to elicit pupils' application of a wide range of skills and knowledge to solve a complex problem.

Portfolio assessment

An assessment process that is based on the collection of pupil work (such as written assignments, drafts, artwork, and presentations) that represents competencies, exemplary work, or pupils' general progress.


Student record of achievement that includes a folder to store all certificates; previously NRA - National Record of Achievement. See EYFSP and RoA.


Recognising and recording progress and achievement. It is a tool to measure the progress and achievement of learners in the adult and community learning sector.


Schools are obliged to record pupils’ progress; there are several ways of doing this, amongst them are:

Portfolio of work

A folder or collection of documents, records or artefacts relating to a pupil’s work over several years.  Items collected are often carefully selected after consultation with the child and annotated.  Often used formatively in discussions between parents, teachers and child and for self-assessment.

Records of achievement (RoA)

A semi-public record of achievements and attainments by a child over a course of time, perhaps in a school.  Was sometimes used to affirm and celebrate and often with a more summative, certificated feel than a portfolio.

Teacher records

A teacher controlled record system devised to assist in planning, providing and monitoring an appropriate curriculum for each pupil.


Record of Achievement (more commonly RoA).


An indicator of score consistency over time, or across multiple evaluators.  Reliable assessment is one in which the same answers receive the same score regardless of who performs the scoring or how or where the scoring takes place. The same person is likely to get approximately the same score across multiple test administrations.


Headteachers in England are responsible for ensuring that they send a written report to parents on their child's achievements at least once during the school year. Schools may issue more than one report, provided that the minimum information is sent to parents by the end of the summer term. Forms of reporting traditionally include the following:

Parents evenings

Very common practice where parents get the opportunity to talk briefly to their child’s teacher about their progress and discuss any difficulties.

Written reports

An annual document from school to parents summarising the achievements and attainment of each pupil.

League tables of pupil attainment

Tables, often published in newspapers, in which schools are ranked in order of their aggregate levels of pupil attainment at a public assessment point, such as at the end of Key Stage 2.  This is relatively simple to do, but tends to reflect the social circumstances of the pupil intake more than the particular contribution of the schools.

League tables of added value

Tables in which schools are ranked in terms of levels of pupil attainment at the end of a programme of study compared with their levels of attainment at the beginning of the programme of study.  This reveals the gain, or added value but is technically difficult to produce.


Record of Achievement; see Profile.


Royal Society of Arts (see OCR). Also stand for Regional Subject Advisor.


Specific criteria or guidelines used to evaluate pupils' work.


Standard Assessment Tasks.  Often erroneously referred to as standard assessment tests (which are copyrighted in America).  They are more accurately known as NCTs - National Curriculum Tests.


The range of scores possible for the pupil to achieve on a test or an assessment. Performance assessments typically use a 4-6 point scale.


Scottish Vocational Educational Qualification equivalent to BTEC and Advanced GNVQ.


Southern Examining Group (see AQA).

Standardised tests

Assessments that are administered and scored in exactly the same way for all pupils. Traditional standardised tests are typically mass-produced and machine-scored; they are designed to measure skills and knowledge that are thought to be taught to all pupils in a fairly standardised way.


In education, Standards usually refers to the TDA list of Standards which beginning teachers are expected to attain in their training in order to achieve QTS.

Standards and Testing Agency

An executive agency formed in 2010 established within the Department for Education, taking over from the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA). It is concerned with the delivery of statutory assessment and reporting arrangements. STA has responsibility for the development and delivery of all statutory assessments at Key Stages 1, 2 and 3, and the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile. The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) ‘continues to have an important regulatory role in ensuring the integrity and impartiality of statutory assessment and testing’.


Testing refers to one procedure through which some kinds of evidence are obtained; it secures a sample of a pupils' or group's behaviour or product through a mechanism – a 'test'.  See Assessment.


An indication that an assessment instrument consistently measures what it is designed to measure, excluding extraneous features from such measurement.


Year 11 Information System.  It is used widely in the UK and elsewhere, forming a baseline for ‘value added’ measures in secondary schools.