Quizzes vs. Assessments: What’s the Difference?

What’s the difference between an online quiz and an assessment? While the terms quiz or test are often used interchangeably with assessment, there is in fact a significant distinction between their meanings. For instance, quizzes or tests are products used to examine someone’s knowledge of a subject to determine what that person knows or has learned. They are used to measure a learners’ comprehension-level at a specific point in time and often involve collecting information in numerical form. Assessment, on the other hand, is the systematic process of documenting and using empirical data to measure knowledge, skills, attitudes, alignment with education standards, and more. 

Assessment Encompasses A Broader Range of Procedures

Assessment covers a broader range of procedures than quizzing, and includes both formal and informal measures. For example, common forms of quizzes or tests often include multiple choice questions and gap-fill items. However, educators also need to assess their students’ learning to determine the effectiveness of their teaching and of the materials they use. Assessment refers to any of the procedures teachers use to do this, which may also include interviews, observations, administering questionnaires and reviewing students’ work. In this sense, a test is only one form or product of a whole assessment procedure. 

Formality & Rigor

Another key difference between tests and assessments is rigor and formality. Simple LMS-based quizzes or tests are not based on rigor or formalisms, and therefore are not suited to determine whether a student is allowed to progress to the next stage of a course or to graduate from a course. On the other hand, high-stakes, formal assessment requires rigor to ensure a number of factors, including:

  • That test questions reflect a consistent design method
  • Test validity and reliability, so that students cannot claim that the test was biased and caused them to fail. 
  • Long term documentation of test results for deep, connected analysis into student performance, instruction and more. 

In other words, LMS quizzes are more informal measures, where you would want to use an Assessment Management System (AMS) like TAO for formal assessments, like diagnostic and summative assessments.  

Investment Protection

A considerable amount of effort goes into preparing student examinations, which over the years grows into a significant investment. LMS quizzes are based on “proprietary” data formats that are unique for each LMS, which makes it very difficult to move content between different Learning Management Systems. TAO on the other hand is based on IMS QTI, the world standard for interoperable test content. By using TAO to author exam questions in QTI, universities are able to protect their investment and reduce long-term cost of ownership. 

Addressing the Bigger Picture

Quizzes are used during instruction to address momentary needs, as they provide snapshots with only short-term validity like adjusting the lesson content for the upcoming week or for a particular student. In this context, the results from online quizzes are interpreted in a more narrow manner. Assessment, however, is used during and after the instruction has taken place, allowing educators to interpret the results in a more broader sense, like determining which students will graduate from a course, or how to improve lesson content or instructional material for the next school year. As such, Assessment Management Systems like TAO address the bigger picture of assessment, from test planning and design to delivery, marking, and finally interpreting results in a variety of ways. 

This is why leading educational institutions and universities use Learning Management Systems and Assessment Management Systems side by side, integrated through Single-Sign On (SSO) for a seamless student experience. 

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