Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 155–171 | Cite as

Differential Effects of Two Types of Formative Assessment in Predicting Performance of First-year Medical Students

  • Sally KrasneEmail author
  • Paul F. Wimmers
  • Anju Relan
  • Thomas A. Drake


Formative assessments are systematically designed instructional interventions to assess and provide feedback on students’ strengths and weaknesses in the course of teaching and learning. Despite their known benefits to student attitudes and learning, medical school curricula have been slow to integrate such assessments into the curriculum. This study investigates how performance on two different modes of formative assessment relate to each other and to performance on summative assessments in an integrated, medical-school environment. Two types of formative assessment were administered to 146 first-year medical students each week over 8 weeks: a timed, closed-book component to assess factual recall and image recognition, and an un-timed, open-book component to assess higher order reasoning including the ability to identify and access appropriate resources and to integrate and apply knowledge. Analogous summative assessments were administered in the ninth week. Models relating formative and summative assessment performance were tested using Structural Equation Modeling. Two latent variables underlying achievement on formative and summative assessments could be identified; a “formative-assessment factor” and a “summative-assessment factor,” with the former predicting the latter. A latent variable underlying achievement on open-book formative assessments was highly predictive of achievement on both open- and closed-book summative assessments, whereas a latent variable underlying closed-book assessments only predicted performance on the closed-book summative assessment. Formative assessments can be used as effective predictive tools of summative performance in medical school. Open-book, un-timed assessments of higher order processes appeared to be better predictors of overall summative performance than closed-book, timed assessments of factual recall and image recognition.

Key words

assessment/testing curriculum development/evaluation educational measurement on-line testing student evaluation teaching methods undergraduate medical education 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sally Krasne
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paul F. Wimmers
    • 2
  • Anju Relan
    • 3
  • Thomas A. Drake
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Physiology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLAUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.University of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburgh
  3. 3.IDTU, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLAUniversity of CaliforniaCAUSA
  4. 4.Department of Pathology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLAUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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