Assessment Tools

Choosing a Tool

Assessment tools should be selected based on their applicability to the learning outcomes being assessed. In some cases, more than one tool may be used to assess an outcome.

Sample Assessment Methods

The following are just some of the potential assessment methods that might be used in assessing student academic achievement in courses and/or programs. It is always recommended that you choose the assessment method(s) that seem most appropriate for the learning outcomes you wish to assess.

Capstone experience

Project or activity in which students demonstrate achievement of comprehensive learning outcomes that is usually completed at the end of a course or program. In a program, there may be a capstone course that includes the pertinent learning outcomes for the program.

External certification/licensure exam

Exams developed by regional or national accrediting or licensing organizations to evaluate students on specific skills usually related to an occupational area, such as nursing or automotive technology. When considering these exams, make sure that the data will be available at the outcome level.

Externally evaluated job performance

Evaluation of student competence, knowledge and skills by an employer in and internship, coop, or job placement. Useful for program assessment in occupational areas.

Externally evaluated performance or exhibit

Useful in the visual and performing arts, a performance or exhibit that is evaluated or judged by experts in the field other than the instructor for the assessed course/program. The external evaluator may also be an instructor at WCC who teaches a different course/section.

Outcome-related Questions on a Departmental exam

A set of common exam questions, developed collaboratively by a department used in all sections of a course. It may be part of a graded final that is evaluated separately.


A compilation of student work, such as projects, artwork or writing samples. Work in a portfolio may demonstrate achievement of multiple learning outcomes. May be in paper or electronic form, and may be used for course or program assessment. Portfolios are generally evaluated using a rubric.

Pre- and post-test

A test or other assessment activity that is administered to students both at the beginning of a course or program and at the end, with the intention of demonstrating improved knowledge or skill upon completion. This assessment tool is only meaningful if students already have knowledge in the content area and the course is designed to expand on that knowledge.

Skill Demonstration

Students may be asked to demonstrate a skill they have learned. This might include using a piece of equipment, giving a speech, or playing an instrument. A skill demonstration might be assessed using a skills checklist or rubric. 

Standardized Test

A test assessing academic achievement or knowledge in a specific academic or vocational domain. Such tests are frequently objective and have scores referencing the scores of a norm group, providing comparative data. Standardized tests are generally commercial products and are useful in many areas. A current example at WCC is the use of Cisco subject test in computer science.


Surveys may be used to evaluate perceptions of student achievement in a program. Surveys of graduates, employers, or advisory board members may help determine if program outcomes relating to employment and skill attainment have been met. Because surveys are indirect measures of student academic achievement, they should be used in combination with more direct measures.