A formal assessment is any kind of test that is administered to gauge the proficiency level of the person taking the test. These assessments are used in elementary and secondary schools, colleges or other educational institutions. They can take a number of forms and often overlap, but each is designed to test a specific skill or aptitude.

Formal Oral Tests

Oral tests are one of the most common formal assessments, and they are used for everything from grade school to language proficiency evaluations. The exact format of the test will differ according to the purpose of the test, but most will require the person to think on her feet and answer concisely but thoroughly. You can prepare for oral tests by practicing beforehand, and it may help to record your voice or practice in front of a mirror or with a friend. It is important to not only answer or evaluate the question properly, but also to articulate the response clearly.

Long- and Short-Answer Tests

Written exams are often administered in schools and colleges, and they are used to test subjects without conventional "right" and "wrong" answers. In long-answer essays, students will typically be given a subject and are instructed to expand on the topic by creating an argument that builds on and is supported by proof. Because these assessments often rely on critical thinking rather than memorization, you may be allowed aids like dictionaries. In short-answer tests, people succinctly answer a question with a few sentences, rather than a full essay.

Multiple Choice Formats

Multiple choice exams are a simple form of assessment in which the person taking a test is expected to select the correct answer from a list that also includes several wrong choices. These tests are common in almost any discipline. Unlike other forms of assessment, multiple choice tests can be answered correctly even if you are not sure of the answer. You can improve your odds on multiple choice questions by eliminating answers you know to be wrong and selecting from one of the answers that may be correct.

Problem-Solving Test Style

Problem-solving tests can take many forms, from simple math tests where people must solve formulas to more abstract assessments where people are expected to evaluate a situational problem and develop or select an appropriate solution. These tests often also overlap with other test formats, taking the form of an oral, written or multiple choice test. You can develop your problem-solving abilities by taking practice problem-solving tests.

Observational Assesments and Monitoring

Not every test requires the student to be an active participant in the assessment. In some cases, an evaluator will assess the subject's level by monitoring him. This may involve watching the student perform a task or assessing his behavior in the classroom. Ideally, the subject will not change his behavior because of this monitoring, allowing the person watching to gain an accurate impression of the student.