Assessments with important consequences for test takers, on the basis of their performance. Passing has important benefits, such as progressing to a higher grade, a high school diploma, a scholarship, entrance into the labor market or getting a license to practice a profession. Failing also has consequences, such as being forced to take remedial classes or not being able to practice a profession. Examples of high-stakes tests include college entrance examinations, high/secondary school exit examinations, and professional licensing examinations.
Most recent national, regional and international learning assessments have been conducted to measure the performance of education systems as a whole. These sample-based assessments are often described as ‘low-stakes’ because they are not directly linked with incentives for participants (students or schools) to perform well, or with sanctions for those performing badly. In ‘high-stakes’ assessments, measured outcomes have direct consequences, most commonly for the pupil. Tests can also serve as accountabilitymeasures for schools and teachers, and the results used as the basis for rewards and sanctions (UNESCO, 2008: 180).
UNESCO. Overcoming inequality: why governance matters; EFA global monitoring report, 2009. Paris: UNESCO, 2008.