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What are authentic assessments?

11 August 2021

If you’ve already heard of authentic assessments, you’ll know the idea is not new. They are one of the most practical methods of course evaluation. Authentic assessments get the students to apply the knowledge they’ve learned throughout the duration of the course, using methods and tools utilised in real world activities. Students must use their judgement to determine what information and skills are relevant to demonstrate they have met learning outcomes.

Why are they important?

Authentic assessments are designed to improve future performance of students. They allow effective and engaging tasks to be designed by staff to provide a more meaningful learning experience for students. It works by creating the opportunity for students to develop and learn life skills by staff embedding real world tasks within their modules.

Authentic assessments require students to apply knowledge skills and reasoning to their learning. In doing so, students can develop attributes and transferable skills which are pivotal to workplace scenarios.

What makes an assessment authentic?

(Source: Browne, S. and Sambell, K. (2021) Assessment post pandemic: using authentic assessment approaches with a future focus [Presentation slides for Cardiff University])

To ensure your assignments are designed authentically, and help students develop, grow, engage, and succeed, you should consider the following: Does it allow the student to use their judgement, creativity, and innovation? Does it allow the student to show a wide range of skills relating to a complicated problem? Does the task utilise a real-world activity? Does it allow the students to apply their knowledge and skills? (Wiggins 1998) (Lynch 2010 cited in A, Arthur 2012)

What does Authentic Assessments look like?

Authentic assessments can be used in a variety of ways to suit your course. Here are some examples of the types of authentic assessments you can use:

Oral Assessments

Presentations, Viva Voces and Three-minute thesis are just a few examples you can include in your modules to assess students. Oral assessments allow for development of communication skills important for future employment. For tips and inspiration on how to implement authentic oral assessments into your teaching, take a look at this short guide and linked video clips of other staff members sharing their experiences.

Digital creative assessments

Want to create an assessment that demonstrates learning outcomes whilst developing skills required in an ever-increasing digital society? Videos, Websites, Blogs, Audio recordings and  Posters are just a few authentic assessment examples you could use. Have a read of Dr Rikke Duus’ (an academic from University College of London) blog, Preparing students for the workplace which explains why and how she introduced digital assessments within her module.

Open book assessments

Open book assessments are a great way of testing students skills in application, analysis and evaluation. They allow students to develop graduate competencies and provide a crossing in the higher education work bridge. Open book assessments require students to draw on a wide range of resources where they must use their judgement to determine what skills and information are relevant. They mirror real world scenarios and provide a more relevant and meaningful learning experience for students.


An academic portfolio is an organised collection of evidence of a student’s experiences, achievements, and development over the course of a module, period of time, or entire programme. A portfolio asks students to collate the best evidence and think critically how they have met the learning outcomes and to reflect on their experiences. As an assessed piece of work, it can spread the load of assessment across a period of time providing opportunities for supportive feedback as the portfolio is developed.

Take a look at slides from the Portfolio workshop hosted by CESI. Guest speaker, Dr Chris Deneen from the University of Melbourne presented his research on E-portfolios.

For more examples on how other universities have implemented good authentic assessments please look here.

How to ensure your authentic assessment is a success?

Involvement of students at the start and in the co creation of assessments is vital to the successfulness of the implementation of authentic assessments. Research suggests student engagement is a precondition of success.

Need any assistance?

If you would like to find out more about authentic assessments or have any questions, please contact the CESI’s Curriculum Development Team.

If you are a member of staff, you can find out more about assessment and feedback at Cardiff by reading our intranet pages.

Written by Chloe Rideout, Administrative Officer working with CESI’s Curriculum Development Team


Cardiff University (2020) Blog-Vlog [online]Available at: Blog-Vlog.pdf ( [Accessed on 27th April 2021]

Cardiff University (2020) Exam-Open Book[online] Available at: Exam-open-book.pdf ( [Accessed on 27th April 2021]

Cardiff University (2020) Poster [online] Available at: Poster.pdf ( [Accessed on 27th April 2021]

Cardiff University (2020) Presentation [online] Available at: Presentation.pdf ( [Accessed on 28th April 2021]

Dr Catherine Gliddon and Dr Kirsten Pugh presenting at Cardiff University CESI Learning and Teaching Conference (2019) Available at: Using the three-minute thesis competition format as an authentic assessment to development science communication in undergraduates – Learning Hub – Cardiff University [Accessed on 26th April 2021]

Dr Neil Harris (2017) Using a viva voce in a taught module. Available at: Dr Neil Harris ”Using a viva voce in a taught module’ – YouTube [Accessed on 29th April 2021]

Dr Paul Brennan presenting at Cardiff University CESI Learning and Teaching conference (2017) Available at: Inspiring digital creativity through assessment – Learning Hub – Cardiff University [Accessed on 29th April 2021]

Duus, R. (2018) Preparing students for the workplace: why I introduced digital assessments [online] Available at: Preparing students for the workplace: why I introduced digital assessments | Teaching & Learning – UCL – University College London [Accessed on 28th April 2021]

Joughin, G. (2010) A short guide to oral assessment [online] Available at 100317_36668_ShortGuideOralAssess1_WEB.pdf ( [Accessed on 29th April 2021]

Lynch (2010) cited in Arthur, A. (2012)Providing Authentic Assessments as a means to ensure student success [online] Available at: Authentic Assessment – Providing authentic assessment as a means to ensure student success ( [Accessed on 27th April 2021]

CESI Portfolio Workshop (2021) [online] Available at:  link [Accessed on 30th April 2021]

Sambell, K. and Brown, S. (2021) The Covid 19 Collection [online] Available at: Kay Sambell and Sally Brown: Covid-19 Assessment Collection – Sally Brown Sally Brown ( [Accessed on 6th May 2021]

Wiggins, G. (1998) Educational assessment: Designing assessments to inform and improve student performance. San Francisco: John Wiley.