Authentic assessment is the measurement of "intellectual accomplishments that are worthwhile, significant, and meaningful," as compared to multiple choice standardized tests. Authentic assessment can be devised by the teacher, or in collaboration with the student by engaging student voice. When applying authentic assessment to student learning and achievement, a teacher applies criteria related to “construction of knowledge, disciplined inquiry, and the value of achievement beyond the school.” 
Authentic assessment tends to focus on contextualised tasks, enabling students to demonstrate their competency in a more 'authentic' setting. Examples of authentic assessment categories include:
- performance of the skills, or demonstrating use of a particular knowledge
- simulations and role plays
- studio portfolios, strategically selecting items
This framework for assessment begins the same way curriculum design begins, with the question: What should students be able to do? Once the instructor answers that question, they can then devise a rubric to evaluate how well a student demonstrates the ability to complete the task. Because most authentic assessments require a judgement of the degree of quality, they tend toward the subjective end of the assessment scale. Rubrics are an "attempt to make subjective measurements as objective, clear, consistent, and as defensible as possible by explicitly defining the criteria on which performance or achievement should be judged."
Authentic vs. Traditional
Traditionally, assessment follows curriculum. Authentic assessment is an example of "backwards design" because the curriculum follows from the assessment.
One case study was presented by Edutopia’s Schools That Work series on New York based institution, School of the Future. This school stresses the process of authentically assessing students rather than focusing solely on test results or term papers. The school measures the full range of student ability through formative assessments, presentations, exhibitions, and tests that focus on authentic tasks to assess students' skills and knowledge as they relate to real-world endeavors and skills such as effective group communication and presentation. 98% of students at this school go on to college after graduating.
Teachers from The School of The Future in New York utilize authentic assessment in their school and recommend that other teachers can do the same by following the guidelines outlined below:
- Write the assessment before the lesson plan
- Outline learning standards on rubrics to help to ensure rigor
- Warm students up to learning with notecard exercises each morning
- Use in-class pop quizzes to assess student understanding and inform teaching
- Give qualitative feedback
- Ask students to reflect and assess themselves
- Use online or traditional tools to track a student’s work quality over time
A goal of authentic assessment is to determine if student knowledge can be applied outside of the classroom. This means that a physics assessment should involve doing physics by performing experiments and solving problems the same way that a real-life physicist would. An authentic history assessment requires students to ask questions, do independent research, and formulate answers to their questions, just like a real-life historian does. What else is authentic assessment meant to do?
- It engages students and is based in content or media in which the students actually have a genuine interest.
- It asks students to synthesize information and use critical-thinking skills.
- It is a learning experience in and of itself.
- It measures not just what students remember but how they think.
- It helps students understand where they are academically and helps teachers know how to best teach them.
- Wehlage, Newmann, & Secada, 1996, p. 23
- Performance-Based Pedagogy Assessment of Teacher Candidates, Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, June 2004
- Scheurman, Geoffrey; Fred M. Newman (January 1, 1998). "Authentic Intellectual Work in Social Studies: Putting Performance before Pedagogy". Social Education (62.1): 23–25.
- Ormiston, Meg (2011). Creating a Digital-Rich Classroom: Teaching & Learning in a Web 2.0 World. Solution Tree Press. pp. 2–3. ISBN 978-1-935249-87-0.
- Mueller, Jon. "How Do You Create Authentic Assessments?". Retrieved 6 March 2013.
- "A Rubric - by any other name?" (PDF). http://morningside.edu/. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
- Mueller, Jon. "Traditional Assessment vs. Authentic Assessment" (PDF). Jon Mueller’s Authentic Assessment Toolbox. cssvt.org. Retrieved 18 March 2013.