On Your Way Out: Exit Tickets as Formative Assessment

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WF1972850 Shaped 2024 Blog Post Exit Tickets as Formative Assessment R1

Think about an epic movie ending. So much can happen in the final scene, just before the credits roll. At the end of Casablanca, Rick says to Ilsa: “Here’s looking at you, kid.” A single line delivered in the movie’s final moments sums up their feelings for one another.

How can we, like a great movie director, make the most of a lesson’s final moments? We’re all familiar with the term “bell-to-bell” instruction, but how you leverage those buzzer-beating minutes can make a huge difference. You can create your own “here’s-looking-at-you-level” wrap-ups in the clasroom. Enter, exit tickets as formative assessment.

What Is an Exit Ticket?

You may have caught our post detailing all that an exit ticket is, and isn’t.

An exit ticket (or exit slip) is a brief, intentional assessment that you give at the end of a lesson. What you learn can be used in planning the next day’s lesson. I wouldn’t use an exit ticket to make plans weeks in advance, but I would use it to make adjustments in my groupings in the moment or the next day. Exit tickets can be placed on designated charts, color coded, and can appear as quick rubrics or reflections.

Is an Exit Ticket a Formative or Summative Assessment?

Typically, we use exit tickets as part of our ongoing formative assessment strategies.

Formative assessments can be used to gauge student understanding before, during, and after a lesson. Summative assessments evaluate learning at the end of a unit or school year. We often think of summative assessments as comprehensive, “in conclusion” assessments. Formative assessments are the frequent bits of data used to inform classroom and instructional decisions. If I wanted to check my students’ grasp of a lesson in preparation for the next day’s instruction, I’d go with something quick and actionable. For more on the difference between formative and summative assessments, head over to our Shaped blog post for all the details.

Characteristics of Exit Ticket Formative Assessments

Timely Feedback

Students and teachers get immediate feedback. This allows teachers to adjust instruction in real-time. It is best practice to plan for an exit ticket in advance whenever possible. We’ve all given a spontaneous, ad hoc, exit ticket. However, preparing for them in advance, as an intentional part of the lesson, rather than a hurried add-on, ensures you get the most from your check-in with students.


A lot of our lesson planning starts at the end, and works its way backward. What goal do we want to accomplish? What objective would we like to achieve? Start with the goal of the exit ticket, then work back to engineer it. If you want to gauge levels of confidence, you could have students place their names on a thermometer by the door labeled from "On Fire" to "Frozen Stuck" based on how they feel about their progress in the learning. If you want to check student understanding of a specific standard that proved to be challenging on a recent assessment, you might re-teach the standard in another way, then formulate standard-specific questions for students to think about over the next few days.  If you want to have some insight into whether your student grouping was successful, ask students to share one thing they learned from their collaborative conversations. An incorrect answer to a multiple-choice exit ticket can serve as a quick identifier of persistent obstacles.


An exit ticket should feel informal and fun. There’s something about a buzzer beater that is lighthearted and carefree, yet also competitive. Keeping it concise makes the most of those final few minutes of a lesson, without adding too much pressure. The goal is for all students to convey their learning or be able to answer the prompt to the best of their ability. Those students who have some assessment-related anxiety might not react well to a lengthy ticket given with minutes to spare. It is important to know your audience.

Another Option: Take-Home or Entry Tickets

A riff on an exit ticket, a take-home ticket is an on-your-way-out task differentiated for students based on recent formative assessments that they take home and show up with the next day. Students may even need to present the finished ticket as a way to “enter” the lesson the next day.

A great way to use this type of ticket is to go through your data for specific questions that had low accuracy, whether those are from a recent summative assessment or classroom task.

Formative Assessment Exit Ticket Examples

Teachers usually think of a formative assessment exit ticket as a physical “ticket,” which could be a fun way to end the lesson. I’ve even seen teachers print those “admit one” vintage tickets and use those at the close of lessons. For most, a sticky note does the trick. Food for thought: maybe it doesn’t necessarily need to be a “ticket,” but a task that a student has to complete before leaving, that shows evidence of learning.

A few years ago, I found these great beach balls that had middle school math questions printed all over them. To mix up my exit ticket practice, I would have my class popcorn the beach ball and answer questions that their right thumb landed on. They couldn’t leave until they got the answer correct or tagged in a friend to help.

Looking for some exit inspiration? Here are some examples to try with your class.

  • Traffic Light: Red typically means "I need help." Yellow means "I am 50/50." Green means "What comes next?" Use this to gauge the level of understanding so you can best support students the next day.
  • Exit Tweet: A tweet Is a short blurb or shout out. Use the format to have your students summarize their learning, or call out one thing they found Interesting, in 280 characters or less. Bonus points for a fun hashtag!
  • Exit Poll: Bring In some percentages to make this strategy feel official. Best for an opinion, you can use It to ask students if they agree or disagree with a choice a character made In an assigned reading.
  • Writing Prompt: Sentence starters and prompts are a great way to have students tee-up an idea so that the learning can be continued the next day. "One thing I learned…", "Tomorrow, I'll continue to work on…", "Going forward, I want to make sure I…" are some good examples.
  • Self-Reflection: Reflection Is such an Important skill to build with our students. This strategy can be used as a private exit ticket, one that the student keeps track of on their own, like a social and emotional goal.
  • Confidence Check: On a scale of 1-10 am I singing In the shower…or am I Taylor Swift?!
  • True or False: True or false helps our students pause to think critically. These can be fun, and maybe even obvious, or so similar that the students really need to dig Into their learning for the answer.
  • Problem-Solving: Literally, a math problem. Maybe one that was a low-percentage question on a recent assessment. Or, for our ELA teachers, pose a problem a character faced In your reading and ask your students how they would react. Problem? Solved!
  • Drawing: Engage our artists by having them sketch a feeling to end the day. Accompany this exit ticket with a visual mood meter, so they can more accurately convey their feelings.
  • Matching: Have students place their responses in a column on the way out. You'll be able to quickly tell which students need a revisit and which ones are able to move to more challenging work.

Whether you try one or all of these strategies, the most important thing to remember is that you are getting the most out of your minutes. So plan with the outcome in mind, be creative, and remember to keep the conversation going with students, even on their way out!


For more on data-driven assessments and instruction, explore HMH assessments that provide educators a complete picture of student achievement.

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