The application of formative assessment principles in higher education has become increasingly important in South Africa. In this case study the researcher assesses the effectiveness of the application of an early warning system to the higher-education environment in a high failure rate subject. This method is applied according to recommended feedback guidelines for formative assessment and self-regulated learning. Over the period of three years the collected data indicates that the subject affected the outcomes of the students significantly. Students who were at the highest risk of failure benefited the most from the application of an early warning system and corresponding tutorial classes to the subject, which is in line with other formative assessment findings. The students participating in the ‘at risk’ list achieved a summative grade on average 8% higher than the class average grade without the implementation of the early warning system and accompanying tutorial classes.