Rubric Best Practices, Examples, and Templates

A rubric is a scoring tool that identifies the different criteria relevant to an assignment, assessment, or learning outcome and states the possible levels of achievement in a specific, clear, and objective way. Use rubrics to assess project-based student work including essays, group projects, creative endeavors, and oral presentations.

Rubrics can help instructors communicate expectations to students and assess student work fairly, consistently and efficiently. Rubrics can provide students with informative feedback on their strengths and weaknesses so that they can reflect on their performance and work on areas that need improvement.

How to Get Started

Best practices, moodle how-to guides.

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Step 1: Analyze the assignment

The first step in the rubric creation process is to analyze the assignment or assessment for which you are creating a rubric. To do this, consider the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of the assignment and your feedback? What do you want students to demonstrate through the completion of this assignment (i.e. what are the learning objectives measured by it)? Is it a summative assessment, or will students use the feedback to create an improved product?
  • Does the assignment break down into different or smaller tasks? Are these tasks equally important as the main assignment?
  • What would an “excellent” assignment look like? An “acceptable” assignment? One that still needs major work?
  • How detailed do you want the feedback you give students to be? Do you want/need to give them a grade?

Step 2: Decide what kind of rubric you will use

Types of rubrics: holistic, analytic/descriptive, single-point

Holistic Rubric. A holistic rubric includes all the criteria (such as clarity, organization, mechanics, etc.) to be considered together and included in a single evaluation. With a holistic rubric, the rater or grader assigns a single score based on an overall judgment of the student’s work, using descriptions of each performance level to assign the score.

Advantages of holistic rubrics:

  • Can p lace an emphasis on what learners can demonstrate rather than what they cannot
  • Save grader time by minimizing the number of evaluations to be made for each student
  • Can be used consistently across raters, provided they have all been trained

Disadvantages of holistic rubrics:

  • Provide less specific feedback than analytic/descriptive rubrics
  • Can be difficult to choose a score when a student’s work is at varying levels across the criteria
  • Any weighting of c riteria cannot be indicated in the rubric

Analytic/Descriptive Rubric . An analytic or descriptive rubric often takes the form of a table with the criteria listed in the left column and with levels of performance listed across the top row. Each cell contains a description of what the specified criterion looks like at a given level of performance. Each of the criteria is scored individually.

Advantages of analytic rubrics:

  • Provide detailed feedback on areas of strength or weakness
  • Each criterion can be weighted to reflect its relative importance

Disadvantages of analytic rubrics:

  • More time-consuming to create and use than a holistic rubric
  • May not be used consistently across raters unless the cells are well defined
  • May result in giving less personalized feedback

Single-Point Rubric . A single-point rubric is breaks down the components of an assignment into different criteria, but instead of describing different levels of performance, only the “proficient” level is described. Feedback space is provided for instructors to give individualized comments to help students improve and/or show where they excelled beyond the proficiency descriptors.

Advantages of single-point rubrics:

  • Easier to create than an analytic/descriptive rubric
  • Perhaps more likely that students will read the descriptors
  • Areas of concern and excellence are open-ended
  • May removes a focus on the grade/points
  • May increase student creativity in project-based assignments

Disadvantage of analytic rubrics: Requires more work for instructors writing feedback

Step 3 (Optional): Look for templates and examples.

You might Google, “Rubric for persuasive essay at the college level” and see if there are any publicly available examples to start from. Ask your colleagues if they have used a rubric for a similar assignment. Some examples are also available at the end of this article. These rubrics can be a great starting point for you, but consider steps 3, 4, and 5 below to ensure that the rubric matches your assignment description, learning objectives and expectations.

Step 4: Define the assignment criteria

Make a list of the knowledge and skills are you measuring with the assignment/assessment Refer to your stated learning objectives, the assignment instructions, past examples of student work, etc. for help.

  Helpful strategies for defining grading criteria:

  • Collaborate with co-instructors, teaching assistants, and other colleagues
  • Brainstorm and discuss with students
  • Can they be observed and measured?
  • Are they important and essential?
  • Are they distinct from other criteria?
  • Are they phrased in precise, unambiguous language?
  • Revise the criteria as needed
  • Consider whether some are more important than others, and how you will weight them.

Step 5: Design the rating scale

Most ratings scales include between 3 and 5 levels. Consider the following questions when designing your rating scale:

  • Given what students are able to demonstrate in this assignment/assessment, what are the possible levels of achievement?
  • How many levels would you like to include (more levels means more detailed descriptions)
  • Will you use numbers and/or descriptive labels for each level of performance? (for example 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and/or Exceeds expectations, Accomplished, Proficient, Developing, Beginning, etc.)
  • Don’t use too many columns, and recognize that some criteria can have more columns that others . The rubric needs to be comprehensible and organized. Pick the right amount of columns so that the criteria flow logically and naturally across levels.

Step 6: Write descriptions for each level of the rating scale

Artificial Intelligence tools like Chat GPT have proven to be useful tools for creating a rubric. You will want to engineer your prompt that you provide the AI assistant to ensure you get what you want. For example, you might provide the assignment description, the criteria you feel are important, and the number of levels of performance you want in your prompt. Use the results as a starting point, and adjust the descriptions as needed.

Building a rubric from scratch

For a single-point rubric , describe what would be considered “proficient,” i.e. B-level work, and provide that description. You might also include suggestions for students outside of the actual rubric about how they might surpass proficient-level work.

For analytic and holistic rubrics , c reate statements of expected performance at each level of the rubric.

  • Consider what descriptor is appropriate for each criteria, e.g., presence vs absence, complete vs incomplete, many vs none, major vs minor, consistent vs inconsistent, always vs never. If you have an indicator described in one level, it will need to be described in each level.
  • You might start with the top/exemplary level. What does it look like when a student has achieved excellence for each/every criterion? Then, look at the “bottom” level. What does it look like when a student has not achieved the learning goals in any way? Then, complete the in-between levels.
  • For an analytic rubric , do this for each particular criterion of the rubric so that every cell in the table is filled. These descriptions help students understand your expectations and their performance in regard to those expectations.

Well-written descriptions:

  • Describe observable and measurable behavior
  • Use parallel language across the scale
  • Indicate the degree to which the standards are met

Step 7: Create your rubric

Create your rubric in a table or spreadsheet in Word, Google Docs, Sheets, etc., and then transfer it by typing it into Moodle. You can also use online tools to create the rubric, but you will still have to type the criteria, indicators, levels, etc., into Moodle. Rubric creators: Rubistar , iRubric

Step 8: Pilot-test your rubric

Prior to implementing your rubric on a live course, obtain feedback from:

  • Teacher assistants

Try out your new rubric on a sample of student work. After you pilot-test your rubric, analyze the results to consider its effectiveness and revise accordingly.

  • Limit the rubric to a single page for reading and grading ease
  • Use parallel language . Use similar language and syntax/wording from column to column. Make sure that the rubric can be easily read from left to right or vice versa.
  • Use student-friendly language . Make sure the language is learning-level appropriate. If you use academic language or concepts, you will need to teach those concepts.
  • Share and discuss the rubric with your students . Students should understand that the rubric is there to help them learn, reflect, and self-assess. If students use a rubric, they will understand the expectations and their relevance to learning.
  • Consider scalability and reusability of rubrics. Create rubric templates that you can alter as needed for multiple assignments.
  • Maximize the descriptiveness of your language. Avoid words like “good” and “excellent.” For example, instead of saying, “uses excellent sources,” you might describe what makes a resource excellent so that students will know. You might also consider reducing the reliance on quantity, such as a number of allowable misspelled words. Focus instead, for example, on how distracting any spelling errors are.

Example of an analytic rubric for a final paper

Above Average (4)Sufficient (3)Developing (2)Needs improvement (1)
(Thesis supported by relevant information and ideas The central purpose of the student work is clear and supporting ideas always are always well-focused. Details are relevant, enrich the work.The central purpose of the student work is clear and ideas are almost always focused in a way that supports the thesis. Relevant details illustrate the author’s ideas.The central purpose of the student work is identified. Ideas are mostly focused in a way that supports the thesis.The purpose of the student work is not well-defined. A number of central ideas do not support the thesis. Thoughts appear disconnected.
(Sequencing of elements/ ideas)Information and ideas are presented in a logical sequence which flows naturally and is engaging to the audience.Information and ideas are presented in a logical sequence which is followed by the reader with little or no difficulty.Information and ideas are presented in an order that the audience can mostly follow.Information and ideas are poorly sequenced. The audience has difficulty following the thread of thought.
(Correctness of grammar and spelling)Minimal to no distracting errors in grammar and spelling.The readability of the work is only slightly interrupted by spelling and/or grammatical errors.Grammatical and/or spelling errors distract from the work.The readability of the work is seriously hampered by spelling and/or grammatical errors.

Example of a holistic rubric for a final paper

The audience is able to easily identify the central message of the work and is engaged by the paper’s clear focus and relevant details. Information is presented logically and naturally. There are minimal to no distracting errors in grammar and spelling. : The audience is easily able to identify the focus of the student work which is supported by relevant ideas and supporting details. Information is presented in a logical manner that is easily followed. The readability of the work is only slightly interrupted by errors. : The audience can identify the central purpose of the student work without little difficulty and supporting ideas are present and clear. The information is presented in an orderly fashion that can be followed with little difficulty. Grammatical and spelling errors distract from the work. : The audience cannot clearly or easily identify the central ideas or purpose of the student work. Information is presented in a disorganized fashion causing the audience to have difficulty following the author’s ideas. The readability of the work is seriously hampered by errors.

Single-Point Rubric

Advanced (evidence of exceeding standards)Criteria described a proficient levelConcerns (things that need work)
Criteria #1: Description reflecting achievement of proficient level of performance
Criteria #2: Description reflecting achievement of proficient level of performance
Criteria #3: Description reflecting achievement of proficient level of performance
Criteria #4: Description reflecting achievement of proficient level of performance
90-100 points80-90 points<80 points

More examples:

  • Single Point Rubric Template ( variation )
  • Analytic Rubric Template make a copy to edit
  • A Rubric for Rubrics
  • Bank of Online Discussion Rubrics in different formats
  • Mathematical Presentations Descriptive Rubric
  • Math Proof Assessment Rubric
  • Kansas State Sample Rubrics
  • Design Single Point Rubric

Technology Tools: Rubrics in Moodle

  • Moodle Docs: Rubrics
  • Moodle Docs: Grading Guide (use for single-point rubrics)

Tools with rubrics (other than Moodle)

  • Google Assignments
  • Turnitin Assignments: Rubric or Grading Form

Other resources

  • DePaul University (n.d.). Rubrics .
  • Gonzalez, J. (2014). Know your terms: Holistic, Analytic, and Single-Point Rubrics . Cult of Pedagogy.
  • Goodrich, H. (1996). Understanding rubrics . Teaching for Authentic Student Performance, 54 (4), 14-17. Retrieved from   
  • Miller, A. (2012). Tame the beast: tips for designing and using rubrics.
  • Ragupathi, K., Lee, A. (2020). Beyond Fairness and Consistency in Grading: The Role of Rubrics in Higher Education. In: Sanger, C., Gleason, N. (eds) Diversity and Inclusion in Global Higher Education. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore.

Essay Papers Writing Online

Effective essay writing rubrics to enhance students’ skills and performance.

Essay writing rubrics

Essay writing is a fundamental skill that students must master to succeed academically. To help students improve their writing, educators often use rubrics as a tool for assessment and feedback. An essay writing rubric is a set of criteria that outlines what is expected in a well-crafted essay, providing students with clear guidelines for success.

Effective essay writing rubrics not only evaluate the quality of the content but also assess the organization, coherence, language use, and overall structure of an essay. By using a rubric, students can better understand what aspects of their writing need improvement and how to achieve higher grades.

This article will explore the importance of essay writing rubrics in academic success and provide tips on how students can use them to enhance their writing skills. By understanding and mastering the criteria outlined in a rubric, students can not only improve their writing but also excel in their academic endeavors.

Learn the Key Elements

When it comes to effective essay writing, understanding the key elements is essential for academic success. Here are some important elements to keep in mind:

  • Thesis Statement: A clear and concise thesis statement that presents the main idea of your essay.
  • Structure: A well-organized structure with introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
  • Evidence: Use relevant evidence and examples to support your arguments.
  • Analysis: Analyze the evidence provided and draw conclusions based on your analysis.
  • Clarity and Coherence: Ensure that your essay is clear, coherent, and easy to follow.

By mastering these key elements, you can improve your essay writing skills and achieve academic success.

Elements of Effective Essay Writing

When it comes to writing a successful essay, there are several key elements that you should keep in mind to ensure your work is of high quality. Here are some essential aspects to consider:

A strong thesis statement is the foundation of a well-written essay. It should clearly state the main argument or position you will be defending in your writing.
Your essay should have a logical flow and be well-organized. Make sure your ideas are presented in a coherent manner, with each paragraph contributing to the overall argument.
Your introduction should grab the reader’s attention and provide context for your argument, while the conclusion should summarize your main points and leave a lasting impression.
To support your argument, use relevant evidence and examples to back up your claims. This will make your essay more persuasive and convincing.
It is important to cite your sources properly to give credit where it is due and avoid plagiarism. Make sure to follow the appropriate citation style required by your academic institution.
Ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and coherent. Avoid jargon and convoluted sentences, and make sure your ideas are easy to follow for the reader.

Understand the Importance

Understanding the importance of essay writing rubrics is crucial for academic success. Rubrics provide clear criteria for evaluating and assessing essays, which helps both students and instructors. They help students understand what is expected of them, leading to more focused and organized writing. Rubrics also provide consistency in grading, ensuring that all students are evaluated fairly and objectively. By using rubrics, students can see where they excel and where they need to improve, making the feedback process more constructive and impactful.

of Clear and Concise Rubrics

of Clear and Concise Rubrics

One key aspect of effective essay writing rubrics is the clarity and conciseness of the criteria they outline. Clear and concise rubrics provide students with a roadmap for success and make grading more efficient for instructors. When creating rubrics, it is essential to clearly define the expectations for each aspect of the essay, including content, organization, style, and grammar.

By using language that is straightforward and easy to understand, students can easily grasp what is expected of them and how they will be evaluated. Additionally, concise rubrics avoid confusion and ambiguity, which can lead to frustration and misunderstanding among students.

Furthermore, clear and concise rubrics help instructors provide more targeted feedback to students, allowing them to focus on specific areas for improvement. This ultimately leads to better learning outcomes and helps students develop their writing skills more effectively.

Implement Structured Guidelines

Structured guidelines are essential for effective essay writing. These guidelines provide a framework for organizing your thoughts, ideas, and arguments in a logical and coherent manner. By implementing structured guidelines, you can ensure that your essay is well-organized, cohesive, and easy to follow.

One important aspect of structured guidelines is creating an outline before you start writing. An outline helps you plan the structure of your essay, including the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. It also helps you organize your ideas and ensure that your arguments flow logically from one point to the next.

Another important aspect of structured guidelines is using transitions to connect your ideas and arguments. Transitions help readers follow the flow of your essay and understand how one point relates to the next. They also help maintain the coherence and clarity of your writing.

Finally, structured guidelines include formatting requirements such as word count, font size, spacing, and citation style. Adhering to these formatting requirements ensures that your essay meets academic standards and is visually appealing to readers.

for Academic Excellence

When aiming for academic excellence in essay writing, it is essential to adhere to rigorous standards and criteria set by the educational institution. The use of effective essay writing rubrics can greatly enhance the quality of academic work by providing clear guidelines and criteria for assessment.

Academic excellence in essay writing involves demonstrating a deep understanding of the subject matter, presenting a well-structured argument, and showcasing critical thinking skills. Rubrics can help students focus on key elements such as thesis development, evidence analysis, organization, and clarity of expression.

By following a well-designed rubric, students can ensure that their essays meet the desired academic standards and expectations. Feedback provided based on the rubric can also help students identify areas for improvement and guide them towards achieving academic success.

Key Elements Criteria
Thesis Development Clear thesis statement that addresses the main argument
Evidence Analysis Use of relevant and credible evidence to support arguments
Organization Logical flow of ideas and effective paragraph structure
Clarity of Expression Clear and concise writing style with proper grammar and punctuation

Master the Art

Mastering the art of essay writing requires dedication, practice, and attention to detail. To become a proficient essay writer, one must develop strong writing skills, a clear and logical structure, as well as an effective argumentative style. Start by understanding the purpose of your essay and conducting thorough research to gather relevant information and evidence to support your claims.

Furthermore, pay close attention to grammar, punctuation, and spelling to ensure your work is polished and professional. Use essay writing rubrics as a guide to help you stay on track and meet the necessary criteria for academic success. Practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to revise and edit your work to improve your writing skills even further.

By mastering the art of essay writing through consistent practice and attention to detail, you can set yourself up for academic success and develop a valuable skill that will benefit you in various aspects of your life.

of Constructing Detailed Evaluations

Constructing detailed evaluations in essay writing rubrics is essential for providing specific feedback to students. When designing a rubric, it is important to consider the criteria that will be assessed and clearly define each level of performance. This involves breaking down the evaluation criteria into smaller, measurable components, which allows for more precise and accurate assessments.

Each criterion in the rubric should have a clear description of what is expected at each level of performance, from basic to proficient to advanced. This helps students understand the expectations and enables them to self-assess their work against the rubric. Additionally, including specific examples or descriptors for each level can further clarify the expectations and provide guidance to students.

Constructing detailed evaluations also involves ensuring that the rubric aligns with the learning objectives of the assignment. By mapping the evaluation criteria to the desired learning outcomes, instructors can ensure that the rubric accurately reflects what students are expected to demonstrate in their essays. This alignment helps students see the relevance of the assessment criteria and encourages them to strive for mastery of the material.

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15 Helpful Scoring Rubric Examples for All Grades and Subjects

In the end, they actually make grading easier.

Collage of scoring rubric examples including written response rubric and interactive notebook rubric

When it comes to student assessment and evaluation, there are a lot of methods to consider. In some cases, testing is the best way to assess a student’s knowledge, and the answers are either right or wrong. But often, assessing a student’s performance is much less clear-cut. In these situations, a scoring rubric is often the way to go, especially if you’re using standards-based grading . Here’s what you need to know about this useful tool, along with lots of rubric examples to get you started.

What is a scoring rubric?

In the United States, a rubric is a guide that lays out the performance expectations for an assignment. It helps students understand what’s required of them, and guides teachers through the evaluation process. (Note that in other countries, the term “rubric” may instead refer to the set of instructions at the beginning of an exam. To avoid confusion, some people use the term “scoring rubric” instead.)

A rubric generally has three parts:

  • Performance criteria: These are the various aspects on which the assignment will be evaluated. They should align with the desired learning outcomes for the assignment.
  • Rating scale: This could be a number system (often 1 to 4) or words like “exceeds expectations, meets expectations, below expectations,” etc.
  • Indicators: These describe the qualities needed to earn a specific rating for each of the performance criteria. The level of detail may vary depending on the assignment and the purpose of the rubric itself.

Rubrics take more time to develop up front, but they help ensure more consistent assessment, especially when the skills being assessed are more subjective. A well-developed rubric can actually save teachers a lot of time when it comes to grading. What’s more, sharing your scoring rubric with students in advance often helps improve performance . This way, students have a clear picture of what’s expected of them and what they need to do to achieve a specific grade or performance rating.

Learn more about why and how to use a rubric here.

Types of Rubric

There are three basic rubric categories, each with its own purpose.

Holistic Rubric

A holistic scoring rubric laying out the criteria for a rating of 1 to 4 when creating an infographic

Source: Cambrian College

This type of rubric combines all the scoring criteria in a single scale. They’re quick to create and use, but they have drawbacks. If a student’s work spans different levels, it can be difficult to decide which score to assign. They also make it harder to provide feedback on specific aspects.

Traditional letter grades are a type of holistic rubric. So are the popular “hamburger rubric” and “ cupcake rubric ” examples. Learn more about holistic rubrics here.

Analytic Rubric

Layout of an analytic scoring rubric, describing the different sections like criteria, rating, and indicators

Source: University of Nebraska

Analytic rubrics are much more complex and generally take a great deal more time up front to design. They include specific details of the expected learning outcomes, and descriptions of what criteria are required to meet various performance ratings in each. Each rating is assigned a point value, and the total number of points earned determines the overall grade for the assignment.

Though they’re more time-intensive to create, analytic rubrics actually save time while grading. Teachers can simply circle or highlight any relevant phrases in each rating, and add a comment or two if needed. They also help ensure consistency in grading, and make it much easier for students to understand what’s expected of them.

Learn more about analytic rubrics here.

Developmental Rubric

A developmental rubric for kindergarten skills, with illustrations to describe the indicators of criteria

Source: Deb’s Data Digest

A developmental rubric is a type of analytic rubric, but it’s used to assess progress along the way rather than determining a final score on an assignment. The details in these rubrics help students understand their achievements, as well as highlight the specific skills they still need to improve.

Developmental rubrics are essentially a subset of analytic rubrics. They leave off the point values, though, and focus instead on giving feedback using the criteria and indicators of performance.

Learn how to use developmental rubrics here.

Ready to create your own rubrics? Find general tips on designing rubrics here. Then, check out these examples across all grades and subjects to inspire you.

Elementary School Rubric Examples

These elementary school rubric examples come from real teachers who use them with their students. Adapt them to fit your needs and grade level.

Reading Fluency Rubric

A developmental rubric example for reading fluency

You can use this one as an analytic rubric by counting up points to earn a final score, or just to provide developmental feedback. There’s a second rubric page available specifically to assess prosody (reading with expression).

Learn more: Teacher Thrive

Reading Comprehension Rubric

Reading comprehension rubric, with criteria and indicators for different comprehension skills

The nice thing about this rubric is that you can use it at any grade level, for any text. If you like this style, you can get a reading fluency rubric here too.

Learn more: Pawprints Resource Center

Written Response Rubric

Two anchor charts, one showing

Rubrics aren’t just for huge projects. They can also help kids work on very specific skills, like this one for improving written responses on assessments.

Learn more: Dianna Radcliffe: Teaching Upper Elementary and More

Interactive Notebook Rubric

Interactive Notebook rubric example, with criteria and indicators for assessment

If you use interactive notebooks as a learning tool , this rubric can help kids stay on track and meet your expectations.

Learn more: Classroom Nook

Project Rubric

Rubric that can be used for assessing any elementary school project

Use this simple rubric as it is, or tweak it to include more specific indicators for the project you have in mind.

Learn more: Tales of a Title One Teacher

Behavior Rubric

Rubric for assessing student behavior in school and classroom

Developmental rubrics are perfect for assessing behavior and helping students identify opportunities for improvement. Send these home regularly to keep parents in the loop.

Learn more: Teachers.net Gazette

Middle School Rubric Examples

In middle school, use rubrics to offer detailed feedback on projects, presentations, and more. Be sure to share them with students in advance, and encourage them to use them as they work so they’ll know if they’re meeting expectations.

Argumentative Writing Rubric

An argumentative rubric example to use with middle school students

Argumentative writing is a part of language arts, social studies, science, and more. That makes this rubric especially useful.

Learn more: Dr. Caitlyn Tucker

Role-Play Rubric

A rubric example for assessing student role play in the classroom

Role-plays can be really useful when teaching social and critical thinking skills, but it’s hard to assess them. Try a rubric like this one to evaluate and provide useful feedback.

Learn more: A Question of Influence

Art Project Rubric

A rubric used to grade middle school art projects

Art is one of those subjects where grading can feel very subjective. Bring some objectivity to the process with a rubric like this.

Source: Art Ed Guru

Diorama Project Rubric

A rubric for grading middle school diorama projects

You can use diorama projects in almost any subject, and they’re a great chance to encourage creativity. Simplify the grading process and help kids know how to make their projects shine with this scoring rubric.

Learn more: Historyourstory.com

Oral Presentation Rubric

Rubric example for grading oral presentations given by middle school students

Rubrics are terrific for grading presentations, since you can include a variety of skills and other criteria. Consider letting students use a rubric like this to offer peer feedback too.

Learn more: Bright Hub Education

High School Rubric Examples

In high school, it’s important to include your grading rubrics when you give assignments like presentations, research projects, or essays. Kids who go on to college will definitely encounter rubrics, so helping them become familiar with them now will help in the future.

Presentation Rubric

Example of a rubric used to grade a high school project presentation

Analyze a student’s presentation both for content and communication skills with a rubric like this one. If needed, create a separate one for content knowledge with even more criteria and indicators.

Learn more: Michael A. Pena Jr.

Debate Rubric

A rubric for assessing a student's performance in a high school debate

Debate is a valuable learning tool that encourages critical thinking and oral communication skills. This rubric can help you assess those skills objectively.

Learn more: Education World

Project-Based Learning Rubric

A rubric for assessing high school project based learning assignments

Implementing project-based learning can be time-intensive, but the payoffs are worth it. Try this rubric to make student expectations clear and end-of-project assessment easier.

Learn more: Free Technology for Teachers

100-Point Essay Rubric

Rubric for scoring an essay with a final score out of 100 points

Need an easy way to convert a scoring rubric to a letter grade? This example for essay writing earns students a final score out of 100 points.

Learn more: Learn for Your Life

Drama Performance Rubric

A rubric teachers can use to evaluate a student's participation and performance in a theater production

If you’re unsure how to grade a student’s participation and performance in drama class, consider this example. It offers lots of objective criteria and indicators to evaluate.

Learn more: Chase March

How do you use rubrics in your classroom? Come share your thoughts and exchange ideas in the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook .

Plus, 25 of the best alternative assessment ideas ..

Scoring rubrics help establish expectations and ensure assessment consistency. Use these rubric examples to help you design your own.

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Writing Beginner

Writing Rubrics [Examples, Best Practices, & Free Templates]

Writing rubrics are essential tools for teachers.

Rubrics can improve both teaching and learning. This guide will explain writing rubrics, their benefits, and how to create and use them effectively.

What Is a Writing Rubric?

Writer typing at a vintage desk, with a stormy night outside -- Writing Rubrics

Table of Contents

A writing rubric is a scoring guide used to evaluate written work.

It lists criteria and describes levels of quality from excellent to poor. Rubrics provide a standardized way to assess writing.

They make expectations clear and grading consistent.

Key Components of a Writing Rubric

  • Criteria : Specific aspects of writing being evaluated (e.g., grammar, organization).
  • Descriptors : Detailed descriptions of what each level of performance looks like.
  • Scoring Levels : Typically, a range (e.g., 1-4 or 1-6) showing levels of mastery.

Example Breakdown

Criteria4 (Excellent)3 (Good)2 (Fair)1 (Poor)
GrammarNo errorsFew minor errorsSeveral errorsMany errors
OrganizationClear and logicalMostly clearSomewhat clearNot clear
ContentThorough and insightfulGood, but not thoroughBasic, lacks insightIncomplete or off-topic

Benefits of Using Writing Rubrics

Writing rubrics offer many advantages:

  • Clarity : Rubrics clarify expectations for students. They know what is required for each level of performance.
  • Consistency : Rubrics standardize grading. This ensures fairness and consistency across different students and assignments.
  • Feedback : Rubrics provide detailed feedback. Students understand their strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Efficiency : Rubrics streamline the grading process. Teachers can evaluate work more quickly and systematically.
  • Self-Assessment : Students can use rubrics to self-assess. This promotes reflection and responsibility for their learning.

Examples of Writing Rubrics

Here are some examples of writing rubrics.

Narrative Writing Rubric

Criteria4 (Excellent)3 (Good)2 (Fair)1 (Poor)
Story ElementsWell-developedDeveloped, some detailsBasic, missing detailsUnderdeveloped
CreativityHighly creativeCreativeSome creativityLacks creativity
GrammarNo errorsFew minor errorsSeveral errorsMany errors
OrganizationClear and logicalMostly clearSomewhat clearNot clear
Language UseRich and variedVariedLimitedBasic or inappropriate

Persuasive Writing Rubric

Criteria4 (Excellent)3 (Good)2 (Fair)1 (Poor)
ArgumentStrong and convincingConvincing, some gapsBasic, lacks supportWeak or unsupported
EvidenceStrong and relevantRelevant, but not strongSome relevant, weakIrrelevant or missing
GrammarNo errorsFew minor errorsSeveral errorsMany errors
OrganizationClear and logicalMostly clearSomewhat clearNot clear
Language UsePersuasive and engagingEngagingSomewhat engagingNot engaging

Best Practices for Creating Writing Rubrics

Let’s look at some best practices for creating useful writing rubrics.

1. Define Clear Criteria

Identify specific aspects of writing to evaluate. Be clear and precise.

The criteria should reflect the key components of the writing task. For example, for a narrative essay, criteria might include plot development, character depth, and use of descriptive language.

Clear criteria help students understand what is expected and allow teachers to provide targeted feedback.

Insider Tip : Collaborate with colleagues to establish consistent criteria across grade levels. This ensures uniformity in expectations and assessments.

2. Use Detailed Descriptors

Describe what each level of performance looks like.

This ensures transparency and clarity. Avoid vague language. Instead of saying “good,” describe what “good” entails. For example, “Few minor grammatical errors that do not impede readability.”

Detailed descriptors help students gauge their performance accurately.

Insider Tip : Use student work samples to illustrate each performance level. This provides concrete examples and helps students visualize expectations.

3. Involve Students

Involve students in the rubric creation process. This increases their understanding and buy-in.

Ask for their input on what they think is important in their writing.

This collaborative approach not only demystifies the grading process but also fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility in students.

Insider Tip : Conduct a workshop where students help create a rubric for an upcoming assignment. This interactive session can clarify doubts and make students more invested in their work.

4. Align with Objectives

Ensure the rubric aligns with learning objectives. This ensures relevance and focus.

If the objective is to enhance persuasive writing skills, the rubric should emphasize argument strength, evidence quality, and persuasive techniques.

Alignment ensures that the assessment directly supports instructional goals.

Insider Tip : Regularly revisit and update rubrics to reflect changes in curriculum and instructional priorities. This keeps the rubrics relevant and effective.

5. Review and Revise

Regularly review and revise rubrics. Ensure they remain accurate and effective.

Solicit feedback from students and colleagues. Continuous improvement of rubrics ensures they remain a valuable tool for both assessment and instruction.

Insider Tip : After using a rubric, take notes on its effectiveness. Were students confused by any criteria? Did the rubric cover all necessary aspects of the assignment? Use these observations to make adjustments.

6. Be Consistent

Use the rubric consistently across all assignments.

This ensures fairness and reliability. Consistency in applying the rubric helps build trust with students and maintains the integrity of the assessment process.

Insider Tip : Develop a grading checklist to accompany the rubric. This can help ensure that all criteria are consistently applied and none are overlooked during the grading process.

7. Provide Examples

Provide examples of each performance level.

This helps students understand expectations. Use annotated examples to show why a particular piece of writing meets a specific level.

This visual and practical demonstration can be more effective than descriptions alone.

Insider Tip : Create a portfolio of exemplar works for different assignments. This can be a valuable resource for both new and experienced teachers to standardize grading.

How to Use Writing Rubrics Effectively

Here is how to use writing rubrics like the pros.

1. Introduce Rubrics Early

Introduce rubrics at the beginning of the assignment.

Explain each criterion and performance level. This upfront clarity helps students understand what is expected and guides their work from the start.

Insider Tip : Conduct a rubric walkthrough session where you discuss each part of the rubric in detail. Allow students to ask questions and provide examples to illustrate each criterion.

2. Use Rubrics as a Teaching Tool

Use rubrics to teach writing skills. Discuss what constitutes good writing and why.

This can be an opportunity to reinforce lessons on grammar, organization, and other writing components.

Insider Tip : Pair the rubric with writing workshops. Use the rubric to critique sample essays and show students how to apply the rubric to improve their own writing.

3. Provide Feedback

Use the rubric to give detailed feedback. Highlight strengths and areas for improvement.

This targeted feedback helps students understand their performance and learn how to improve.

Insider Tip : Instead of just marking scores, add comments next to each criterion on the rubric. This personalized feedback can be more impactful and instructive for students.

4. Encourage Self-Assessment

Encourage students to use rubrics to self-assess.

This promotes reflection and growth. Before submitting their work, ask students to evaluate their own writing against the rubric.

This practice fosters self-awareness and critical thinking.

Insider Tip : Incorporate self-assessment as a mandatory step in the assignment process. Provide a simplified version of the rubric for students to use during self-assessment.

5. Use Rubrics for Peer Assessment

Use rubrics for peer assessment. This allows students to learn from each other.

Peer assessments can provide new perspectives and reinforce learning.

Insider Tip : Conduct a peer assessment workshop. Train students on how to use the rubric to evaluate each other’s work constructively. This can improve the quality of peer feedback.

6. Reflect and Improve

Reflect on the effectiveness of the rubric. Make adjustments as needed for future assignments.

Continuous reflection ensures that rubrics remain relevant and effective tools for assessment and learning.

Insider Tip : After an assignment, hold a debrief session with students to gather their feedback on the rubric. Use their insights to make improvements.

Check out this video about using writing rubrics:

Common Mistakes with Writing Rubrics

Creating and using writing rubrics can be incredibly effective, but there are common mistakes that can undermine their effectiveness.

Here are some pitfalls to avoid:

1. Vague Criteria

Vague criteria can confuse students and lead to inconsistent grading.

Ensure that each criterion is specific and clearly defined. Ambiguous terms like “good” or “satisfactory” should be replaced with concrete descriptions of what those levels of performance look like.

2. Overly Complex Rubrics

While detail is important, overly complex rubrics can be overwhelming for both students and teachers.

Too many criteria and performance levels can complicate the grading process and make it difficult for students to understand what is expected.

Keep rubrics concise and focused on the most important aspects of the assignment.

3. Inconsistent Application

Applying the rubric inconsistently can lead to unfair grading.

Ensure that you apply the rubric in the same way for all students and all assignments. Consistency builds trust and ensures that grades accurately reflect student performance.

4. Ignoring Student Input

Ignoring student input when creating rubrics can result in criteria that do not align with student understanding or priorities.

Involving students in the creation process can enhance their understanding and engagement with the rubric.

5. Failing to Update Rubrics

Rubrics should evolve to reflect changes in instructional goals and student needs.

Failing to update rubrics can result in outdated criteria that no longer align with current teaching objectives.

Regularly review and revise rubrics to keep them relevant and effective.

6. Lack of Examples

Without examples, students may struggle to understand the expectations for each performance level.

Providing annotated examples of work that meets each criterion can help students visualize what is required and guide their efforts more effectively.

7. Not Providing Feedback

Rubrics should be used as a tool for feedback, not just scoring.

Simply assigning a score without providing detailed feedback can leave students unclear about their strengths and areas for improvement.

Use the rubric to give comprehensive feedback that guides students’ growth.

8. Overlooking Self-Assessment and Peer Assessment

Self-assessment and peer assessment are valuable components of the learning process.

Overlooking these opportunities can limit students’ ability to reflect on their own work and learn from their peers.

Encourage students to use the rubric for self and peer assessment to deepen their understanding and enhance their skills.

What Is a Holistic Scoring Rubric for Writing?

A holistic scoring rubric for writing is a type of rubric that evaluates a piece of writing as a whole rather than breaking it down into separate criteria

This approach provides a single overall score based on the general impression of the writing’s quality and effectiveness.

Here’s a closer look at holistic scoring rubrics.

Key Features of Holistic Scoring Rubrics

  • Single Overall Score : Assigns one score based on the overall quality of the writing.
  • General Criteria : Focuses on the overall effectiveness, coherence, and impact of the writing.
  • Descriptors : Uses broad descriptors for each score level to capture the general characteristics of the writing.

Example Holistic Scoring Rubric

ScoreDescription
5 : Exceptionally clear, engaging, and well-organized writing. Demonstrates excellent control of language, grammar, and style.
4 : Clear and well-organized writing. Minor errors do not detract from the overall quality. Demonstrates good control of language and style.
3 : Satisfactory writing with some organizational issues. Contains a few errors that may distract but do not impede understanding.
2 : Basic writing that lacks organization and contains several errors. Demonstrates limited control of language and style.
1 : Unclear and poorly organized writing. Contains numerous errors that impede understanding. Demonstrates poor control of language and style.

Advantages of Holistic Scoring Rubrics

  • Efficiency : Faster to use because it involves a single overall judgment rather than multiple criteria.
  • Flexibility : Allows for a more intuitive assessment of the writing’s overall impact and effectiveness.
  • Comprehensiveness : Captures the overall quality of writing, considering all elements together.

Disadvantages of Holistic Scoring Rubrics

  • Less Detailed Feedback : Provides a general score without specific feedback on individual aspects of writing.
  • Subjectivity : Can be more subjective, as it relies on the assessor’s overall impression rather than specific criteria.
  • Limited Diagnostic Use : Less useful for identifying specific areas of strength and weakness for instructional purposes.

When to Use Holistic Scoring Rubrics

  • Quick Assessments : When a quick, overall evaluation is needed.
  • Standardized Testing : Often used in standardized testing scenarios where consistency and efficiency are priorities.
  • Initial Impressions : Useful for providing an initial overall impression before more detailed analysis.

Free Writing Rubric Templates

Feel free to use the following writing rubric templates.

You can easily copy and paste them into a Word Document. Please do credit this website on any written, printed, or published use.

Otherwise, go wild.

Criteria4 (Excellent)3 (Good)2 (Fair)1 (Poor)
Well-developed, engaging, and clear plot, characters, and setting.Developed plot, characters, and setting with some details missing.Basic plot, characters, and setting; lacks details.Underdeveloped plot, characters, and setting.
Highly creative and original.Creative with some originality.Some creativity but lacks originality.Lacks creativity and originality.
No grammatical errors.Few minor grammatical errors.Several grammatical errors.Numerous grammatical errors.
Clear and logical structure.Mostly clear structure.Somewhat clear structure.Lacks clear structure.
Rich, varied, and appropriate language.Varied and appropriate language.Limited language variety.Basic or inappropriate language.
Criteria4 (Excellent)3 (Good)2 (Fair)1 (Poor)
Strong, clear, and convincing argument.Convincing argument with minor gaps.Basic argument; lacks strong support.Weak or unsupported argument.
Strong, relevant, and well-integrated evidence.Relevant evidence but not strong.Some relevant evidence, but weak.Irrelevant or missing evidence.
No grammatical errors.Few minor grammatical errors.Several grammatical errors.Numerous grammatical errors.
Clear and logical structure.Mostly clear structure.Somewhat clear structure.Lacks clear structure.
Persuasive and engaging language.Engaging language.Somewhat engaging language.Not engaging language.

Expository Writing Rubric

Criteria4 (Excellent)3 (Good)2 (Fair)1 (Poor)
Thorough, accurate, and insightful content.Accurate content with some details missing.Basic content; lacks depth.Incomplete or inaccurate content.
Clear and concise explanations.Mostly clear explanations.Somewhat clear explanations.Unclear explanations.
No grammatical errors.Few minor grammatical errors.Several grammatical errors.Numerous grammatical errors.
Clear and logical structure.Mostly clear structure.Somewhat clear structure.Lacks clear structure.
Precise and appropriate language.Appropriate language.Limited language variety.Basic or inappropriate language.

Descriptive Writing Rubric

Criteria4 (Excellent)3 (Good)2 (Fair)1 (Poor)
Vivid and detailed imagery that engages the senses.Detailed imagery with minor gaps.Basic imagery; lacks vivid details.Little to no imagery.
Highly creative and original descriptions.Creative with some originality.Some creativity but lacks originality.Lacks creativity and originality.
No grammatical errors.Few minor grammatical errors.Several grammatical errors.Numerous grammatical errors.
Clear and logical structure.Mostly clear structure.Somewhat clear structure.Lacks clear structure.
Rich, varied, and appropriate language.Varied and appropriate language.Limited language variety.Basic or inappropriate language.

Analytical Writing Rubric

Criteria4 (Excellent)3 (Good)2 (Fair)1 (Poor)
Insightful, thorough, and well-supported analysis.Good analysis with some depth.Basic analysis; lacks depth.Weak or unsupported analysis.
Strong, relevant, and well-integrated evidence.Relevant evidence but not strong.Some relevant evidence, but weak.Irrelevant or missing evidence.
No grammatical errors.Few minor grammatical errors.Several grammatical errors.Numerous grammatical errors.
Clear and logical structure.Mostly clear structure.Somewhat clear structure.Lacks clear structure.
Precise and appropriate language.Appropriate language.Limited language variety.Basic or inappropriate language.

Final Thoughts: Writing Rubrics

I have a lot more resources for teaching on this site.

Check out some of the blog posts I’ve listed below. I think you might enjoy them.

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Written by Arthur Russell

Just about every discussion of rubrics begins with a caveat: writing rubrics are not a substitute for writing instruction. Rubrics are tools for communicating grading criteria and assessing student progress. Rubrics take a variety of forms, from grids to checklists , and measure a range of writing tasks, from conceptual design to sentence-level considerations.  

As with any assessment tool, a rubric’s effectiveness is entirely dependent upon its design and its deployment in the classroom. Whatever form rubrics take, the criteria for assessment must be legible to all students—if students cannot decipher our rubrics, they are not useful.  

When effectively integrated with writing instruction, rubrics can help instructors clarify their own expectations for written work, isolate specific elements as targets of instruction, and provide meaningful feedback and coaching to students. Well-designed rubrics will draw program learning outcomes, assignment prompts, course instruction and assessment into alignment. 

Starting Points

Course rubrics vs. assignment rubrics.

Instructors may choose to use a standard rubric for evaluating all written work completed in a course. Course rubrics provide instructors and students a shared language for communicating the values and expectations of written work over the course of an entire semester. Best practices suggest that establishing grading criteria with students well in advance helps instructors compose focused, revision-oriented feedback on drafts and final papers and better coach student writers. When deploying course rubrics in writing-intensive courses, consider using them to guide peer review and self-evaluation processes with students. The more often students work with established criteria, the more likely they are to respond to and incorporate feedback in future projects.

At the same time, not every assignment needs to assess every aspect of the writing process every time. Particularly early in the semester, instructors may develop assignment-specific rubrics that target one or two standards. Prioritizing a specific learning objective or writing process in an assignment rubric allows instructors to concentrate time spent on in-class writing instruction and encourages students to develop targeted aspects of their writing processes.  

Developing Evaluation Criteria

  • Establish clear categories. What specific learning objectives (i.e. critical and creative thinking, inquiry and analysis) and writing processes (i.e. summary, synthesis, source analysis, argument and response) are most critical to success for each assignment? 
  • Establish observable and measurable criteria of success. For example, consider what counts for “clarity” in written work. For a research paper, clarity might attend to purpose: a successful paper will have a well-defined purpose (thesis, takeaway), integrate and explain evidence to support all claims, and pay careful attention to purpose, context, and audience. 
  • Adopt student-friendly language. When using academic terminology and discipline-specific concepts, be sure to define and discuss these concepts with students. When in doubt , VALUE rubrics are excellent models of clearly defined learning objective and distinguishing criteria.  

Sticking Points: Writing Rubrics in the Disciplines  

Even the most carefully planned rubrics are not self-evident. The language we have adopted for writing assessment is itself a potential obstacle to student learning and success . What we count for “clarity” or “accuracy” or “insight” in academic writing, for instance, is likely shaped by our disciplinary expectations and measured by the standards of our respective fields. What counts for “good writing” is more subjective than our rubrics may suggest. Similarly, students arrive in our courses with their own understanding and experiences of academic writing that may or may not be reflected in our assignment prompts. 

Defining the terms for success with students in class and in conference will go a long way  toward bridging these gaps. We might even use rubrics as conversation starters, not only as an occasion to communicate our expectations for written work, but also as an opportunity to demystify the rhetorical contexts of discipline-specific writing with students.

Helpful Resources  

For a short introduction to rubric design, the Creating Rubrics guide developed by Louise Pasternack (2014) for the  Center for Teaching  Excellence and Innovation is an excellent resource.  The step-by-step tutorials developed by North Carolina State University and DePaul Teaching Commons are especially useful for instructors preparing rubrics from scratch.  On the use of rubrics for writing instruction and assignments in particular, Heidi Andrade’s “Teaching with Rubrics: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” provides an instructive overview of the benefits and drawbacks of using rubrics.  For a more in-depth introduction (with sample rubrics), Melzer and Bean’s “Using Rubrics to Develop and Apply Grading Criteria” in  Engaging Ideas  is essential reading. 

Cited and Recommended Sources

  • Andrade, Heidi Goodrich. “Teaching with Rubrics: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” College Teaching , vol. 53, no. 1, 2005, pp. 27–30, http://www.jstor.org/stable/27559213  
  • Athon, Amanda. “Designing Rubrics to Foster Students’ Diverse Language Backgrounds.” Journal of Basic Writing , vol. 38, No.1, 2019, pp. 78–103, https://doi.org/10.37514/JBW-J.2019.38.1.05  
  • Bennett, Cary. “Assessment Rubrics: Thinking inside the Boxes.” Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences , vol. 9, no. 1, 2016, pp. 50–72,  http://www.jstor.org/stable/24718020  
  • Broad, Bob. What We Really Value: Beyond Rubrics in Teaching and Assessing Writing . University Press of Colorado, 2003. https://doi-org.proxy1.library.jhu.edu/10.2307/j.ctt46nxvm  
  • Melzer, Dan, and John C. Bean. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom . 3rd ed., Jossey-Bass, 2021 (esp. pp. 253-277), https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.proxy1.library.jhu.edu/lib/jhu/detail.action?docID=6632622  
  • Pasternack, Louise. “Creating Rubrics,” The Innovative Instructor Blog , Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation, Johns Hopkins University, 21 Nov. 2014.  
  • Reynders, G., et al. “Rubrics to assess critical thinking and information processing in undergraduate STEM courses.” International Journal of STEM Education vol. 7, no. 9, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40594-020-00208-5  
  • Turley, Eric D., and Chris W. Gallagher. “On the ‘Uses’ of Rubrics: Reframing the Great Rubric Debate.” The English Journal , vol. 97, no. 4, 2008, pp. 87–92, http://www.jstor.org/stable/30047253  
  • Wiggins, Grant. “The Constant Danger of Sacrificing Validity to Reliability: Making Writing Assessment Serve Writers.” Assessing Writing , vol. 1, no. 1, 1994, pp. 129-139, https://doi.org/10.1016/1075-2935(94)90008-6  

Essay Rubric

Essay Rubric

About this printout

This rubric delineates specific expectations about an essay assignment to students and provides a means of assessing completed student essays.

Teaching with this printout

More ideas to try.

Grading rubrics can be of great benefit to both you and your students. For you, a rubric saves time and decreases subjectivity. Specific criteria are explicitly stated, facilitating the grading process and increasing your objectivity. For students, the use of grading rubrics helps them to meet or exceed expectations, to view the grading process as being “fair,” and to set goals for future learning. In order to help your students meet or exceed expectations of the assignment, be sure to discuss the rubric with your students when you assign an essay. It is helpful to show them examples of written pieces that meet and do not meet the expectations. As an added benefit, because the criteria are explicitly stated, the use of the rubric decreases the likelihood that students will argue about the grade they receive. The explicitness of the expectations helps students know exactly why they lost points on the assignment and aids them in setting goals for future improvement.

  • Routinely have students score peers’ essays using the rubric as the assessment tool. This increases their level of awareness of the traits that distinguish successful essays from those that fail to meet the criteria. Have peer editors use the Reviewer’s Comments section to add any praise, constructive criticism, or questions.
  • Alter some expectations or add additional traits on the rubric as needed. Students’ needs may necessitate making more rigorous criteria for advanced learners or less stringent guidelines for younger or special needs students. Furthermore, the content area for which the essay is written may require some alterations to the rubric. In social studies, for example, an essay about geographical landforms and their effect on the culture of a region might necessitate additional criteria about the use of specific terminology.
  • After you and your students have used the rubric, have them work in groups to make suggested alterations to the rubric to more precisely match their needs or the parameters of a particular writing assignment.
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Academic essay rubric

This is a grading rubric an instructor uses to assess students’ work on this type of assignment. It is a sample rubric that needs to be edited to reflect the specifics of a particular assignment. 

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Want to follow step-by-step instructions for building your own rubric? Visit the Bok Center's !

Whenever we give feedback, it inevitably reflects our priorities and expectations about the assignment. In other words, we're using a rubric to choose which elements (e.g., right/wrong answer, work shown, thesis analysis, style, etc.) receive more or less feedback and what counts as a "good thesis" or a "less good thesis." When we evaluate student work, that is, we always have a rubric. The question is how consciously we’re applying it, whether we’re transparent with students about what it is, whether it’s aligned with what students are learning in our course, and whether we’re applying it consistently. The more we’re doing all of the following, the more consistent and equitable our feedback and grading will be:

Being conscious of your rubric ideally means having one written out, with explicit criteria and concrete features that describe more/less successful versions of each criterion. If you don't have a rubric written out, you can use this assignment prompt decoder for TFs & TAs to determine which elements and criteria should be the focus of your rubric.

Being transparent with students about your rubric means sharing it with them ahead of time and making sure they understand it. This assignment prompt decoder for students is designed to facilitate this discussion between students and instructors.

Aligning your rubric with your course means articulating the relationship between “this” assignment and the ones that scaffold up and build from it, which ideally involves giving students the chance to practice different elements of the assignment and get formative feedback before they’re asked to submit material that will be graded. For more ideas and advice on how this looks, see the " Formative Assignments " page at Gen Ed Writes.

Applying your rubric consistently means using a stable vocabulary when making your comments and keeping your feedback focused on the criteria in your rubric.

How to Build a Rubric

Rubrics and assignment prompts are two sides of a coin. If you’ve already created a prompt, you should have all of the information you need to make a rubric. Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way, and that itself turns out to be an advantage of making rubrics: it’s a great way to test whether your prompt is in fact communicating to students everything they need to know about the assignment they’ll be doing.

So what do students need to know? In general, assignment prompts boil down to a small number of common elements :

  • Evidence and Analysis
  • Style and Conventions
  • Specific Guidelines
  • Advice on Process

If an assignment prompt is clearly addressing each of these elements, then students know what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and when/how/for whom they’re doing it. From the standpoint of a rubric, we can see how these elements correspond to the criteria for feedback:

1. Purpose  
2. Genre Does it have a clear thesis (if it’s an expository essay)? Does it have method and results sections (if it’s a lab report)?
3. Evidence and Analysis Does it use the kinds/number of sources laid out in the prompt? Does it stick to, or move beyond, summary (depending on whether it’s more of an analysis or a reconstruction of someone else’s argument)?
4. Audience Is it appropriately aimed at scholars, peers, general readers, ... ?
5. Style and Conventions MLA or APA? Clarity and proofreading etc.
6. Specific Guidelines Submitted on time, to the designated folder, in the designated format?
7. Advice on process  

All of these criteria can be weighed and given feedback, and they’re all things that students can be taught and given opportunities to practice. That makes them good criteria for a rubric, and that in turn is why they belong in every assignment prompt.

Which leaves “purpose” and “advice on process.” These elements are, in a sense, the heart and engine of any assignment, but their role in a rubric will differ from assignment to assignment. Here are a couple of ways to think about each.

On the one hand, “purpose” is the rationale for how the other elements are working in an assignment, and so feedback on them adds up to feedback on the skills students are learning vis-a-vis the overall purpose. In that sense, separately grading whether students have achieved an assignment’s “purpose” can be tricky.

On the other hand, metacognitive components such as journals or cover letters or artist statements are a great way for students to tie work on their assignment to the broader (often future-oriented) reasons why they’ve been doing the assignment. Making this kind of component a small part of the overall grade, e.g., 5% and/or part of “specific guidelines,” can allow it to be a nudge toward a meaningful self-reflection for students on what they’ve been learning and how it might build toward other assignments or experiences.

Advice on process

As with “purpose,” “advice on process” often amounts to helping students break down an assignment into the elements they’ll get feedback on. In that sense, feedback on those steps is often more informal or aimed at giving students practice with skills or components that will be parts of the bigger assignment.

For those reasons, though, the kind of feedback we give students on smaller steps has its own (even if ungraded) rubric. For example, if a prompt asks students to  propose a research question as part of the bigger project, they might get feedback on whether it can be answered by evidence, or whether it has a feasible scope, or who the audience for its findings might be. All of those criteria, in turn, could—and ideally would—later be part of the rubric for the graded project itself. Or perhaps students are submitting earlier, smaller components of an assignment for separate grades; or are expected to submit separate components all together at the end as a portfolio, perhaps together with a cover letter or artist statement .

Using Rubrics Effectively

In the same way that rubrics can facilitate the design phase of assignment, they can also facilitate the teaching and feedback phases, including of course grading. Here are a few ways this can work in a course:

Discuss the rubric ahead of time with your teaching team. Getting on the same page about what students will be doing and how different parts of the assignment fit together is, in effect, laying out what needs to happen in class and in section, both in terms of what students need to learn and practice, and how the coming days or weeks should be sequenced.

Share the rubric with your students ahead of time. For the same reason it's ideal for course heads to discuss rubrics with their teaching team, it’s ideal for the teaching team to discuss the rubric with students. Not only does the rubric lay out the different skills students will learn during an assignment and which skills are more or less important for that assignment,  it means that the formative feedback they get along the way is more legible as getting practice on elements of the “bigger assignment.” To be sure, this can’t always happen. Rubrics aren’t always up and running at the beginning of an assignment, and sometimes they emerge more inductively during the feedback and grading process, as instructors take stock of what students have actually submitted. In both cases, later is better than never—there’s no need to make the perfect the enemy of the good. Circulating a rubric at the time you return student work can still be a valuable tool to help students see the relationship between the learning objectives and goals of the assignment and the feedback and grade they’ve received.

Discuss the rubric with your teaching team during the grading process. If your assignment has a rubric, it’s important to make sure that everyone who will be grading is able to use the rubric consistently. Most rubrics aren’t exhaustive—see the note above on rubrics that are “too specific”—and a great way to see how different graders are handling “real-life” scenarios for an assignment is to have the entire team grade a few samples (including examples that seem more representative of an “A” or a “B”) and compare everyone’s approaches. We suggest scheduling a grade-norming session for your teaching staff.

  • Designing Your Course
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Eberly Center

Teaching excellence & educational innovation, creating and using rubrics.

A rubric is a scoring tool that explicitly describes the instructor’s performance expectations for an assignment or piece of work. A rubric identifies:

  • criteria: the aspects of performance (e.g., argument, evidence, clarity) that will be assessed
  • descriptors: the characteristics associated with each dimension (e.g., argument is demonstrable and original, evidence is diverse and compelling)
  • performance levels: a rating scale that identifies students’ level of mastery within each criterion  

Rubrics can be used to provide feedback to students on diverse types of assignments, from papers, projects, and oral presentations to artistic performances and group projects.

Benefitting from Rubrics

  • reduce the time spent grading by allowing instructors to refer to a substantive description without writing long comments
  • help instructors more clearly identify strengths and weaknesses across an entire class and adjust their instruction appropriately
  • help to ensure consistency across time and across graders
  • reduce the uncertainty which can accompany grading
  • discourage complaints about grades
  • understand instructors’ expectations and standards
  • use instructor feedback to improve their performance
  • monitor and assess their progress as they work towards clearly indicated goals
  • recognize their strengths and weaknesses and direct their efforts accordingly

Examples of Rubrics

Here we are providing a sample set of rubrics designed by faculty at Carnegie Mellon and other institutions. Although your particular field of study or type of assessment may not be represented, viewing a rubric that is designed for a similar assessment may give you ideas for the kinds of criteria, descriptions, and performance levels you use on your own rubric.

  • Example 1: Philosophy Paper This rubric was designed for student papers in a range of courses in philosophy (Carnegie Mellon).
  • Example 2: Psychology Assignment Short, concept application homework assignment in cognitive psychology (Carnegie Mellon).
  • Example 3: Anthropology Writing Assignments This rubric was designed for a series of short writing assignments in anthropology (Carnegie Mellon).
  • Example 4: History Research Paper . This rubric was designed for essays and research papers in history (Carnegie Mellon).
  • Example 1: Capstone Project in Design This rubric describes the components and standards of performance from the research phase to the final presentation for a senior capstone project in design (Carnegie Mellon).
  • Example 2: Engineering Design Project This rubric describes performance standards for three aspects of a team project: research and design, communication, and team work.

Oral Presentations

  • Example 1: Oral Exam This rubric describes a set of components and standards for assessing performance on an oral exam in an upper-division course in history (Carnegie Mellon).
  • Example 2: Oral Communication This rubric is adapted from Huba and Freed, 2000.
  • Example 3: Group Presentations This rubric describes a set of components and standards for assessing group presentations in history (Carnegie Mellon).

Class Participation/Contributions

  • Example 1: Discussion Class This rubric assesses the quality of student contributions to class discussions. This is appropriate for an undergraduate-level course (Carnegie Mellon).
  • Example 2: Advanced Seminar This rubric is designed for assessing discussion performance in an advanced undergraduate or graduate seminar.

See also " Examples and Tools " section of this site for more rubrics.

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Rubric Design

Main navigation, articulating your assessment values.

Reading, commenting on, and then assigning a grade to a piece of student writing requires intense attention and difficult judgment calls. Some faculty dread “the stack.” Students may share the faculty’s dim view of writing assessment, perceiving it as highly subjective. They wonder why one faculty member values evidence and correctness before all else, while another seeks a vaguely defined originality.

Writing rubrics can help address the concerns of both faculty and students by making writing assessment more efficient, consistent, and public. Whether it is called a grading rubric, a grading sheet, or a scoring guide, a writing assignment rubric lists criteria by which the writing is graded.

Why create a writing rubric?

  • It makes your tacit rhetorical knowledge explicit
  • It articulates community- and discipline-specific standards of excellence
  • It links the grade you give the assignment to the criteria
  • It can make your grading more efficient, consistent, and fair as you can read and comment with your criteria in mind
  • It can help you reverse engineer your course: once you have the rubrics created, you can align your readings, activities, and lectures with the rubrics to set your students up for success
  • It can help your students produce writing that you look forward to reading

How to create a writing rubric

Create a rubric at the same time you create the assignment. It will help you explain to the students what your goals are for the assignment.

  • Consider your purpose: do you need a rubric that addresses the standards for all the writing in the course? Or do you need to address the writing requirements and standards for just one assignment?  Task-specific rubrics are written to help teachers assess individual assignments or genres, whereas generic rubrics are written to help teachers assess multiple assignments.
  • Begin by listing the important qualities of the writing that will be produced in response to a particular assignment. It may be helpful to have several examples of excellent versions of the assignment in front of you: what writing elements do they all have in common? Among other things, these may include features of the argument, such as a main claim or thesis; use and presentation of sources, including visuals; and formatting guidelines such as the requirement of a works cited.
  • Then consider how the criteria will be weighted in grading. Perhaps all criteria are equally important, or perhaps there are two or three that all students must achieve to earn a passing grade. Decide what best fits the class and requirements of the assignment.

Consider involving students in Steps 2 and 3. A class session devoted to developing a rubric can provoke many important discussions about the ways the features of the language serve the purpose of the writing. And when students themselves work to describe the writing they are expected to produce, they are more likely to achieve it.

At this point, you will need to decide if you want to create a holistic or an analytic rubric. There is much debate about these two approaches to assessment.

Comparing Holistic and Analytic Rubrics

Holistic scoring .

Holistic scoring aims to rate overall proficiency in a given student writing sample. It is often used in large-scale writing program assessment and impromptu classroom writing for diagnostic purposes.

General tenets to holistic scoring:

  • Responding to drafts is part of evaluation
  • Responses do not focus on grammar and mechanics during drafting and there is little correction
  • Marginal comments are kept to 2-3 per page with summative comments at end
  • End commentary attends to students’ overall performance across learning objectives as articulated in the assignment
  • Response language aims to foster students’ self-assessment

Holistic rubrics emphasize what students do well and generally increase efficiency; they may also be more valid because scoring includes authentic, personal reaction of the reader. But holistic sores won’t tell a student how they’ve progressed relative to previous assignments and may be rater-dependent, reducing reliability. (For a summary of advantages and disadvantages of holistic scoring, see Becker, 2011, p. 116.)

Here is an example of a partial holistic rubric:

Summary meets all the criteria. The writer understands the article thoroughly. The main points in the article appear in the summary with all main points proportionately developed. The summary should be as comprehensive as possible and should be as comprehensive as possible and should read smoothly, with appropriate transitions between ideas. Sentences should be clear, without vagueness or ambiguity and without grammatical or mechanical errors.

A complete holistic rubric for a research paper (authored by Jonah Willihnganz) can be  downloaded here.

Analytic Scoring

Analytic scoring makes explicit the contribution to the final grade of each element of writing. For example, an instructor may choose to give 30 points for an essay whose ideas are sufficiently complex, that marshals good reasons in support of a thesis, and whose argument is logical; and 20 points for well-constructed sentences and careful copy editing.

General tenets to analytic scoring:

  • Reflect emphases in your teaching and communicate the learning goals for the course
  • Emphasize student performance across criterion, which are established as central to the assignment in advance, usually on an assignment sheet
  • Typically take a quantitative approach, providing a scaled set of points for each criterion
  • Make the analytic framework available to students before they write  

Advantages of an analytic rubric include ease of training raters and improved reliability. Meanwhile, writers often can more easily diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of their work. But analytic rubrics can be time-consuming to produce, and raters may judge the writing holistically anyway. Moreover, many readers believe that writing traits cannot be separated. (For a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of analytic scoring, see Becker, 2011, p. 115.)

For example, a partial analytic rubric for a single trait, “addresses a significant issue”:

  • Excellent: Elegantly establishes the current problem, why it matters, to whom
  • Above Average: Identifies the problem; explains why it matters and to whom
  • Competent: Describes topic but relevance unclear or cursory
  • Developing: Unclear issue and relevance

A  complete analytic rubric for a research paper can be downloaded here.  In WIM courses, this language should be revised to name specific disciplinary conventions.

Whichever type of rubric you write, your goal is to avoid pushing students into prescriptive formulas and limiting thinking (e.g., “each paragraph has five sentences”). By carefully describing the writing you want to read, you give students a clear target, and, as Ed White puts it, “describe the ongoing work of the class” (75).

Writing rubrics contribute meaningfully to the teaching of writing. Think of them as a coaching aide. In class and in conferences, you can use the language of the rubric to help you move past generic statements about what makes good writing good to statements about what constitutes success on the assignment and in the genre or discourse community. The rubric articulates what you are asking students to produce on the page; once that work is accomplished, you can turn your attention to explaining how students can achieve it.

Works Cited

Becker, Anthony.  “Examining Rubrics Used to Measure Writing Performance in U.S. Intensive English Programs.”   The CATESOL Journal  22.1 (2010/2011):113-30. Web.

White, Edward M.  Teaching and Assessing Writing . Proquest Info and Learning, 1985. Print.

Further Resources

CCCC Committee on Assessment. “Writing Assessment: A Position Statement.” November 2006 (Revised March 2009). Conference on College Composition and Communication. Web.

Gallagher, Chris W. “Assess Locally, Validate Globally: Heuristics for Validating Local Writing Assessments.” Writing Program Administration 34.1 (2010): 10-32. Web.

Huot, Brian.  (Re)Articulating Writing Assessment for Teaching and Learning.  Logan: Utah State UP, 2002. Print.

Kelly-Reilly, Diane, and Peggy O’Neil, eds. Journal of Writing Assessment. Web.

McKee, Heidi A., and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss DeVoss, Eds. Digital Writing Assessment & Evaluation. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State University Press, 2013. Web.

O’Neill, Peggy, Cindy Moore, and Brian Huot.  A Guide to College Writing Assessment . Logan: Utah State UP, 2009. Print.

Sommers, Nancy.  Responding to Student Writers . Macmillan Higher Education, 2013.

Straub, Richard. “Responding, Really Responding to Other Students’ Writing.” The Subject is Writing: Essays by Teachers and Students. Ed. Wendy Bishop. Boynton/Cook, 1999. Web.

White, Edward M., and Cassie A. Wright.  Assigning, Responding, Evaluating: A Writing Teacher’s Guide . 5th ed. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015. Print.

Essay Rubric: Grading Students Correctly

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Lectures and tutors provide specific requirements for students to meet when writing essays. Basically, an essay rubric helps tutors to analyze an overall quality of compositions written by students. In this case, a rubric refers to a scoring guide used to evaluate performance based on a set of criteria and standards. As such, useful marking schemes make an analysis process simple for lecturers as they focus on specific concepts related to a writing process. Moreover, an assessment table lists and organizes all of the criteria into one convenient paper. In other instances, students use assessment tables to enhance their writing skills by examining various requirements. Then, different types of essay rubrics vary from one educational level to another. Essentially, Master’s and Ph.D. grading schemes focus on examining complex thesis statements and other writing mechanics. However, high school evaluation tables examine basic writing concepts. In turn, guidelines on a common format for writing a good essay rubric and corresponding examples provided in this article can help students to evaluate their papers before submitting them to their teachers.

General Aspects

An essay rubric refers to a way for teachers to assess students’ composition writing skills and abilities. Basically, an evaluation scheme provides specific criteria to grade assignments. Moreover, the three basic elements of an essay rubric are criteria, performance levels, and descriptors. In this case, teachers use assessment guidelines to save time when evaluating and grading various papers. Hence, learners must use an essay rubric effectively to achieve desired goals and grades, while its general example is:

What Is an Essay Rubric and Its Purpose

According to its definition, an essay rubric is a structured evaluation tool that educators use to grade students’ compositions in a fair and consistent manner. The main purpose of an essay rubric in writing is to ensure consistent and fair grading by clearly defining what constitutes excellent, good, average, and poor performance (DeVries, 2023). This tool specifies a key criteria for grading various aspects of a written text, including a clarity of a thesis statement, an overall quality of a main argument, an organization of ideas, a particular use of evidence, and a correctness of grammar and mechanics. Moreover, an assessment grading helps students to understand their strengths to be proud of and weaknesses to be pointed out and guides them in improving their writing skills (Taylor et al., 2024). For teachers, such an assessment simplifies a grading process, making it more efficient and less subjective by providing a clear standard to follow. By using an essay rubric, both teachers and students can engage in a transparent, structured, and constructive evaluation process, enhancing an overall educational experience (Stevens & Levi, 2023). In turn, the length of an essay rubric depends on academic levels, types of papers, and specific requirements, while general guidelines are:

High School

  • Length: 1-2 pages
  • Word Count: 300-600 words
  • Length: 1-3 pages
  • Word Count: 300-900 words

University (Undergraduate)

  • Length: 2-4 pages
  • Word Count: 600-1,200 words

Master’s

  • Length: 2-5 pages
  • Word Count: 600-1,500 words
  • Length: 3-6 pages
  • Word Count: 900-1,800 words

Essay rubric

ElementDescription
Thesis StatementA well-defined thesis statement is crucial as it sets a particular direction and purpose of an essay, making it clear what a writer intends to argue or explain.
IntroductionAn introduction captures a reader’s interest and provides a framework for what a paper will cover, setting up a stage for arguments or ideas that follow after an opening paragraph.
ContentHigh-quality content demonstrates thorough understanding and research on a specific topic, providing valuable and relevant information that supports a thesis.
OrganizationEffective organization ensures author’s ideas are presented in a clear, well-structure, and logical order, enhancing readability and an overall flow of a central argument.
Evidence and SupportProviding strong evidence and detailed analysis is essential for backing up main arguments, adding credibility and depth to a final document.
ConclusionA strong conclusion ties all the main numbers together, reflects on potential implications of arguments, and reinforces a thesis, leaving a lasting impression on a reader.
Grammar and MechanicsProper grammar, spelling, and punctuation are vital for clarity and professionalism, making a whole text easy to read and understand.
Style and ToneCorrectness in writing style and author’s tone appropriate to a paper’s purpose and audience enhances an overall effectiveness of a particular text and engages a reader.
Citations and ReferencesAccurate and complete citations and references are crucial for giving credit to sources, avoiding plagiarism, and allowing readers to follow up on the research.

Note: Some elements of an essay rubric can be added, deled, or combined with each other because different types of papers, their requirements, and instructors’ choices affect a final assessment. To format an essay rubric, people create a table with criteria listed in rows, performance levels in columns, and detailed descriptors in each cell explaining principal expectations for each level of performance (Steven & Levi, 2023). Besides, the five main criteria in a rubric are thesis statement, content, organization, evidence and support, and grammar and mechanics. In turn, a good essay rubric is clear, specific, aligned with learning objectives, and provides detailed, consistent descriptors for each performance level.

Steps How to Write an Essay Rubric

In writing, the key elements of an essay rubric are clear criteria, defined performance levels, and detailed descriptors for each evaluation.

  • Identify a Specific Purpose and Goals: Determine main objectives of an essay’s assignment and consider what skills and knowledge you want students to demonstrate.
  • List a Key Criteria: Identify essential components that need to be evaluated, such as thesis statement, introduction, content, organization, evidence and support, conclusion, grammar and mechanics, writing style and tone, and citations and references.
  • Define Performance Levels: Decide on a particular scale you will use to measure performance (e.g., Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor) and ensure each level is distinct and clearly defined.
  • Create Descriptors for Each Criterion: Write detailed descriptions for what constitutes each level of performance for every criterion and be specific about what is expected at each level to avoid misunderstanding.
  • Assign Number Values: Determine a specific range for each criterion and performance level and allocate numbers in a way that reflects an actual importance of each criterion in an overall assessment.
  • Review and Revise: Examine a complete rubric to ensure it is comprehensive and clear and adjust any descriptions or number values that seem unclear or disproportionate.
  • Test a Working Essay Rubric: Apply a grading scheme to a few sample compositions to see if it effectively differentiates between different levels of performance and make adjustments as necessary.
  • Involve Peers for Feedback: Share marking criteria with colleagues or peers for feedback and insights on clarity and fairness that you might have overlooked.
  • Provide Examples: Include examples of complete papers or writing excerpts at each performance level and help students to understand what is expected for grading.
  • Communicate With Students: Share a complete rubric with students before they begin an assignment and explain each criterion and performance level so they understand how their work will be evaluated and what they need to do to achieve highest marks.

Essay Rubric Example

Organization

Excellent/8 points: A submitted essay contains stiff topic sentences and a controlled organization.

Very Good/6 points: A paper contains a logical and appropriate organization. An author uses clear topic sentences.

Average/4 points: A composition contains a logical and appropriate organization. An author uses clear topic sentences.

Needs Improvement/2 points: A provided text has an inconsistent organization.

Unacceptable/0 (zero): A complete document shows an absence of a planned organization.

Grade: ___ .

Excellent/8 points: A submitted essay shows the absence of a planned organization.

Very Good/6 points: A paper contains precise and varied sentence structures and word choices. 

Average/4 points: A composition follows a limited but mostly correct sentence structure. There are different sentence structures and word choices.

Needs Improvement/2 points: A provided text contains several awkward and unclear sentences. There are some problems with word choices.

Unacceptable/0 (zero): An author does not have apparent control over sentence structures and word choice.

Excellent/8 points: An essay’s content appears sophisticated and contains well-developed ideas.

Very Good/6 points: A paper’s content appears illustrative and balanced.

Average/4 points: A composition contains unbalanced content that requires more analysis.

Needs Improvement/2 points: A provided text contains a lot of research information without analysis or commentary.

Unacceptable/0 (zero): A complete document lacks relevant content and does not fit the thesis statement. Essay rubric rules are not followed.

Excellent/8 points: A submitted essay contains a clearly stated and focused thesis statement.

Very Good/6 points: A paper comprises a clearly stated argument. However, a particular focus would have been sharper.

Average/4 points: A thesis statement phrasing sounds simple and lacks complexity. An author does not word the thesis correctly. 

Needs Improvement/2 points: A thesis statement requires a clear objective and does not fit the theme in a paper’s content.

Unacceptable/0 (zero): A thesis statement is not evident in an introduction paragraph.

Excellent/8 points: A submitted is clear and focused. An overall work holds a reader’s attention. Besides, relevant details and quotes enrich a thesis statement.

Very Good/6 points: A paper is mostly focused and contains a few useful details and quotes.

Average/4 points: An author begins a composition by defining an assigned topic. However, a particular development of ideas appears general.

Needs Improvement/2 points: An author fails to define an assigned topic well or focuses on several issues.

Unacceptable/0 (zero): A complete document lacks a clear sense of a purpose or thesis statement. Readers have to make suggestions based on sketchy or missing ideas to understand an intended meaning. Essay rubric requirements are missed.

Sentence Fluency

Excellent/8 points: A submitted essay has a natural flow, rhythm, and cadence. Its sentences are well-built and have a wide-ranging and robust structure that enhances reading.

Very Good/6 points: Presented ideas mostly flow and motivate a compelling reading.

Average/4 points: A composition hums along with a balanced beat but tends to be more businesslike than musical. Besides, a particular flow of ideas tends to become more mechanical than fluid.

Needs Improvement/2 points: A provided text appears irregular and hard to read.

Unacceptable/0 (zero): Readers have to go through a complete document several times to give this paper a fair interpretive reading.

Conventions

Excellent/8 points: An author demonstrates proper use of standard writing conventions, like spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, usage, and paragraphing. A person also uses correct protocols in a way that improves an overall readability of an essay.

Very Good/6 points: An author demonstrates proper writing conventions and uses them correctly. One can read a paper with ease, and errors are rare. Few touch-ups can make a submitted composition ready for publishing.

Average/4 points: An author shows reasonable control over a short range of standard writing rules. A person also handles all the conventions and enhances readability. Writing errors in a presented composition tend to distract and impair legibility.

Needs Improvement/2 points: An author makes an effort to use various conventions, including spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar usage, and paragraphing. A provided text contains multiple errors.

Unacceptable/0 (zero): An author makes repetitive errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, usage, and paragraphing. Some mistakes distract readers and make it hard to understand discussed concepts. Essay rubric rules are not covered.

Presentation

Excellent/8 points: A particular form and presentation of a text enhance an overall readability of an essay and its flow of ideas.

Very Good/6 points: A chosen format has few mistakes and is easy to read.

Average/4 points: An author’s message is understandable in this format.

Needs Improvement/2 points: An author’s message is only comprehensible infrequently, and a provided text appears disorganized.

Unacceptable/0 (zero): Readers receive a distorted message due to difficulties connecting to a presentation of an entire text.

Final Grade: ___ .

Grading Scheme

  • A+ = 60+ points
  • F = less than 9

Differences in Education Levels

An overall quality of various types of texts changes at different education levels. In writing, an essay rubric works by providing a structured framework with specific criteria and performance levels to consistently evaluate and grade a finished paper. For instance, college students must write miscellaneous papers when compared to high school learners (Harrington et al., 2021). In this case, assessment criteria will change for these different education levels. For example, university and college compositions should have a debatable thesis statement with varying points of view (Mewburn et al., 2021). However, high school compositions should have simple phrases as thesis statements. Then, other requirements in a marking rubric will be more straightforward for high school students (DeVries, 2023). For Master’s and Ph.D. works, a writing criteria presented in a scoring evaluation should focus on examining a paper’s complexity. In turn, compositions for these two categories should have thesis statements that demonstrate a detailed analysis of defined topics that advance knowledge in a specific area of study.

Recommendations

When observing any essay rubric, people should remember to ensure clarity and specificity in each criterion and performance level. This clarity helps both an evaluator and a student to understand principal expectations and how a written document will be assessed (Ozfidan & Mitchell, 2022). Consistency in language and terminology across an essay rubric is crucial to avoid confusion and maintain fairness. Further on, it is essential to align a working scheme with learning objectives and goals of an essay’s assignment, ensuring all key components, such as thesis, content, organization, and grammar, are covered comprehensively (Stevens & Levi, 2023). Evaluators should also be aware of the weighting and scoring distribution, making sure they accurately reflect an actual importance of each criterion. Moreover, testing a rubric on sample essays before finalizing it can help to identify any mistakes or imbalances in scores. Essentially, providing concrete examples or descriptions for each performance level can guide students in understanding what is expected for each grade (Taylor et al., 2024). In turn, an essay rubric should be reviewed, revised, and updated after each educational year to remain relevant and aligned with current academic standards. Lastly, sharing and explaining grading assessment with students before they start their composition fosters transparency and helps them to put more of their efforts into meeting defined criteria, ultimately improving their writing and learning experience in general.

Common Mistakes

  • Lack of Specificity: Descriptions for each criterion and performance level are too vague, leading to ambiguity and confusion for both graders and students.
  • Overcomplicating a Rubric: Including too many criteria or overly complex descriptions that make a scoring assessment difficult to use effectively.
  • Unbalanced Weighting: Assigning disproportionate number values to different criteria, which can mislead an overall assessment and not accurately reflect an actual importance of each component.
  • Inconsistent Language: Using inconsistent terminology or descriptors across performance levels, which can confuse users and make a rubric less reliable.
  • Not Aligning With Objectives: Failing to align a particular criteria and performance levels with specific goals and learning outcomes of an assignment.
  • Omitting Key Components: Leaving out important criteria that are essential for evaluating a paper comprehensively, such as citations or a conclusion part.
  • Lack of Examples: Not providing examples or concrete descriptions of what constitutes each performance level, making it harder for students to understand expectations.
  • Ignoring Grammar and Mechanics: Overlooking an actual importance of grammar, spelling, and punctuation, which are crucial for clear and professional writing.
  • Not Updating an Essay Rubric: Using outdated rubrics that do not reflect current educational standards or specific assignment needs.
  • Insufficient Testing: Failing to test a grading scheme on some sample documents to ensure it effectively differentiates between levels of performance and provides fair assessments.

Essay rubrics help teachers, instructors, professors, and tutors to analyze an overall quality of compositions written by students. Basically, an assessment scheme makes an analysis process simple for lecturers, and it lists and organizes all of the criteria into one convenient paper. In other instances, students use such evaluation tools to improve their writing skills. However, they vary from one educational level to the other. Master’s and Ph.D. assessment schemes focus on examining complex thesis statements and other writing mechanics. However, high school grading criteria examine basic writing concepts.  As such, the following are some of the tips that one must consider when preparing any rubric.

  • Include all mechanics that relate to essay writing.
  • Cover different requirements and their relevant grades.
  • Follow clear and understandable statements.

DeVries, B. A. (2023). Literacy assessment and intervention for classroom teachers . Routledge.

Harrington, E. R., Lofgren, I. E., Gottschalk Druschke, C., Karraker, N. E., Reynolds, N., & McWilliams, S. R. (2021). Training graduate students in multiple genres of public and academic science writing: An assessment using an adaptable, interdisciplinary rubric. Frontiers in Environmental Science , 9 , 1–13. https://doi.org/10.3389/fenvs.2021.715409

Mewburn, I., Firth, K., & Lehmann, S. (2021). Level up your essays: How to get better grades at university . NewSouth.

Ozfidan, B., & Mitchell, C. (2022). Assessment of students’ argumentative writing: A rubric development. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies , 9 (2), 121–133. https://doi.org/10.29333/ejecs/1064

Stevens, D. D., & Levi, A. (2023). Introduction to rubrics: An assessment tool to save grading time, convey effective feedback, and promote student learning . Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Taylor, B., Kisby, F., & Reedy, A. (2024). Rubrics in higher education: An exploration of undergraduate students’ understanding and perspectives. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education , 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2023.2299330

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Examples of Rubric Creation

Creating a rubric takes time and requires thought and experimentation. Here you can see the steps used to create two kinds of rubric: one for problems in a physics exam for a small, upper-division physics course, and another for an essay assignment in a large, lower-division sociology course.

Physics Problems

In STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), assignments tend to be analytical and problem-based. Holistic rubrics can be an efficient, consistent, and fair way to grade a problem set. An analytical rubric often gives a more clear picture of what a student should direct their future learning efforts on. Since holistic rubrics try to label overall understanding, they can lead to more regrade requests when compared to analytical rubric with more explicit criteria. When starting to grade a problem, it is important to think about the relevant conceptual ingredients in the solution. Then look at a sample of student work to get a feel for student mistakes. Decide what rubric you will use (e.g., holistic or analytic, and how many points). Apply the holistic rubric by marking comments and sorting the students’ assignments into stacks (e.g., five stacks if using a five-point scale). Finally, check the stacks for consistency and mark the scores. The following is a sample homework problem from a UC Berkeley Physics Department undergraduate course in mechanics.

Homework Problem

Learning objective.

Solve for position and speed along a projectile’s trajectory.

Desired Traits: Conceptual Elements Needed for the Solution

  • Decompose motion into vertical and horizontal axes.
  • Identify that the maximum height occurs when the vertical velocity is 0.
  • Apply kinematics equation with g as the acceleration to solve for the time and height.
  • Evaluate the numerical expression.

A note on analytic rubrics: If you decide you feel more comfortable grading with an analytic rubric, you can assign a point value to each concept. The drawback to this method is that it can sometimes unfairly penalize a student who has a good understanding of the problem but makes a lot of minor errors. Because the analytic method tends to have many more parts, the method can take quite a bit more time to apply. In the end, your analytic rubric should give results that agree with the common-sense assessment of how well the student understood the problem. This sense is well captured by the holistic method.

Holistic Rubric

A holistic rubric, closely based on a rubric by Bruce Birkett and Andrew Elby:

The student clearly understands how to solve the problem. Minor mistakes and careless errors can appear insofar as they do not indicate a conceptual misunderstanding.
The student understands the main concepts and problem-solving techniques, but has some minor yet non-trivial gaps in their reasoning.
The student has partially understood the problem. The student is not completely lost, but requires tutoring in some of the basic concepts. The student may have started out correctly, but gone on a tangent or not finished the problem.
The student has a poor understanding of the problem. The student may have gone in a not-entirely-wrong but unproductive direction, or attempted to solve the problem using pattern matching or by rote.
The student did not understand the problem. They may have written some appropriate formulas or diagrams, but nothing further. Or they may have done something entirely wrong.
The student wrote nothing or almost nothing.

[a] This policy especially makes sense on exam problems, for which students are under time pressure and are more likely to make harmless algebraic mistakes. It would also be reasonable to have stricter standards for homework problems.

Analytic Rubric

The following is an analytic rubric that takes the desired traits of the solution and assigns point values to each of the components. Note that the relative point values should reflect the importance in the overall problem. For example, the steps of the problem solving should be worth more than the final numerical value of the solution. This rubric also provides clarity for where students are lacking in their current understanding of the problem.

Student decomposes the velocity (a vector quantity) into its vertical component
Student realizes that the motion should be decomposed, but does not arrive at the correct expression for
No attempt at decomposing the 2D motion into its vertical component.
Student successfully translates the physical question (the highest point of the ball) to an equation that can be used to help solve the motion ( ).
Student identifies the maximum height condition with minor mistakes.
Incorrect or missing identification of maximum height condition.
Applies the kinematic equations to yield a correct expression for the height in terms of the given variables. Solution uses the fact that the vertical motion has a constant downward acceleration due to gravity. The sequence of steps clearly demonstrates the thought process. Most likely, the solution includes solving for the time it takes to reach the top and then uses that time to see how far up the ball traveled.
Mostly correct application with minor error (e.g. algebraic mistakes or incorporating extraneous equations).
Equations include relevant parameters from the problem, but the student does not isolate relevant variables being solved for (such as time or distance).
Some kinematics formulas are written down but they are not connected with the information in the problem.
No attempt.
Correct numerical answer with appropriate units.
Mostly correct answer but with a few minor errors. Still physically sensible answer (e.g. units and numerical values are reasonable).
No attempt or physically unreasonable answer (e.g. a negative maximum height or reporting the height in units of seconds).

Try to avoid penalizing multiple times for the same mistake by choosing your evaluation criteria to be related to distinct learning outcomes. In designing your rubric, you can decide how finely to evaluate each component. Having more possible point values on your rubric can give more detailed feedback on a student’s performance, though it typically takes more time for the grader to assess.

Of course, problems can, and often do, feature the use of multiple learning outcomes in tandem. When a mistake could be assigned to multiple criteria, it is advisable to check that the overall problem grade is reasonable with the student’s mastery of the problem. Not having to decide how particular mistakes should be deducted from the analytic rubric is one advantage of the holistic rubric. When designing problems, it can be very beneficial for students not to have problems with several subparts that rely on prior answers. These tend to disproportionately skew the grades of students who miss an ingredient early on. When possible, consider making independent problems for testing different learning outcomes.

Sociology Research Paper

An introductory-level, large-lecture course is a difficult setting for managing a student research assignment. With the assistance of an instructional support team that included a GSI teaching consultant and a UC Berkeley librarian [b] , sociology lecturer Mary Kelsey developed the following assignment:

This was a lengthy and complex assignment worth a substantial portion of the course grade. Since the class was very large, the instructor wanted to minimize the effort it would take her GSIs to grade the papers in a manner consistent with the assignment’s learning objectives. For these reasons Dr. Kelsey and the instructional team gave a lot of forethought to crafting a detailed grading rubric.

Desired Traits

  • Use and interpretation of data
  • Reflection on personal experiences
  • Application of course readings and materials
  • Organization, writing, and mechanics

For this assignment, the instructional team decided to grade each trait individually because there seemed to be too many independent variables to grade holistically. They could have used a five-point scale, a three-point scale, or a descriptive analytic scale. The choice depended on the complexity of the assignment and the kind of information they wanted to convey to students about their work.

Below are three of the analytic rubrics they considered for the Argument trait and a holistic rubric for all the traits together. Lastly you will find the entire analytic rubric, for all five desired traits, that was finally used for the assignment. Which would you choose, and why?

Five-Point Scale

5 Argument pertains to relationship between social factors and educational opportunity and is clearly stated and defensible.
4 Argument pertains to relationship between social factors and educational opportunity and is defensible, but it is not clearly stated.
3 Argument pertains to relationship between social factors and educational opportunity but is not defensible using the evidence available.
2 Argument is presented, but it does not pertain to relationship between social factors and educational opportunity.
1 Social factors and educational opportunity are discussed, but no argument is presented.

Three-Point Scale

Argument pertains to relationship between social factors and educational opportunity and is clearly stated and defensible.
Argument pertains to relationship between social factors and educational opportunity but may not be clear or sufficiently narrow in scope.
Social factors and educational opportunity are discussed, but no argument is presented.

Simplified Three-Point Scale, numbers replaced with descriptive terms

Argument pertains to relationship between social factors and educational opportunity and is clearly stated and defensible      

For some assignments, you may choose to use a holistic rubric, or one scale for the whole assignment. This type of rubric is particularly useful when the variables you want to assess just cannot be usefully separated. We chose not to use a holistic rubric for this assignment because we wanted to be able to grade each trait separately, but we’ve completed a holistic version here for comparative purposes.

The paper is driven by a clearly stated, defensible argument about the relationship between social factors and educational opportunity. Sufficient data is used to defend the argument, and the data is accurately interpreted to identify each school’s position within a larger social structure. Personal educational experiences are examined thoughtfully and critically to identify significance of external social factors and support the main argument. Paper reflects solid understanding of the major themes of the course, using course readings to accurately define sociological concepts and to place the argument within a broader discussion of the relationship between social status and individual opportunity. Paper is clearly organized (with an introduction, transition sentences to connect major ideas, and conclusion) and has few or no grammar or spelling errors. Scholarly ideas are cited correctly using the ASA style guide.
The paper is driven by a defensible argument about the relationship between social factors and public school quality, but it may not be stated as clearly and consistently throughout the essay as in an “A” paper. The argument is defended using sufficient data, reflection on personal experiences, and course readings, but the use of this evidence does not always demonstrate a clear understanding of how to locate the school or community within a larger class structure, how social factors influence personal experience, or the broader significance of course concepts. Essay is clearly organized, but might benefit from more careful attention to transitional sentences. Scholarly ideas are cited accurately, using the ASA style sheet, and the writing is polished, with few grammar or spelling errors.
The paper contains an argument about the relationship between social factors and public school quality, but the argument may not be defensible using the evidence available. Data, course readings, and personal experiences are used to defend the argument, but in a perfunctory way, without demonstrating an understanding of how social factors are identified or how they shape personal experience. Scholarly ideas are cited accurately, using the ASA style sheet. Essay may have either significant organizational or proofreading errors, but not both.
The paper does not have an argument, or is missing a major component of the evidence requested (data, course readings, or personal experiences). Alternatively, or in addition, the paper suffers from significant organizational and proofreading errors. Scholarly ideas are cited, but without following ASA guidelines.
The paper does not provide an argument and contains only one component of the evidence requested, if any. The paper suffers from significant organizational and proofreading errors. If scholarly ideas are not cited, paper receives an automatic “F.”

Final Analytic Rubric

This is the rubric the instructor finally decided to use. It rates five major traits, each on a five-point scale. This allowed for fine but clear distinctions in evaluating the students’ final papers.

Argument pertains to relationship between social factors and educational opportunity and is clearly stated and defensible.
Argument pertains to relationship between social factors and educational opportunity and is defensible, but it is not clearly stated.
Argument pertains to relationship between social factors and educational opportunity but is not defensible using the evidence available.
Argument is presented, but it does not pertain to relationship between social factors and educational opportunity.
Social factors and educational opportunity are discussed, but no argument is presented.
The data is accurately interpreted to identify each school’s position within a larger social structure, and sufficient data is used to defend the main argument.
The data is accurately interpreted to identify each school’s position within a larger social structure, and data is used to defend the main argument, but it might not be sufficient.
Data is used to defend the main argument, but it is not accurately interpreted to identify each school’s position within a larger social structure, and it might not be sufficient.
Data is used to defend the main argument, but it is insufficient, and no effort is made to identify the school’s position within a larger social structure.
Data is provided, but it is not used to defend the main argument.
Personal educational experiences are examined thoughtfully and critically to identify significance of external social factors and support the main argument.
Personal educational experiences are examined thoughtfully and critically to identify significance of external social factors, but relation to the main argument may not be clear.
Personal educational experiences are examined, but not in a way that reflects understanding of the external factors shaping individual opportunity. Relation to the main argument also may not be clear.
Personal educational experiences are discussed, but not in a way that reflects understanding of the external factors shaping individual opportunity. No effort is made to relate experiences back to the main argument.
Personal educational experiences are mentioned, but in a perfunctory way.
Demonstrates solid understanding of the major themes of the course, using course readings to accurately define sociological concepts and to place the argument within a broader discussion of the relationship between social status and individual opportunity.
Uses course readings to define sociological concepts and place the argument within a broader framework, but does not always demonstrate solid understanding of the major themes.
Uses course readings to place the argument within a broader framework, but sociological concepts are poorly defined or not defined at all. The data is not all accurately interpreted to identify each school’s position within a larger social structure, and it might not be sufficient.
Course readings are used, but paper does not place the argument within a broader framework or define sociological concepts.
Course readings are only mentioned, with no clear understanding of the relationship between the paper and course themes.
Clear organization and natural “flow” (with an introduction, transition sentences to connect major ideas, and conclusion) with few or no grammar or spelling errors. Scholarly ideas are cited correctly using the ASA style guide.
Clear organization (introduction, transition sentences to connect major ideas, and conclusion), but writing might not always be fluid, and might contain some grammar or spelling errors. Scholarly ideas are cited correctly using the ASA style guide.
Organization unclear or the paper is marred by significant grammar or spelling errors (but not both). Scholarly ideas are cited correctly using the ASA style guide.
Organization unclear and the paper is marred by significant grammar and spelling errors. Scholarly ideas are cited correctly using the ASA style guide.
Effort to cite is made, but the scholarly ideas are not cited correctly. (Automatic “F” if ideas are not cited at all.)

[b] These materials were developed during UC Berkeley’s 2005–2006 Mellon Library/Faculty Fellowship for Undergraduate Research program. Members of the instructional team who worked with Lecturer Kelsey in developing the grading rubric included Susan Haskell-Khan, a GSI Center teaching consultant and doctoral candidate in history, and Sarah McDaniel, a teaching librarian with the Doe/Moffitt Libraries.

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Grading Rubrics

A rubric, or “a matrix that provides levels of achievement for a set of criteria” (Howell, 2014), is a common tool for assessing open-response or creative work (writing, presentations, performances, etc.). To use rubrics effectively, instructors should understand their benefits, the types and uses of rubrics, and their limitations.  

Benefits of Rubrics

The criteria identified in the matrix differs with the subject matter, the nature of the assignment, and learning objectives, but all rubrics serve three purposes.

  • Rubrics help instructors identify standards for achievement. The process of creating a rubric leads instructors to think through, label, and determine grading weight on the major aspects of any assignment. This work can help instructors better align assignments to  learning objectives .
  • Rubrics communicate expectations to students as well as others who assist with grading (e.g., teaching assistants) or who teach the same or similar classes. Students report that rubrics clarify instructors’ expectations and grading standards, helping them submit work that better matches the assignment requirements (Treme, 2017). This may explain why students can perform better when they are given rubrics (Howell, 2014).
  • Rubrics facilitate more consistent and objective grading. For instance, using rubrics in grading has been shown to reduce grade inflation (White, 2018). Relatedly, using rubrics can reduce the time spent grading, since they streamline or eliminate many areas of deliberation in grading (Stevens and Levi, 2013).

Types of Rubrics

There are two basic types of rubrics.  Holistic   rubrics  provide an overall description of work at various levels of achievement. For instance, separate paragraphs might describe “A,” “B”, “C,” and “D” -level papers. A holistic rubric might help instructors communicate the interrelationships of the elements of an assignment. For instance, students should understand that a fully persuasive research paper not only has strong argument and evidence but is also free of writing errors. These rubrics offer structure but also afford flexibility and judgment in grading.

Holistic Rubric Template


This paragraph describes what an A-level submission looks like overall.


This paragraph describes what a B-level submission looks like overall.


This paragraph describes what a C-level submission looks like overall.


This paragraph describes what a D-level submission looks like overall.

Analytic   rubrics  provide more detailed descriptions of achievement levels of distinct components of the assignment. For instance, the components of thesis, evidence, coherence, and writing mechanics might each be described with two to three sentences at each of the achievement levels. Such rubrics help instructors and students isolate discrete skills and performance. These rubrics limit the grader’s discretion and potentially offer greater consistency.  

Analytic Rubric Template

 
Description of excellent work on Component One Description of good work on Component One Description of fair work on Component One Description of poor work on Component One
Description of excellent work on component 2 Etc.    
Etc.      
Etc.      

Whether designing a holistic or analytic rubric, the descriptions of student achievement levels should incorporate common student mistakes. This saves time as it reduces the need for long-hand feedback that is time-consuming and often hard for students to read (Stevens and Levi, 2013). For either type of rubric, the achievement level may be indicated with evaluative shorthand (e.g., Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor) or grade labels (A, B, C, D). In many cases, rubrics also provide the point totals possible with overall level (holistic) or each component (analytic).

Using Rubrics

Developing a rubric requires identifying and weighing the different elements of an assignment. The relative weight given to any category should reflect the learning objectives. For instance, if the learning objectives focus on interpreting and using evidence, the weight of the grade should not fall on rudimentary skills, like grammar and syntax. At the same time, rubrics can help instructors articulate and implement developmental goals. For example, using the same elements for two or more iterations of an assignment, the rubric for an earlier submission can place more weight on writing mechanics, while more weight can be placed on higher-order skills for a later submission.  

Rubrics can be used as  summative   or  formative   assessment . Used as summative assessment, rubrics give concrete rationale for the grade that students receive. Used as formative assessment, rubrics help both instructors and students monitor the areas in which students are succeeding and struggling. For best use of rubrics as formative assessment, grading should be accompanied by clear, improvement-oriented  feedback  (Wylie et al., 2013). Additionally, instructors can require students to use the rubric as a checklist that they turn in with their work. This may help students better monitor the quality of their work before submitting it (Treme, 2017).

Technology can aid in developing and using rubrics. Canvas provides a rubric generator function that gives options for assigning point value, adding comments, and describing criteria for the assignment. To access it, go to the “assignments” page, click on the assignment, and select “add rubric.” A technologically-developed rubric like those in Canvas ensures greater consistency in assigning grades (Moyer, 2015).

Limitations

No rubric is a complete substitute for reasoned judgment. While instructors strive to remove arbitrariness in grading, expert discernment is always an ingredient in assessment. Despite their air of objectivity, rubrics involve significant subjectivity—for instance, in the decisions about the relative weight or the descriptions of elements of student work. Nor are rubrics a “silver bullet” for achieving high academic performance. Baseline knowledge and prior academic performance are still greater factors in student achievement (Howell, 2014: 406). Nonetheless, rubrics are a useful tool for promoting consistency, transparency, and objectivity and can have positive outcomes for instructors and students.

Howell, R. J. (2014). Grading rubrics: Hoopla or help?  Innovations in Education and Teaching International ,  51 (4): 400-410.

Kryder, L. G. (2003). Grading for speed, consistency, and accuracy.  Business Communications Quarterly ,  66 (1): 90-93.

Moyer, Adam C., William A. Young II, Gary R. Weckman, Red C. Martin, and Ken W. Cutright. “Rubrics on the Fly: Improving Efficiency and Consistency with a Rapid Grading and Feedback System.”  Journal of Teaching and Learning with Technology , 4, no. 2 (2015): 6-29.

Stevens, D., & Levi, A. (2013).  Introduction to rubrics: an assessment tool to save grading time, convey effective feedback, and promote student learning  (Second edition.). Sterling, Virginia: Stylus.

Treme, Julianne. “An Op-Ed Grading Rubric: Improving Student Output and Professor Happiness.”  NACTA Journal , 61, no. 2 (2017): 181-183.

White, Krista Alaine, and Ella Thomas Heitzler. “Effects of Increased Evaluation Objectivity on Grade Inflation: Precise Grading Rubrics and Rigorously Developed Tests.”  Nurse Educator , 43, no. 2 (2018): 73-77.

Wylie, Caroline and Christine Lyon. “Using the Formative Rubrics, Reflection and Observation Tools to Support Professional Reflection on Practice.”  Formative Assessment for Teachers and Students  (2013).

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ACT Writing Rubric: Full Analysis and Essay Strategies

ACT Writing

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What time is it? It's essay time! In this article, I'm going to get into the details of the newly transformed ACT Writing by discussing the ACT essay rubric and how the essay is graded based on that. You'll learn what each item on the rubric means for your essay writing and what you need to do to meet those requirements.

ACT Essay Grading: The Basics

If you've chosen to take the ACT Plus Writing , you'll have 40 minutes to write an essay (after completing the English, Math, Reading, and Science sections of the ACT, of course). Your essay will be evaluated by two graders , who score your essay from 1-6 on each of 4 domains, leading to scores out of 12 for each domain. Your Writing score is calculated by averaging your four domain scores, leading to a total ACT Writing score from 2-12.

The Complete ACT Grading Rubric

Based on ACT, Inc's stated grading criteria, I've gathered all the relevant essay-grading criteria into a chart. The information itself is available on the ACT's website , and there's more general information about each of the domains here . The columns in this rubric are titled as per the ACT's own domain areas, with the addition of another category that I named ("Mastery Level").

demonstrate little or no skill in writing an argumentative essay. The writer fails to generate an argument that responds intelligibly to the task. The writer's intentions are difficult to discern. Attempts at analysis are unclear or irrelevant. Ideas lack development, and claims lack support. Reasoning and illustration are unclear, incoherent, or largely absent. The response does not exhibit an organizational structure. There is little grouping of ideas. When present, transitional devices fail to connect ideas. The use of language fails to demonstrate skill in responding to the task. Word choice is imprecise and often difficult to comprehend. Sentence structures are often unclear. Stylistic and register choices are difficult to identify. Errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics are pervasive and often impede understanding.
demonstrate weak or inconsistent skill in writing an argumentative essay The writer generates an argument that weakly responds to multiple perspectives on the given issue. The argument's thesis, if evident, reflects little clarity in thought and purpose. Attempts at analysis are incomplete, largely irrelevant, or consist primarily of restatement of the issue and its perspectives. Development of ideas and support for claims are weak, confused, or disjointed. Reasoning and illustration are inadequate, illogical, or circular, and fail to fully clarify the argument. The response exhibits a rudimentary organizational structure. Grouping of ideas is inconsistent and often unclear. Transitions between and within paragraphs are misleading or poorly formed. The use of language is inconsistent and often unclear. Word choice is rudimentary and frequently imprecise. Sentence structures are sometimes unclear. Stylistic and register choices, including voice and tone, are inconsistent and are not always appropriate for the rhetorical purpose. Distracting errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics are present, and they sometimes impede understanding.
demonstrate some developing skill in writing an argumentative essay The writer generates an argument that responds to multiple perspectives on the given issue. The argument's thesis reflects some clarity in thought and purpose. The argument establishes a limited or tangential context for analysis of the issue and its perspectives. Analysis is simplistic or somewhat unclear. Development of ideas and support for claims are mostly relevant but are overly general or simplistic. Reasoning and illustration largely clarify the argument but may be somewhat repetitious or imprecise. The response exhibits a basic organizational structure. The response largely coheres, with most ideas logically grouped. Transitions between and within paragraphs sometimes clarify the relationships among ideas. The use of language is basic and only somewhat clear. Word choice is general and occasionally imprecise. Sentence structures are usually clear but show little variety. Stylistic and register choices, including voice and tone, are not always appropriate for the rhetorical purpose. Distracting errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics may be present, but they generally do not impede understanding.
demonstrate adequate skill in writing an argumentative essay The writer generates an argument that engages with multiple perspectives on the given issue. The argument's thesis reflects clarity in thought and purpose. The argument establishes and employs a relevant context for analysis of the issue and its perspectives. The analysis recognizes implications, complexities and tensions, and/or underlying values and assumptions. Development of ideas and support for claims clarify meaning and purpose. Lines of clear reasoning and illustration adequately convey the significance of the argument. Qualifications and complications extend ideas and analysis. The response exhibits a clear organizational strategy. The overall shape of the response reflects an emergent controlling idea or purpose. Ideas are logically grouped and sequenced. Transitions between and within paragraphs clarify the relationships among ideas. The use of language conveys the argument with clarity. Word choice is adequate and sometimes precise. Sentence structures are clear and demonstrate some variety. Stylistic and register choices, including voice and tone, are appropriate for the rhetorical purpose. While errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics are present, they rarely impede understanding.
demonstrate well-developed skill in writing an argumentative essay The writer generates an argument that productively engages with multiple perspectives on the given issue. The argument's thesis reflects precision in thought and purpose. The argument establishes and employs a thoughtful context for analysis of the issue and its perspectives. The analysis addresses implications, complexities and tensions, and/or underlying values and assumptions. Development of ideas and support for claims deepen understanding. A mostly integrated line of purposeful reasoning and illustration capably conveys the significance of the argument. Qualifications and complications enrich ideas and analysis. The response exhibits a productive organizational strategy. The response is mostly unified by a controlling idea or purpose, and a logical sequencing of ideas contributes to the effectiveness of the argument. Transitions between and within paragraphs consistently clarify the relationships among ideas. The use of language works in service of the argument. Word choice is precise. Sentence structures are clear and varied often. Stylistic and register choices, including voice and tone, are purposeful and productive. While minor errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics may be present, they do not impede understanding.
demonstrate effective skill in writing an argumentative essay The writer generates an argument that critically engages with multiple perspectives on the given issue. The argument's thesis reflects nuance and precision in thought and purpose. The argument establishes and employs an insightful context for analysis of the issue and its perspectives. The analysis examines implications, complexities and tensions, and/or underlying values and assumptions. Development of ideas and support for claims deepen insight and broaden context. An integrated line of skillful reasoning and illustration effectively conveys the significance of the argument. Qualifications and complications enrich and bolster ideas and analysis. The response exhibits a skillful organizational strategy. The response is unified by a controlling idea or purpose, and a logical progression of ideas increases the effectiveness of the writer's argument. Transitions between and within paragraphs strengthen the relationships among ideas. The use of language enhances the argument. Word choice is skillful and precise. Sentence structures are consistently varied and clear. Stylistic and register choices, including voice and tone, are strategic and effective. While a few minor errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics may be present, they do not impede understanding.

ACT Writing Rubric: Item-by-Item Breakdown

Whew. That rubric might be a little overwhelming—there's so much information to process! Below, I've broken down the essay rubric by domain, with examples of what a 3- and a 6-scoring essay might look like.

Ideas and Analysis

The Ideas and Analysis domain is the rubric area most intimately linked with the basic ACT essay task itself. Here's what the ACT website has to say about this domain:

Scores in this domain reflect the ability to generate productive ideas and engage critically with multiple perspectives on the given issue. Competent writers understand the issue they are invited to address, the purpose for writing, and the audience. They generate ideas that are relevant to the situation.

Based on this description, I've extracted the three key things you need to do in your essay to score well in the Ideas and Analysis domain.

#1: Choose a perspective on this issue and state it clearly. #2: Compare at least one other perspective to the perspective you have chosen. #3: Demonstrate understanding of the ways the perspectives relate to one another. #4: Analyze the implications of each perspective you choose to discuss.

There's no cool acronym, sorry. I guess a case could be made for "ACCE," but I wanted to list the points in the order of importance, so "CEAC" it is.

Fortunately, the ACT Writing Test provides you with the three perspectives to analyze and choose from, which will save you some of the time of "generating productive ideas." In addition, "analyzing each perspective" does not mean that you need to argue from each of the points of view. Instead, you need to choose one perspective to argue as your own and explain how your point of view relates to at least one other perspective by evaluating how correct the perspectives you discuss are and analyzing the implications of each perspective.

Note: While it is technically allowable for you to come up with a fourth perspective as your own and to then discuss that point of view in relation to another perspective, we do not recommend it. 40 minutes is already a pretty short time to discuss and compare multiple points of view in a thorough and coherent manner—coming up with new, clearly-articulated perspectives takes time that could be better spend devising a thorough analysis of the relationship between multiple perspectives.

To get deeper into what things fall in the Ideas and Analysis domain, I'll use a sample ACT Writing prompt and the three perspectives provided:

Many of the goods and services we depend on daily are now supplied by intelligent, automated machines rather than human beings. Robots build cars and other goods on assembly lines, where once there were human workers. Many of our phone conversations are now conducted not with people but with sophisticated technologies. We can now buy goods at a variety of stores without the help of a human cashier. Automation is generally seen as a sign of progress, but what is lost when we replace humans with machines? Given the accelerating variety and prevalence of intelligent machines, it is worth examining the implications and meaning of their presence in our lives.

Perspective One : What we lose with the replacement of people by machines is some part of our own humanity. Even our mundane daily encounters no longer require from us basic courtesy, respect, and tolerance for other people.

Perspective Two : Machines are good at low-skill, repetitive jobs, and at high-speed, extremely precise jobs. In both cases they work better than humans. This efficiency leads to a more prosperous and progressive world for everyone.

Perspective Three : Intelligent machines challenge our long-standing ideas about what humans are or can be. This is good because it pushes both humans and machines toward new, unimagined possibilities.

First, in order to "clearly state your own perspective on the issue," you need to figure out what your point of view, or perspective, on this issue is going to be. For the sake of argument, let's say that you agree the most with the second perspective. A essay that scores a 3 in this domain might simply restate this perspective:

I agree that machines are good at low-skill, repetitive jobs, and at high-speed, extremely precise jobs. In both cases they work better than humans. This efficiency leads to a more prosperous and progressive world for everyone.

In contrast, an essay scoring a 6 in this domain would likely have a more complex point of view (with what the rubric calls "nuance and precision in thought and purpose"):

Machines will never be able to replace humans entirely, as creativity is not something that can be mechanized. Because machines can perform delicate and repetitive tasks with precision, however, they are able to take over for humans with regards to low-skill, repetitive jobs and high-skill, extremely precise jobs. This then frees up humans to do what we do best—think, create, and move the world forward.

Next, you must compare at least one other perspective to your perspective throughout your essay, including in your initial argument. Here's what a 3-scoring essay's argument would look like:

I agree that machines are good at low-skill, repetitive jobs, and at high-speed, extremely precise jobs. In both cases they work better than humans. This efficiency leads to a more prosperous and progressive world for everyone. Machines do not cause us to lose our humanity or challenge our long-standing ideas about what humans are or can be.

And here, in contrast, is what a 6-scoring essay's argument (that includes multiple perspectives) would look like:

Machines will never be able to replace humans entirely, as creativity is not something that can be mechanized, which means that our humanity is safe. Because machines can perform delicate and repetitive tasks with precision, however, they are able to take over for humans with regards to low-skill, repetitive jobs and high-skill, extremely precise jobs. Rather than forcing us to challenge our ideas about what humans are or could be, machines simply allow us to BE, without distractions. This then frees up humans to do what we do best—think, create, and move the world forward.

You also need to demonstrate a nuanced understanding of the way in which the two perspectives relate to each other. A 3-scoring essay in this domain would likely be absolute, stating that Perspective Two is completely correct, while the other two perspectives are absolutely incorrect. By contrast, a 6-scoring essay in this domain would provide a more insightful context within which to consider the issue:

In the future, machines might lead us to lose our humanity; alternatively, machines might lead us to unimaginable pinnacles of achievement. I would argue, however, projecting possible futures does not make them true, and that the evidence we have at present supports the perspective that machines are, above all else, efficient and effective completing repetitive and precise tasks.

Finally, to analyze the perspectives, you need to consider each aspect of each perspective. In the case of Perspective Two, this means you must discuss that machines are good at two types of jobs, that they're better than humans at both types of jobs, and that their efficiency creates a better world. The analysis in a 3-scoring essay is usually "simplistic or somewhat unclear." By contrast, the analysis of a 6-scoring essay "examines implications, complexities and tensions, and/or underlying values and assumptions."

  • Choose a perspective that you can support.
  • Compare at least one other perspective to the perspective you have chosen.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the ways the perspectives relate to one another.
  • Analyze the implications of each perspective you choose to discuss.

To score well on the ACT essay overall, however, it's not enough to just state your opinions about each part of the perspective; you need to actually back up your claims with evidence to develop your own point of view. This leads straight into the next domain: Development and Support.

Development and Support

Another important component of your essay is that you explain your thinking. While it's obviously important to clearly state what your ideas are in the first place, the ACT essay requires you to demonstrate evidence-based reasoning. As per the description on ACT.org [bolding mine]:

Scores in this domain reflect the ability to discuss ideas, offer rationale, and bolster an argument. Competent writers explain and explore their ideas, discuss implications, and illustrate through examples . They help the reader understand their thinking about the issue.

"Machines are good at low-skill, repetitive jobs, and at high-speed, extremely precise jobs. In both cases they work better than humans. This efficiency leads to a more prosperous and progressive world for everyone."

In your essay, you might start out by copying the perspective directly into your essay as your point of view, which is fine for the Ideas and Analysis domain. To score well in the Development and Support domain and develop your point of view with logical reasoning and detailed examples, however, you're going to have to come up with reasons for why you agree with this perspective and examples that support your thinking.

Here's an example from an essay that would score a 3 in this domain:

Machines are good at low-skill, repetitive jobs and at high-speed, extremely precise jobs. In both cases, they work better than humans. For example, machines are better at printing things quickly and clearly than people are. Prior to the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg people had to write everything by hand. The printing press made it faster and easier to get things printed because things didn't have to be written by hand all the time. In the world today we have even better machines like laser printers that print things quickly.

Essays scoring a 3 in this domain tend to have relatively simple development and tend to be overly general, with imprecise or repetitive reasoning or illustration. Contrast this with an example from an essay that would score a 6:

Machines are good at low-skill, repetitive jobs and at high-speed, extremely precise jobs. In both cases, they work better than humans. Take, for instance, the example of printing. As a composer, I need to be able to create many copies of my sheet music to give to my musicians. If I were to copy out each part by hand, it would take days, and would most likely contain inaccuracies. On the other hand, my printer (a machine) is able to print out multiple copies of parts with extreme precision. If it turns out I made an error when I was entering in the sheet music onto the computer (another machine), I can easily correct this error and print out more copies quickly.

The above example of the importance of machines to composers uses "an integrated line of skillful reasoning and illustration" to support my claim ("Machines are good at low-skill, repetitive jobs and at high-speed, extremely precise jobs. In both cases, they work better than humans"). To develop this example further (and incorporate the "This efficiency leads to a more prosperous and progressive world for everyone" facet of the perspective), I would need to expand my example to explain why it's so important that multiple copies of precisely replicated documents be available, and how this affects the world.

body_theworld-1

World Map - Abstract Acrylic by Nicolas Raymond , used under CC BY 2.0 /Resized from original.

Organization

Essay organization has always been integral to doing well on the ACT essay, so it makes sense that the ACT Writing rubric has an entire domain devoted to this. The organization of your essay refers not just to the order in which you present your ideas in the essay, but also to the order in which you present your ideas in each paragraph. Here's the formal description from the ACT website :

Scores in this domain reflect the ability to organize ideas with clarity and purpose. Organizational choices are integral to effective writing. Competent writers arrange their essay in a way that clearly shows the relationship between ideas, and they guide the reader through their discussion.

Making sure your essay is logically organized relates back to the "development" part of the previous domain. As the above description states, you can't just throw examples and information into your essay willy-nilly, without any regard for the order; part of constructing and developing a convincing argument is making sure it flows logically. A lot of this organization should happen while you are in the planning phase, before you even begin to write your essay.

Let's go back to the machine intelligence essay example again. I've decided to argue for Perspective Two, which is:

An essay that scores a 3 in this domain would show a "basic organizational structure," which is to say that each perspective analyzed would be discussed in its own paragraph, "with most ideas logically grouped." A possible organization for a 3-scoring essay:

An essay that scores a 6 in this domain, on the other hand, has a lot more to accomplish. The "controlling idea or purpose" behind the essay should be clearly expressed in every paragraph, and ideas should be ordered in a logical fashion so that there is a clear progression from the beginning to the end. Here's a possible organization for a 6-scoring essay:

In this example, the unifying idea is that machines are helpful (and it's mentioned in each paragraph) and the progression of ideas makes more sense. This is certainly not the only way to organize an essay on this particular topic, or even using this particular perspective. Your essay does, however, have to be organized, rather than consist of a bunch of ideas thrown together.

Here are my Top 5 ACT Writing Organization Rules to follow:

#1: Be sure to include an introduction (with your thesis stating your point of view), paragraphs in which you make your case, and a conclusion that sums up your argument

#2: When planning your essay, make sure to present your ideas in an order that makes sense (and follows a logical progression that will be easy for the grader to follow).

#3: Make sure that you unify your essay with one main idea . Do not switch arguments partway through your essay.

#4: Don't write everything in one huge paragraph. If you're worried you're going to run out of space to write and can't make your handwriting any smaller and still legible, you can try using a paragraph symbol, ¶, at the beginning of each paragraph as a last resort to show the organization of your essay.

#5: Use transitions between paragraphs (usually the last line of the previous paragraph and the first line of the paragraph) to "strengthen the relationships among ideas" ( source ). This means going above and beyond "First of all...Second...Lastly" at the beginning of each paragraph. Instead, use the transitions between paragraphs as an opportunity to describe how that paragraph relates to your main argument.

Language Use

The final domain on the ACT Writing rubric is Language Use and Conventions. This the item that includes grammar, punctuation, and general sentence structure issues. Here's what the ACT website has to say about Language Use:

Scores in this domain reflect the ability to use written language to convey arguments with clarity. Competent writers make use of the conventions of grammar, syntax, word usage, and mechanics. They are also aware of their audience and adjust the style and tone of their writing to communicate effectively.

I tend to think of this as the "be a good writer" category, since many of the standards covered in the above description are ones that good writers will automatically meet in their writing. On the other hand, this is probably the area non-native English speakers will struggle the most, as you must have a fairly solid grasp of English to score above a 2 on this domain. The good news is that by reading this article, you're already one step closer to improving your "Language Use" on ACT Writing.

There are three main parts of this domain:

#1: Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics #2: Sentence Structure #3: Vocabulary and Word Choice

I've listed them (and will cover them) from lowest to highest level. If you're struggling with multiple areas, I highly recommend starting out with the lowest-level issue, as the components tend to build on each other. For instance, if you're struggling with grammar and usage, you need to focus on fixing that before you start to think about precision of vocabulary/word choice.

Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics

At the most basic level, you need to be able to "effectively communicate your ideas in standard written English" ( ACT.org ). First and foremost, this means that your grammar and punctuation need to be correct. On ACT Writing, it's all right to make a few minor errors if the meaning is clear, even on essays that score a 6 in the Language Use domain; however, the more errors you make, the more your score will drop.

Here's an example from an essay that scored a 3 in Language Use:

Machines are good at doing there jobs quickly and precisely. Also because machines aren't human or self-aware they don't get bored so they can do the same thing over & over again without getting worse.

While the meaning of the sentences is clear, there are several errors: the first sentence uses "there" instead of "their," the second sentence is a run-on sentence, and the second sentence also uses the abbreviation "&" in place of "and." Now take a look at an example from a 6-scoring essay:

Machines excel at performing their jobs both quickly and precisely. In addition, since machines are not self-aware they are unable to get "bored." This means that they can perform the same task over and over without a decrease in quality.

This example solves the abbreviation and "there/their" issue. The second sentence is missing a comma (after "self-aware"), but the worse of the run-on sentence issue is absent.

Our Complete Guide to ACT Grammar might be helpful if you just need a general refresh on grammar rules. In addition, we have several articles that focus in on specific grammar rules, as they are tested on ACT English; while the specific ways in which ACT English tests you on these rules isn't something you'll need to know for the essay, the explanations of the grammar rules themselves are quite helpful.

Sentence Structure

Once you've gotten down basic grammar, usage, and mechanics, you can turn your attention to sentence structure. Here's an example of what a 3-scoring essay in Language Use (based on sentence structure alone) might look like:

Machines are more efficient than humans at many tasks. Machines are not causing us to lose our humanity. Instead, machines help us to be human by making things more efficient so that we can, for example, feed the needy with technological advances.

The sentence structures in the above example are not particularly varied (two sentences in a row start with "Machines are"), and the last sentence has a very complicated/convoluted structure, which makes it hard to understand. For comparison, here's a 6-scoring essay:

Machines are more efficient than humans at many tasks, but that does not mean that machines are causing us to lose our humanity. In fact, machines may even assist us in maintaining our humanity by providing more effective and efficient ways to feed the needy.

For whatever reason, I find that when I'm under time pressure, my sentences maintain variety in their structures but end up getting really awkward and strange. A real life example: once I described a method of counteracting dementia as "supporting persons of the elderly persuasion" during a hastily written psychology paper. I've found the best ways to counteract this are as follows:

#1: Look over what you've written and change any weird wordings that you notice.

#2: If you're just writing a practice essay, get a friend/teacher/relative who is good at writing (in English) to look over what you've written and point out issues (this is how my own awkward wording was caught before I handed in the paper). This point obviously does not apply when you're actually taking the ACT, but it very helpful to ask for someone else to take a look over any practice essays you write to point out issues you may not notice yourself.

Vocabulary and Word Choice

The icing on the "Language Use" domain cake is skilled use of vocabulary and correct word choice. Part of this means using more complicated vocabulary in your essay. Once more, look at this this example from a 3-scoring essay (spelling corrected):

Machines are good at doing their jobs quickly and precisely.

Compare that to this sentence from a 6-scoring essay:

Machines excel at performing their jobs both quickly and precisely.

The 6-scoring essay uses "excel" and "performing" in place of "are good at" and "doing." This is an example of using language that is both more skillful ("excel" is more advanced than "are good at") and more precise ("performing" is a more precise word than "doing"). It's important to make sure that, when you do use more advanced words, you use them correctly. Consider the below sentence:

"Machines are often instrumental in ramifying safety features."

The sentence uses a couple of advanced vocabulary words, but since "ramifying" is used incorrectly, the language use in this sentence is neither skillful nor precise. Above all, your word choice and vocabulary should make your ideas clearer, not make them harder to understand.

Disappointed with your scores? Want to improve your ACT score by 4+ points?   We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must use to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

How Do I Use the ACT Writing Grading Rubric?

Okay, we've taken a look at the ACTual ACT Writing grading rubric and gone over each domain in detail. To finish up, I'll go over a couple of ways the scoring rubric can be useful to you in your ACT essay prep.

Use the ACT Writing Rubric To...Shape Your Essays

Now that you know what the ACT is looking for in an essay, you can use that to guide what you write about in your essays...and how develop and organize what you say!

Because I'm an Old™ (not actually trademarked), and because I'm from the East Coast, I didn't really know much about the ACT prior to starting my job at PrepScholar. People didn't really take it in my high school, so when I looked at the grading rubric for the first time, I was shocked to see how different the ACT essay was (as compared to the more familiar SAT essay ).

Basically, by reading this article, you're already doing better than high school me.

body_portraitofthemusician

An artist's impression of L. Staffaroni, age 16 (look, junior year was/is hard for everyone).

Use the ACT Writing Rubric To...Grade Your Practice Essays

The ACT can't really give you an answer key to the essay the way it can give you an answer key to the other sections (Reading, Math, etc). There are some examples of essays at each score point on the ACT website , but these examples assume that students will be at an equal level in each of domains, which will not necessarily be true for you. Even if a sample essay is provided as part of a practice test answer key, it will probably use different context, have a different logical progression, or maybe even argue a different viewpoint.

The ACT Writing rubric is the next best thing to an essay answer key. Use it as a filter through which to view your essay . Naturally, you don't have the time to become an expert at applying the rubric criteria to your essay to make sure you're in line with the ACT's grading principles and standards. That is not your job. Your job is to write the best essay that you can. If you're not confident in your ability to spot grammar, usage, and mechanics issues, I highly recommend asking a friend, teacher, or family member who is really good at (English) writing to take a look over your practice essays and point out the mistakes.

If you really want custom feedback on your practice essays from experienced essay graders, may I also suggest the PrepScholar test prep platform ? As I manage all essay grading, I happen to know a bit about the essay part of this platform, which provides you with both an essay grade and custom feedback. Learn more about PrepScholar ACT Prep and our essay grading here!

What's Next?

Desirous of some more sweet sweet ACT essay articles? Why not start with our comprehensive guide to the ACT Writing test and how to write an ACT essay, step-by-step ? (Trick question: obviously you should do this.)

Round out your dive into the details of the ACT Writing test with tips and strategies to raise your essay score , information about the best ACT Writing template , and advice on how to get a perfect score on the ACT essay .

Want actual feedback on your essay? Then consider signing up for our PrepScholar test prep platform . Included in the platform are practice tests and practice essays graded by experts here at PrepScholar.

Want to improve your ACT score by 4 points?   We have the industry's leading ACT prep program. Built by Harvard grads and ACT full scorers, the program learns your strengths and weaknesses through advanced statistics, then customizes your prep program to you so you get the most effective prep possible.   Along with more detailed lessons, you'll get thousands of practice problems organized by individual skills so you learn most effectively. We'll also give you a step-by-step program to follow so you'll never be confused about what to study next.   Check out our 5-day free trial today:

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Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.

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APPENDIX A: Sample Grading Rubrics

Discussions.

on time less than a week late more than a week late
both on time one late, one on time both late
clear and distinct ideas with specific details clear and distinct ideas with weak details weak or vague idea with weak details
clear topic sentence, supporting sentences, and concluding sentence no clear organization, but the information flows well lack of information makes the information difficult to read
few to no errors, easy to read several errors, but they do not interfere with comprehension many errors make it difficult to read

Total points per discussion: 10

Self-Reflection Journal entries

On time and complete On time or complete, but not both Neither on time, nor complete

Total points per self-reflection journal entry: 3

SELF-REFLECTION ESSAY

2 pointsThe writing is clear, complete, and compelling. 1 pointThe writing addresses the topic, but some parts are unclear, incomplete, and/or irrelevant. 0.5 pointThe writing does not address the topic and/or errors interfere with comprehension.
2 pointsThe writing is clear, complete, and compelling. 1 pointThe writing addresses the topic, but some parts are unclear, incomplete, and/or irrelevant. 0.5 pointThe writing does not address the topic and/or errors interfere with comprehension.
2 pointsThe writing is clear, complete, and compelling. 1 pointThe writing addresses the topic, but some parts are unclear, incomplete, and/or irrelevant. 0.5 pointThe writing does not address the topic and/or errors interfere with comprehension.
2 pointsThe writing is clear, complete, and compelling. 1 pointThe writing addresses the topic, but some parts are unclear, incomplete, and/or irrelevant. 0.5 pointThe writing does not address the topic and/or errors interfere with comprehension.
1 pointThe introduction gets the reader’s attention and connects the four paragraphs in a specific thesis. The conclusion restates the thesis, offers and offers a final thought that brings closure to the essay. 0.5 pointThe introduction, conclusion, or thesis statement are missing or vague/superficial. 0 pointThe introduction and the conclusion are both missing.
1 pointThe writing uses standard academic grammar and mechanics. The essay follows the instructions for formatting. 0.5 pointThere are noticeable errors in grammar, mechanics, or formatting, but they do not interfere with comprehension. 0 pointThere are noticeable errors in grammar, mechanics, or formatting that interfere with comprehension.

DRAFT ESSAYS

This grading rubric is designed for the first draft of an essay. It focuses more on content and organization, and it focuses less on grammar and mechanics.

The introduction has an interesting hook, helpful background information, a clear thesis statement, and a preview of the content of the essay. The introduction has some, but not all of the parts … or the parts are present but some are strong and some are weak. Several or all parts are missing or inadequate.
The thesis statement is clearly articulated with both a topic and a claim (and, in later essays, implications). The thesis statement has only one part. Or, if it has both parts, one or both parts are weak or unclear. There is no clearly articulated thesis statement.
Each body paragraph has a clearly articulated topic sentence that expresses the topic and controlling idea. Some body paragraphs have clear topic sentences; others do not. The author does not use topic sentences regularly.
Each body paragraph uses specific supporting details to explain the topic sentence. Some paragraphs do not fully develop the topic sentence. Supporting details do not develop the topic sentence.
The conclusion paragraph restates the thesis, suggests implications, and provides closure to the essay. The conclusion has some, but not all of the parts … or the parts are present but some are strong and some are weak. Several or all parts are missing or inadequate.
The author consistently uses formal academic vocabulary that is appropriate to the topic. This includes writing in the third person, avoiding contractions, and using transition words. The author attempts to use formal academic vocabulary, with some exceptions. The author does not try to use formal academic vocabulary.
There is a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. The information flows in a logical sequence, with each paragraph building upon the previous one. While the essay may have all of the necessary parts, the structure is confusing or indirect. There is no clear structure to the essay, or the essay is missing a necessary part.
The author writes with clarity, unity, and concision. It’s easy to understand the information; it all supports a single thesis; and the essay includes only what is necessary to explain the thesis. The essay is weak in one of the three areas: clarity, unity, or concision. The essay is weak in two or more areas: clarity, unity, or concision.
The author uses standard academic conventions, including capitalization, punctuation, spelling, page formatting, and source citations There are noticeable errors in mechanics, but they do not interfere with comprehension. There are many errors in mechanics that interfere with comprehension.
The author uses standard academic grammar with few or not errors.

 

There are noticeable errors in grammar, but they do not interfere with comprehension. There are many errors in grammar that interfere with comprehension.

Total points per draft essay: 10

Revised Essays

This grading rubric is designed for the second draft of an essay. It focuses more on grammar and mechanics, and it focuses less on content and organization.

There are no errors. There are one or two errors. There are more than two errors.
There are no errors. There are one or two errors. There are more than two errors.
There are no errors. There are one or two errors. There are more than two errors.
There are no errors. There are one or two errors. There are more than two errors.
There are no or few errors. Nothing interferes with comprehension. There are noticeable grammar errors, but they do not interfere with comprehension. There are noticeable grammar errors, and they interfere with comprehension.
The author consistently uses formal academic vocabulary that is appropriate to the topic. This includes writing in the third person, avoiding contractions, and using transition words. The author attempts to use formal academic vocabulary, with some exceptions. The author does not try to use formal academic vocabulary.
There is a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. The information flows in a logical sequence, with each paragraph building upon the previous one. While the essay may have all of the necessary parts, the structure is confusing or indirect. There is no clear structure to the essay, or the essay is missing a necessary part.
The author writes with clarity, unity, and concision. It’s easy to understand the information; it all supports a single thesis; and the essay includes only what is necessary to explain the thesis. The essay is weak in one of the three areas: clarity, unity, or concision. The essay is weak in two or more areas: clarity, unity, or concision.
The author uses standard academic conventions, including capitalization, punctuation, spelling, page formatting, and source citations There are noticeable errors in mechanics, but they do not interfere with comprehension. There are many errors in mechanics that interfere with comprehension.
The content of the essay is meaningful and detailed, not vague or superficial. Feedback from the first draft has been addressed. The content of the essay is interesting and feedback from the draft has been addressed. However, weak areas remain. The content remains vague or superficial and/or feedback from the first draft was not addressed.

Total points per revised essay: 10

Synthesis Copyright © 2022 by Timothy Krause is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Grading rubric for an essay in a literature class.

The A Essay makes an interesting, complex—even surprising—argument and is thoroughly well-executed.   It both engages the text closely and sheds light on relevant contexts (historical, theoretical, or critical).

  • Thesis and Motive . The major claim of the essay is complex, insightful, and unexpected.   The thesis responds to a true question, tension or problem.   It is stated clearly at the outset and evolves throughout the paper.   The introduction has a clear motive that outlines the stakes of the argument and demonstrates a meaningful context for the author’s claims. Ideally demonstrates familiarity with current critical conversation on relevant issues.
  • Evidence & Analysis . The best available evidence is introduced not only to support but also to challenge and complicate the claims and stakes of the essay. It is often drawn from unexpected places, and its nuances are insightfully explored. The argument is sufficiently complex to require an explanation of how the evidence supports the essay’s claims, and evidence, drawn both from close reading and from contextual research, is used to develop new claims.
  • Structure . Ideas develop over the course of the essay so that the foundations established early on push the argument toward a more complex conclusion.   The possibility of other ways of approaching the material is explored, and the validity of other arguments about the material is discussed.

Style . The writing is clear and concise, yet sophisticated, demonstrating sentence variety and appropriate vocabulary.   The essay is a pleasure to read.

Revision . The essay does not simply address the comments of the instructor and peer reviewers, but altogether transforms its ideas or use of evidence from the draft.   It is meticulously proofread.

  

The high B Essay falls into two categories: 1. aims at making an engaging, complex argument but is hindered by a few local problems with structure, analysis, or style (e.g. wide-ranging but not deep; contextual but not textual); 2. has a simpler argument that is thoroughly well-executed (e.g. close reading is present but contexts are lacking, or alternative viewpoints are not engaged). 

Thesis &  Motive . Either the major claim is clear, arguable, and complex but misses opportunities for nuance or subtlety, or else it set out to explore an ambitious idea whose complexity leads to minor errors in articulation.   The introduction suggests some context or stakes for the argument but does not offer strong motivation, or a convincing motive is gestured at but remains implicit. There is limited or no engagement with current scholarship

Evidence & Analysis . All claims are supported with evidence that is integral to the development of the argument, but the link between claim and evidence may be at times unconvincing, unnuanced, or insufficiently explained. The analysis demonstrates several moments of keen insight but also includes arguments that lack subtlety or are insufficiently explained elsewhere in the essay. Only one possible way of approaching the material is fully explored; other perspectives receive limited attention.

Structure . The argument follows a clear logical arc, but small gaps, digressions, or a lack of transitional language interrupt the flow of ideas in a few places.

Style . The writing is mostly clear but may contain a few confusing sentences or mechanical problems. It is mostly engaging.

Revision . The essay has mostly resolved the major concerns of the reviewers, though a few minor issues remain. It has clearly been proofread.

The B Essay addresses the assignment and demonstrates effort to produce a complex argument. However, the essay is hindered by either a lack of nuance in the thesis or by structural, analytical, or stylistic problems in the execution of its ideas.

Thesis & Motive . Either the major claim is clear and arguable but lacks complexity or else sets out to explore an intriguing idea that has not developed into a specific claim. The introduction either unsuccessfully motivates an unexpected claim or weakly and artificially motivates a claim that does not constitute a significant revision of the status quo . No attention is given to alternative ways to approach the material

Evidence & Analysis . Most ideas are supported with well-chosen evidence that is sometimes explored in an insightful way, although nuances are often neglected. The text is treated as a set of unproblematic statements or observations, rather than grappled with as an aesthetic object.   The evidence is often integral to the development of the argument, although there may be gaps in the explanation of how the evidence supports the essay’s claims.

Structure . The argument is interesting and logical, but the structure of the essay is, at times, confusing. The essay’s claims, while complex, are executed in a confusing sequence, or they seem related to the thesis but have a confusing relationship to one another. Transitional language may be present but is unsuccessful or inconsistent. No evidence of engagement with possible alternative ways of approaching material.

Style . The writing is straightforward, mostly clear, and often engaging, but it contains occasional mechanical problems, confusing sentences, or moments of vagueness.

Revision . The essay attempts to address reviewers concerns but only does so in parts of the essay. The changes in the essay are improvements but may not be global changes. There may be a few lapses in proofreading.

The low B Essay demonstrates an effort to address the assignment, but the argument is ultimately too obvious, undeveloped, or obscured by significant structural, analytical, or stylistic problems.

Thesis & Motive . The major claim is logical and would require some evidence to prove, but the stakes are not as high as they should be. The essay’s major claims are somewhat unclear, unspecific or uninteresting. The introduction lacks a clear motive or contains an unspecific or weak motive; it evidences no encounters with any sort of critical interlocutors.

Evidence & Analysis .  Evidence is usually relevant, but the essay often does not consider the most important evidence or will present multiple examples to demonstrate the same idea. The essay makes some effort to explore the subtleties of the evidence and may be occasionally insightful, but it rarely uses evidence to complicate the argument and develop new claims.

Structure .  The argument mostly makes logical sense, but the structure of the essay is confusing—jumping around, missing transitions, or taking on too many ideas at once. Or, the argument itself may be presented simplistically and repetitively, leading to a predictable structure and unnecessary transitional language.

Style .  Though the writing generally makes sense and there may be moments where the diction is appropriate and elegant, it is weak enough in places to obscure the author’s ideas, often as a result of vagueness, verbosity, awkwardness, or a recurrent mechanical problem.

Revision . The essay is either a C paper (or lower) that has been revised to a low B, or it shows no significant revision.

The C Essay has significant problems with argumentation and/or presentation. 

Thesis & Motive . The major claim of the essay is weak—vague, simple, or obvious.   The essay does not respond to a true question, tension, or problem. The introduction usually has no motive.

Evidence & Analysis . Evidence may be lacking or irrelevant.   Instead of using evidence to develop the argument, examples remain undigested and unexplored. The author may simply summarize and simplify evidence, or present it in a confusing or unhelpful way.

Structure . The argument may be too simple and so does not develop over the course of the essay. Or the argument may be incoherent or too broad, without any clear organization or transitions. There is no sense of encounter with other minds and other perspectives to give relevance and engagement to the writing.

Style . The writing is generally confusing, awkward, or too verbose, and probably exhibits numerous mechanical problems.   Its diction may be inappropriate.

Revision . The essay did not change significantly from the first draft to the final draft.   Either the essay does not adequately address the criticism of peers and instructor, or the author missed opportunities for response.

Not Passing . An essay will not pass if it does not meet the minimum page requirement, does not address the assignment, plagiarizes, or does not meet standards for academic writing or argumentation.

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Audio and Video Grading

Brief overview.

Grading can feel like a very solitary activity, as well as a one-way mode of communication. While a few students in a course may respond to your feedback if they take issue with the grade, the majority of students are unlikely to reach out, which begs the question: do students read the feedback that instructors place on their assigned work? In another article, we focus on ways to develop a feedback loop for the assessments in your course, but for this article, we explore audio and video grading which can be effective ways to encourage students to listen to feedback.

In their research on students' responses to grading modalities, Jessica S. Kruger and Todd Sage learned that the students in their study "felt that the quality, ability to understand information, helpfulness, accessibility, and ease of making changes of video grading were better than written feedback provided in the course, and video grading created trust between the student and the instructor" (407).

Assessment as Connection

Some teaching modalities lend themselves naturally to connection: in person, hybrid, and even synchronous instruction allow students to get to know you and each other well. This connection is particularly useful when it comes time to provide feedback on assignments. If you have created a solid working relationship with your students, they are more likely to read your feedback and to incorporate it into their subsequent course work.

In asynchronous learning environments, where you are unlikely to interact with students beyond discussion posts or the occasional video conference, it is more likely that there will be less of a connection. As a result, the feedback you provide may seem impersonal or can even be ignored in a virtual setting.

Moreover, regardless of modality, students can be intimidated by red-pen comments on an essay or point deductions on a rubric. Audio and video grading practices allow you to convey an encouraging tone and to explain, in a concise manner, complicated advice.

Audio and video grading have an added benefit for instructors, especially those who grade long assignments: once you learn the basics, it is much less laborious to record a short audio or video assessment than it is to write comments by hand or to add comments to a digital document.

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Getting Started with Audio or Video Grading

There are two steps to employ audio or video grading: learning the technology and developing an effective feedback practice.

Audio and Video Grading Technology

Elearning audio/video grading.

WMU's Elearning system has embedded audio and video grading features in the Dropbox folder that enable you to read a student's assignment, make a recording or video, save it, and make it viewable to each student.

In the file a student submits, the text appears on the left, along with tools that can be used to mark up the text. Short comments can be placed in the box on the right:

screenshot showing the interface layout in Elearning

Underneath the comment box, you can select Audio or Video grading from the menu:

screenshot showing the menu underneath the comment box in Elearning

The advantage to this system is that everything can be done in one place, and once you save the recording, you are finished.

However, at this point in its development, the Elearning mark-up function is a little clunky, and it is not possible to scroll through the student's document while you are recording your commentary. For that reason, we recommend using this feature for short, low stakes assignments rather than longer papers or projects.

Webex Audio/Video Grading

Another option is to start a Webex meeting, share the student's assignment on the screen, select record, and then scroll through the student's assignment while recording an audio voiceover or a video split screen recording. Of course, you could also record yourself marking up the assignment, but that would only work for a very short submission because the goal is to save time for you while also providing the student with feedback that is helpful and brief. The best practice is to mark up the assignment beforehand with short notations, and then record your advice. Once you have finished the recording, you can save the file, upload it to Mediasite, and provide the student with a link to the video.

The Webex method is more time-consuming than recording in the Elearning system because you need to process the video and paste the link into the Elearning file or into an email. If you have made notes on the paper or test itself, then you would also want to place that in the file. Despite these extra steps, Webex grading offers the student a more seamless viewing experience.

If you want to limit the timeframe that a student has access to the video, you can set that limitation in Mediasite.

Effective Feedback Processes

Audio or video grading does require that you read through and assess a student's work prior to engaging in the recording. However, rather than writing extensive notes on the assignment itself, instructors can develop a notation system. For instance, as you go through the assignment, you can place a number next to a place where you would like to provide advice, and either type a few words on the paper or test itself or make a short reference note on a separate file that you can use as a script. That way, the student can follow along with your comments.

If you are assessing a performance, recital, or lab method, you can take notes during the session and then record your commentary afterwards.

Benefits and Limitations

Perhaps the greatest advantage to audio/video grading is that it allows an instructor to speak directly to their student, using a tone that has the potential to alter the way that the student perceives the feedback process. By offering thoughtful advice in a conversational tone, an instructor can go a long way to removing the apprehension with which some students approach receiving graded work. When a student hears or sees their instructor offering advice, they may feel more of a connection and may be more likely to get in touch if they have remaining questions or want to explore a new idea or methodology.

For those instructors who are comfortable recording audio/video files and who find the act of writing out detailed comments and explanations on students' work to be physically and emotionally draining, recording a short audio clip or video clip can be a great option.

However, as Patrick R. Lowenthal points out in a recent study, "Effective video feedback requires strong communication skills as well as a comfort level with being recorded, a quiet place to record…, technical skills, and finally the time to do it (which can be challenging for high enrollment courses)" (130).

If you would like to learn more about recording audio and video clips in Elearning or via Webex, contact the WMUx Instructional Technology Center .

  • Borup, Jered, Richard E. West, and Rebecca Thomas. "The Impact of Text Versus Video Communication on Instructor Feedback in Blended Courses." Educational Technology Research and Development , vol. 63, 2015, pp. 161-184.
  • Mahoney, Paige, et al. "A Qualitative Synthesis of Video Feedback in Higher Education." Teaching in Higher Education , vol. 24, no. 2, 2019, pp. 157–79.
  • McCarthy, Josh. "Evaluating Written, Audio and Video Feedback in Higher Education Summative Assessment Tasks." Issues in Educational Research , vol. 25, no. 2, 2015, pp. 153.
  • Schilling, Walter. "Improving Student Understanding with Video Grading." The Impact of Pen and Touch Technology on Education , Springer International Publishing, 2015, pp. 193–99.
  • Kruger, Jessica S., and Todd Sage. "Video Grading: Enhancing Clarity and Connection." Journal of Educational Technology Systems , vol. 48, no. 3, 2020, pp. 407-415.
  • Lowenthal, Patrick R. "Video Feedback: Is It Worth the Effort? A Response to Borup et Al." Educational Technology Research and Development , vol. 69, no. 1, 2020, pp. 127–31.

IMAGES

  1. Essay Rubric

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  2. 5 Paragraph Essay Grading Rubric Middle School

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  3. 46 Editable Rubric Templates (Word Format) ᐅ TemplateLab

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  4. 46 Editable Rubric Templates (Word Format) ᐅ TemplateLab

    grading rubric for a essay

  5. 46 Editable Rubric Templates (Word Format) ᐅ TemplateLab

    grading rubric for a essay

  6. 46 Editable Rubric Templates (Word Format) ᐅ TemplateLab

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VIDEO

  1. Practice Essay Grading

  2. Reviewing Writing Essay Rubric Up Dated Sp 2024

  3. Grading the Essay Questions

  4. Essay Question Practice using Rubric

  5. Contract Grading Rubric Update 2024 CC

  6. Essay Grading Tip ✏️

COMMENTS

  1. PDF Essay Rubric

    Essay Rubric Directions: Your essay will be graded based on this rubric. Consequently, use this rubric as a guide when writing your essay and check it again before you submit your essay. Traits 4 3 2 1 Focus & Details There is one clear, well-focused topic. Main ideas are clear and are well supported by detailed and accurate information.

  2. Rubric Best Practices, Examples, and Templates

    Rubric Best Practices, Examples, and Templates. A rubric is a scoring tool that identifies the different criteria relevant to an assignment, assessment, or learning outcome and states the possible levels of achievement in a specific, clear, and objective way. Use rubrics to assess project-based student work including essays, group projects ...

  3. Effective Essay Writing Rubrics for Academic Success

    An essay writing rubric is a set of criteria that outlines what is expected in a well-crafted essay, providing students with clear guidelines for success. Effective essay writing rubrics not only evaluate the quality of the content but also assess the organization, coherence, language use, and overall structure of an essay.

  4. 15 Helpful Scoring Rubric Examples for All Grades and Subjects

    15 Helpful Scoring Rubric Examples for All Grades and Subjects. In the end, they actually make grading easier. By Jill Staake, B.S., Secondary ELA Education. Jun 16, 2023. When it comes to student assessment and evaluation, there are a lot of methods to consider. In some cases, testing is the best way to assess a student's knowledge, and the ...

  5. Writing Rubrics [Examples, Best Practices, & Free Templates]

    1. Define Clear Criteria. Identify specific aspects of writing to evaluate. Be clear and precise. The criteria should reflect the key components of the writing task. For example, for a narrative essay, criteria might include plot development, character depth, and use of descriptive language.

  6. Rubrics

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    Grading rubrics can be of great benefit to both you and your students. For you, a rubric saves time and decreases subjectivity. Specific criteria are explicitly stated, facilitating the grading process and increasing your objectivity. For students, the use of grading rubrics helps them to meet or exceed expectations, to view the grading process ...

  8. PDF Argumentative essay rubric

    Logical, compelling progression of ideas in essay;clear structure which enhances and showcases the central idea or theme and moves the reader through the text. Organization flows so smoothly the reader hardly thinks about it. Effective, mature, graceful transitions exist throughout the essay.

  9. Academic essay rubric

    Academic essay rubric. This is a grading rubric an instructor uses to assess students' work on this type of assignment. It is a sample rubric that needs to be edited to reflect the specifics of a particular assignment.

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    Example 1: Discussion Class This rubric assesses the quality of student contributions to class discussions. This is appropriate for an undergraduate-level course (Carnegie Mellon). Example 2: Advanced Seminar This rubric is designed for assessing discussion performance in an advanced undergraduate or graduate seminar.

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    Richard Keyser Essay Grading Rubric 2015 Essay Grading Rubric I have provided here a detailed grading rubric to help you understand the criteria used for grading your essays and papers. However, it is important to take it with a grain of salt, because one cannot really reduce the process of assessing an essay to a checklist of factors that can ...

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    Holistic scoring is a quick method of evaluating a composition based on the reader's general impression of the overall quality of the writing—you can generally read a student's composition and assign a score to it in two or three minutes. Holistic scoring is usually based on a scale of 0-4, 0-5, or 0-6.

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  17. Examples of Rubric Creation

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    A rubric, or "a matrix that provides levels of achievement for a set of criteria" (Howell, 2014), is a common tool for assessing open-response or creative work (writing, presentations, performances, etc.). To use rubrics effectively, instructors should understand their benefits, the types and uses of rubrics, and their limitations. Benefits of Rubrics The criteria identified in the matrix ...

  20. ACT Writing Rubric: Full Analysis and Essay Strategies

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    DRAFT ESSAYS. This grading rubric is designed for the first draft of an essay. It focuses more on content and organization, and it focuses less on grammar and mechanics. The introduction has an interesting hook, helpful background information, a clear thesis statement, and a preview of the content of the essay.

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    Essay Grading Rubric thoroug ti ss Criteria Excellent Adequate Needs Work Organization Title, Introduction, Conclusion Title includes both subject and a hint about the thesis or point of view; engaging introduction that prepares the reader accurately for the body paragraphs; thought-provoking or interesting conclusion that

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    Moreover, regardless of modality, students can be intimidated by red-pen comments on an essay or point deductions on a rubric. Audio and video grading practices allow you to convey an encouraging tone and to explain, in a concise manner, complicated advice.

  25. Score: ? Is GPT-4 Alone Sufficient for Automated Essay Scoring?: A

    LLM scoring essays using the rubrics that were used for grading Essay Set 7 and Set 8 in the ASAP dataset. The basic rubric consists of 4 traits for Set 7 and 6 traits for Set 8, with each score hav-ing a corresponding descriptor. The descriptors for the rubric used in Set 7 are relatively simple, while those in Set 8 are very specific. The average