The University of Texas at Austin
School of Undergraduate Studies
Skip navigation links

Grading Student Writing

In all Writing Flag courses (all UGS 302s and some 303s), at least one third of the final course grade must come from written work. Grades should reflect both the quality of students ideas and the mechanical competence of their writing. Model rubrics can help you formulate your grading criteria.

Develop Criteria

Well-thought-out grading criteria make assessing writing much easier. When students know the criteria ahead of time, they find it easier to write. We strongly encourage all Signature Course instructors to share their expectations for written work with students from the very beginning of the class.

Your goals for each assignment should guide you in developing grading criteria. Use language that reflects your strengths and the way you grade. If you don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of grammar errors, judge a paper’s “coherence and readability” rather than “number of sentence boundary errors.”

Grading criteria can be simple or complex. They can analyze discrete elements of performance, or describe general traits that define papers in a given grade range. Analytical and holistic elements can be combined in a single set of grading criteria. Use the arrangement that best fits the way you think as you are grading and makes the most sense in terms of the particular assignment you are creating.

The benefits and drawbacks of analytical and holistic grading approaches are outlined on our Rubrics page, where you will also find models of different kinds of rubrics.

Use Criteria

Share your criteria with students and use them at every stage of the writing process. When your students read and discuss one another’s work, the grading criteria should be kept in mind. When you assign final grades, it is helpful to students if you refer to specific categories in your grading criteria. For this reason, many instructors organize their criteria into grade sheets or rubrics.

Use a Checklist

Use criteria to draw up a short checklist that you can refer to when commenting on drafts of papers. This helps you and the student focus on revision that will improve the paper by more closely meeting the criteria.