The University of Texas at Austin
Skip navigation links

Rubrics & Checklists

Grading criteria can be very simple or complex. They can analyze discrete elements of performance or describe general traits that define papers in a given grade range. You can use them to set up a scoring sheet for grading final drafts, and to create revision-oriented checklists to speed up commenting on early drafts of projects. By far the best way to clarify grading criteria is to look at one or more sample pieces of writing, asking students to apply the criteria, and discussing their judgments as a class.

Analytical approaches to grading

Analytical rubrics assign a specific point value to each attribute of a project (for example: thesis, evidence, logic, discussion, development, grammar, spelling, and formatting). They may be arranged graphically as grids, sliding scales, or checklists. You can weight categories to reflect issues of more or less concern, such as stressing the quality of a student’s thesis more than spelling skills. Analytical grade scales allow very detailed assessment of multi-faceted projects, but the more detailed they are, the longer they take to develop, fine-tune, and use. They also are more likely to elicit “bean-counting” responses from students, who want to know why they “lost” five points for comma splices when a fellow student was only penalized three points for spelling errors. Some instructors and students dislike what can feel like a lack of flexibility in analytical assessment.

Holistic approaches to grading

Holistic grading rubrics typically focus on larger skill sets demonstrated in the writing. They can be as detailed or as general as you like. Ideally, the descriptions will use specific language, but not overload students with information. Assigning holistic grades often speeds up the grading process, and many instructors feel holistic grades best reflect the inseparabil