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

Example of a holistic rubric for a final paper, single-point rubric, 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.

what is a rubric in an essay

How to Use Rubrics

what is a rubric in an essay

A rubric is a document that describes the criteria by which students’ assignments are graded. Rubrics can be helpful for:

  • Making grading faster and more consistent (reducing potential bias). 
  • Communicating your expectations for an assignment to students before they begin. 

Moreover, for assignments whose criteria are more subjective, the process of creating a rubric and articulating what it looks like to succeed at an assignment provides an opportunity to check for alignment with the intended learning outcomes and modify the assignment prompt, as needed.

Why rubrics?

Rubrics are best for assignments or projects that require evaluation on multiple dimensions. Creating a rubric makes the instructor’s standards explicit to both students and other teaching staff for the class, showing students how to meet expectations.

Additionally, the more comprehensive a rubric is, the more it allows for grading to be streamlined—students will get informative feedback about their performance from the rubric, even if they don’t have as many individualized comments. Grading can be more standardized and efficient across graders.

Finally, rubrics allow for reflection, as the instructor has to think about their standards and outcomes for the students. Using rubrics can help with self-directed learning in students as well, especially if rubrics are used to review students’ own work or their peers’, or if students are involved in creating the rubric.

How to design a rubric

1. consider the desired learning outcomes.

What learning outcomes is this assignment reinforcing and assessing? If the learning outcome seems “fuzzy,” iterate on the outcome by thinking about the expected student work product. This may help you more clearly articulate the learning outcome in a way that is measurable.  

2. Define criteria

What does a successful assignment submission look like? As described by Allen and Tanner (2006), it can help develop an initial list of categories that the student should demonstrate proficiency in by completing the assignment. These categories should correlate with the intended learning outcomes you identified in Step 1, although they may be more granular in some cases. For example, if the task assesses students’ ability to formulate an effective communication strategy, what components of their communication strategy will you be looking for? Talking with colleagues or looking at existing rubrics for similar tasks may give you ideas for categories to consider for evaluation.

If you have assigned this task to students before and have samples of student work, it can help create a qualitative observation guide. This is described in Linda Suskie’s book Assessing Student Learning , where she suggests thinking about what made you decide to give one assignment an A and another a C, as well as taking notes when grading assignments and looking for common patterns. The often repeated themes that you comment on may show what your goals and expectations for students are. An example of an observation guide used to take notes on predetermined areas of an assignment is shown here .

In summary, consider the following list of questions when defining criteria for a rubric (O’Reilly and Cyr, 2006):

  • What do you want students to learn from the task?
  • How will students demonstrate that they have learned?
  • What knowledge, skills, and behaviors are required for the task?
  • What steps are required for the task?
  • What are the characteristics of the final product?

After developing an initial list of criteria, prioritize the most important skills you want to target and eliminate unessential criteria or combine similar skills into one group. Most rubrics have between 3 and 8 criteria. Rubrics that are too lengthy make it difficult to grade and challenging for students to understand the key skills they need to achieve for the given assignment. 

3. Create the rating scale

According to Suskie, you will want at least 3 performance levels: for adequate and inadequate performance, at the minimum, and an exemplary level to motivate students to strive for even better work. Rubrics often contain 5 levels, with an additional level between adequate and exemplary and a level between adequate and inadequate. Usually, no more than 5 levels are needed, as having too many rating levels can make it hard to consistently distinguish which rating to give an assignment (such as between a 6 or 7 out of 10). Suskie also suggests labeling each level with names to clarify which level represents the minimum acceptable performance. Labels will vary by assignment and subject, but some examples are: 

  • Exceeds standard, meets standard, approaching standard, below standard
  • Complete evidence, partial evidence, minimal evidence, no evidence

4. Fill in descriptors

Fill in descriptors for each criterion at each performance level. Expand on the list of criteria you developed in Step 2. Begin to write full descriptions, thinking about what an exemplary example would look like for students to strive towards. Avoid vague terms like “good” and make sure to use explicit, concrete terms to describe what would make a criterion good. For instance, a criterion called “organization and structure” would be more descriptive than “writing quality.” Describe measurable behavior and use parallel language for clarity; the wording for each criterion should be very similar, except for the degree to which standards are met. For example, in a sample rubric from Chapter 9 of Suskie’s book, the criterion of “persuasiveness” has the following descriptors:

  • Well Done (5): Motivating questions and advance organizers convey the main idea. Information is accurate.
  • Satisfactory (3-4): Includes persuasive information.
  • Needs Improvement (1-2): Include persuasive information with few facts.
  • Incomplete (0): Information is incomplete, out of date, or incorrect.

These sample descriptors generally have the same sentence structure that provides consistent language across performance levels and shows the degree to which each standard is met.

5. Test your rubric

Test your rubric using a range of student work to see if the rubric is realistic. You may also consider leaving room for aspects of the assignment, such as effort, originality, and creativity, to encourage students to go beyond the rubric. If there will be multiple instructors grading, it is important to calibrate the scoring by having all graders use the rubric to grade a selected set of student work and then discuss any differences in the scores. This process helps develop consistency in grading and making the grading more valid and reliable.

Types of Rubrics

If you would like to dive deeper into rubric terminology, this section is dedicated to discussing some of the different types of rubrics. However, regardless of the type of rubric you use, it’s still most important to focus first on your learning goals and think about how the rubric will help clarify students’ expectations and measure student progress towards those learning goals.

Depending on the nature of the assignment, rubrics can come in several varieties (Suskie, 2009):

Checklist Rubric

This is the simplest kind of rubric, which lists specific features or aspects of the assignment which may be present or absent. A checklist rubric does not involve the creation of a rating scale with descriptors. See example from 18.821 project-based math class .

Rating Scale Rubric

This is like a checklist rubric, but instead of merely noting the presence or absence of a feature or aspect of the assignment, the grader also rates quality (often on a graded or Likert-style scale). See example from 6.811 assistive technology class .

Descriptive Rubric

A descriptive rubric is like a rating scale, but including descriptions of what performing to a certain level on each scale looks like. Descriptive rubrics are particularly useful in communicating instructors’ expectations of performance to students and in creating consistency with multiple graders on an assignment. This kind of rubric is probably what most people think of when they imagine a rubric. See example from 15.279 communications class .

Holistic Scoring Guide

Unlike the first 3 types of rubrics, a holistic scoring guide describes performance at different levels (e.g., A-level performance, B-level performance) holistically without analyzing the assignment into several different scales. This kind of rubric is particularly useful when there are many assignments to grade and a moderate to a high degree of subjectivity in the assessment of quality. It can be difficult to have consistency across scores, and holistic scoring guides are most helpful when making decisions quickly rather than providing detailed feedback to students. See example from 11.229 advanced writing seminar .

The kind of rubric that is most appropriate will depend on the assignment in question.

Implementation tips

Rubrics are also available to use for Canvas assignments. See this resource from Boston College for more details and guides from Canvas Instructure.

Allen, D., & Tanner, K. (2006). Rubrics: Tools for Making Learning Goals and Evaluation Criteria Explicit for Both Teachers and Learners. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 5 (3), 197-203. doi:10.1187/cbe.06-06-0168

Cherie Miot Abbanat. 11.229 Advanced Writing Seminar. Spring 2004. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, https://ocw.mit.edu . License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA .

Haynes Miller, Nat Stapleton, Saul Glasman, and Susan Ruff. 18.821 Project Laboratory in Mathematics. Spring 2013. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, https://ocw.mit.edu . License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA .

Lori Breslow, and Terence Heagney. 15.279 Management Communication for Undergraduates. Fall 2012. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, https://ocw.mit.edu . License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA .

O’Reilly, L., & Cyr, T. (2006). Creating a Rubric: An Online Tutorial for Faculty. Retrieved from https://www.ucdenver.edu/faculty_staff/faculty/center-for-faculty-development/Documents/Tutorials/Rubrics/index.htm

Suskie, L. (2009). Using a scoring guide or rubric to plan and evaluate an assessment. In Assessing student learning: A common sense guide (2nd edition, pp. 137-154 ) . Jossey-Bass.

William Li, Grace Teo, and Robert Miller. 6.811 Principles and Practice of Assistive Technology. Fall 2014. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, https://ocw.mit.edu . License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA .

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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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:

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
  • In the Classroom
  • When/Why/How: Some General Principles of Responding to Student Work
  • Consistency and Equity in Grading
  • Assessing Class Participation
  • Assessing Non-Traditional Assignments
  • Beyond “the Grade”: Alternative Approaches to Assessment
  • Getting Feedback
  • Equitable & Inclusive Teaching
  • Advising and Mentoring
  • Teaching and Your Career
  • Teaching Remotely
  • Tools and Platforms
  • The Science of Learning
  • Bok Publications
  • Other Resources Around Campus

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.

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Rubrics are a set of criteria to evaluate performance on an assignment or assessment. Rubrics can communicate expectations regarding the quality of work to students and provide a standardized framework for instructors to assess work. Rubrics can be used for both formative and summative assessment. They are also crucial in encouraging self-assessment of work and structuring peer-assessments. 

Why use rubrics?

Rubrics are an important tool to assess learning in an equitable and just manner. This is because they enable:

  • A common set of standards and criteria to be uniformly applied, which can mitigate bias
  • Transparency regarding the standards and criteria on which students are evaluated
  • Efficient grading with timely and actionable feedback 
  • Identifying areas in which students need additional support and guidance 
  • The use of objective, criterion-referenced metrics for evaluation 

Some instructors may be reluctant to provide a rubric to grade assessments under the perception that it stifles student creativity (Haugnes & Russell, 2018). However, sharing the purpose of an assessment and criteria for success in the form of a rubric along with relevant examples has been shown to particularly improve the success of BIPOC, multiracial, and first-generation students (Jonsson, 2014; Winkelmes, 2016). Improved success in assessments is generally associated with an increased sense of belonging which, in turn, leads to higher student retention and more equitable outcomes in the classroom (Calkins & Winkelmes, 2018; Weisz et al., 2023). By not providing a rubric, faculty may risk having students guess the criteria on which they will be evaluated. When students have to guess what expectations are, it may unfairly disadvantage students who are first-generation, BIPOC, international, or otherwise have not been exposed to the cultural norms that have dominated higher-ed institutions in the U.S (Shapiro et al., 2023). Moreover, in such cases, criteria may be applied inconsistently for students leading to biases in grades awarded to students.

Steps for Creating a Rubric

Clearly state the purpose of the assessment, which topic(s) learners are being tested on, the type of assessment (e.g., a presentation, essay, group project), the skills they are being tested on (e.g., writing, comprehension, presentation, collaboration), and the goal of the assessment for instructors (e.g., gauging formative or summative understanding of the topic). 

Determine the specific criteria or dimensions to assess in the assessment. These criteria should align with the learning objectives or outcomes to be evaluated. These criteria typically form the rows in a rubric grid and describe the skills, knowledge, or behavior to be demonstrated. The set of criteria may include, for example, the idea/content, quality of arguments, organization, grammar, citations and/or creativity in writing. These criteria may form separate rows or be compiled in a single row depending on the type of rubric.

(See row headers  of  Figure 1 )

Create a scale of performance levels that describe the degree of proficiency attained for each criterion. The scale typically has 4 to 5 levels (although there may be fewer levels depending on the type of rubrics used). The rubrics should also have meaningful labels (e.g., not meeting expectations, approaching expectations, meeting expectations, exceeding expectations). When assigning levels of performance, use inclusive language that can inculcate a growth mindset among students, especially when work may be otherwise deemed to not meet the mark. Some examples include, “Does not yet meet expectations,” “Considerable room for improvement,” “ Progressing,” “Approaching,” “Emerging,” “Needs more work,” instead of using terms like “Unacceptable,” “Fails,” “Poor,” or “Below Average.”

(See column headers  of  Figure 1 )

Develop a clear and concise descriptor for each combination of criterion and performance level. These descriptors should provide examples or explanations of what constitutes each level of performance for each criterion. Typically, instructors should start by describing the highest and lowest level of performance for that criterion and then describing intermediate performance for that criterion. It is important to keep the language uniform across all columns, e.g., use syntax and words that are aligned in each column for a given criteria. 

(See cells  of  Figure 1 )

It is important to consider how each criterion is weighted and for each criterion to reflect the importance of learning objectives being tested. For example, if the primary goal of a research proposal is to test mastery of content and application of knowledge, these criteria should be weighted more heavily compared to other criteria (e.g., grammar, style of presentation). This can be done by associating a different scoring system for each criteria (e.g., Following a scale of 8-6-4-2 points for each level of performance in higher weight criteria and 4-3-2-1 points for each level of performance for lower weight criteria). Further, the number of points awarded across levels of performance should be evenly spaced (e.g., 10-8-6-4 instead of 10-6-3-1). Finally, if there is a letter grade associated with a particular assessment, consider how it relates to scores. For example, instead of having students receive an A only if they received the highest level of performance on each criterion, consider assigning an A grade to a range of scores (28 - 30 total points) or a combination of levels of performance (e.g., exceeds expectations on higher weight criteria and meets expectations on other criteria). 

(See the numerical values in the column headers  of  Figure 1 )

 a close up of a score sheet

Figure 1:  Graphic describing the five basic elements of a rubric

Note : Consider using a template rubric that can be used to evaluate similar activities in the classroom to avoid the fatigue of developing multiple rubrics. Some tools include Rubistar or iRubric which provide suggested words for each criteria depending on the type of assessment. Additionally, the above format can be incorporated in rubrics that can be directly added in Canvas or in the grid view of rubrics in gradescope which are common grading tools. Alternately, tables within a Word processor or Spreadsheet may also be used to build a rubric. You may also adapt the example rubrics provided below to the specific learning goals for the assessment using the blank template rubrics we have provided against each type of rubric. Watch the linked video for a quick introduction to designing a rubric . Word document (docx) files linked below will automatically download to your device whereas pdf files will open in a new tab.

Types of Rubrics

In these rubrics, one specifies at least two criteria and provides a separate score for each criterion. The steps outlined above for creating a rubric are typical for an analytic style rubric. Analytic rubrics are used to provide detailed feedback to students and help identify strengths as well as particular areas in need of improvement. These can be particularly useful when providing formative feedback to students, for student peer assessment and self-assessments, or for project-based summative assessments that evaluate student learning across multiple criteria. You may use a blank analytic rubric template (docx) or adapt an existing sample of an analytic rubric (pdf) . 

figure 2

Fig 2: Graphic describing a sample analytic rubric (adopted from George Mason University, 2013)

These are a subset of analytical rubrics that are typically used to assess student performance and engagement during a learning period but not the end product. Such rubrics are typically used to assess soft skills and behaviors that are less tangible (e.g., intercultural maturity, empathy, collaboration skills). These rubrics are useful in assessing the extent to which students develop a particular skill, ability, or value in experiential learning based programs or skills. They are grounded in the theory of development (King, 2005). Examples include an intercultural knowledge and competence rubric (docx)  and a global learning rubric (docx) .

These rubrics consider all criteria evaluated on one scale, providing a single score that gives an overall impression of a student’s performance on an assessment.These rubrics also emphasize the overall quality of a student’s work, rather than delineating shortfalls of their work. However, a limitation of the holistic rubrics is that they are not useful for providing specific, nuanced feedback or to identify areas of improvement. Thus, they might be useful when grading summative assessments in which students have previously received detailed feedback using analytic or single-point rubrics. They may also be used to provide quick formative feedback for smaller assignments where not more than 2-3 criteria are being tested at once. Try using our blank holistic rubric template docx)  or adapt an existing sample of holistic rubric (pdf) . 

figure 3

Fig 3: Graphic describing a sample holistic rubric (adopted from Teaching Commons, DePaul University)

These rubrics contain only two levels of performance (e.g., yes/no, present/absent) across a longer list of criteria (beyond 5 levels). Checklist rubrics have the advantage of providing a quick assessment of criteria given the binary assessment of criteria that are either met or are not met. Consequently, they are preferable when initiating self- or  peer-assessments of learning given that it simplifies evaluations to be more objective and criteria can elicit only one of two responses allowing uniform and quick grading. For similar reasons, such rubrics are useful for faculty in providing quick formative feedback since it immediately highlights the specific criteria to improve on. Such rubrics are also used in grading summative assessments in courses utilizing alternative grading systems such as specifications grading, contract grading or a credit/no credit grading system wherein a minimum threshold of performance has to be met for the assessment. Having said that, developing rubrics from existing analytical rubrics may require considerable investment upfront given that criteria have to be phrased in a way that can only elicit binary responses. Here is a link to the checklist rubric template (docx) .

 Graphic describing a sample checklist rubric

Fig. 4: Graphic describing a sample checklist rubric

A single point rubric is a modified version of a checklist style rubric, in that it specifies a single column of criteria. However, rather than only indicating whether expectations are met or not, as happens in a checklist rubric, a single point rubric allows instructors to specify ways in which criteria exceeds or does not meet expectations. Here the criteria to be tested are laid out in a central column describing the average expectation for the assignment. Instructors indicate areas of improvement on the left side of the criteria, whereas areas of strength in student performance are indicated on the right side. These types of rubrics provide flexibility in scoring, and are typically used in courses with alternative grading systems such as ungrading or contract grading. However, they do require the instructors to provide detailed feedback for each student, which can be unfeasible for assessments in large classes. Here is a link to the single point rubric template (docx) .

Fig. 5 Graphic describing a single point rubric (adopted from Teaching Commons, DePaul University)

Fig. 5 Graphic describing a single point rubric (adopted from Teaching Commons, DePaul University)

Best Practices for Designing and Implementing Rubrics

When designing the rubric format, descriptors and criteria should be presented in a way that is compatible with screen readers and reading assistive technology. For example, avoid using only color, jargon, or complex terminology to convey information. In case you do use color, pictures or graphics, try providing alternative formats for rubrics, such as plain text documents. Explore resources from the CU Digital Accessibility Office to learn more.

Co-creating rubrics can help students to engage in higher-order thinking skills such as analysis and evaluation. Further, it allows students to take ownership of their own learning by determining the criteria of their work they aspire towards. For graduate classes or upper-level students, one way of doing this may be to provide learning outcomes of the project, and let students develop the rubric on their own. However, students in introductory classes may need more scaffolding by providing them a draft and leaving room for modification (Stevens & Levi 2013). Watch the linked video for tips on co-creating rubrics with students . Further, involving teaching assistants in designing a rubric can help in getting feedback on expectations for an assessment prior to implementing and norming a rubric. 

When first designing a rubric, it is important to compare grades awarded for the same assessment by multiple graders to make sure the criteria are applied uniformly and reliably for the same level of performance. Further, ensure that the levels of performance in student work can be adequately distinguished using a rubric. Such a norming protocol is particularly important to also do at the start of any course in which multiple graders use the same rubric to grade an assessment (e.g., recitation sections, lab sections, teaching team). Here, instructors may select a subset of assignments that all graders evaluate using the same rubric, followed by a discussion to identify any discrepancies in criteria applied and ways to address them. Such strategies can make the rubrics more reliable, effective, and clear.

Sharing the rubric with students prior to an assessment can help familiarize students with an instructor’s expectations. This can help students master their learning outcomes by guiding their work in the appropriate direction and increase student motivation. Further, providing the rubric to students can help encourage metacognition and ability to self-assess learning.

Sample Rubrics

Below are links to rubric templates designed by a team of experts assembled by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) to assess 16 major learning goals. These goals are a part of the Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE) program. All of these examples are analytic rubrics and have detailed criteria to test specific skills. However, since any given assessment typically tests multiple skills, instructors are encouraged to develop their own rubric by utilizing criteria picked from a combination of the rubrics linked below.

  • Civic knowledge and engagement-local and global
  • Creative thinking
  • Critical thinking
  • Ethical reasoning
  • Foundations and skills for lifelong learning
  • Information literacy
  • Integrative and applied learning
  • Intercultural knowledge and competence
  • Inquiry and analysis
  • Oral communication
  • Problem solving
  • Quantitative literacy
  • Written Communication

Note : Clicking on the above links will automatically download them to your device in Microsoft Word format. These links have been created and are hosted by Kansas State University . Additional information regarding the VALUE Rubrics may be found on the AAC&U homepage . 

Below are links to sample rubrics that have been developed for different types of assessments. These rubrics follow the analytical rubric template, unless mentioned otherwise. However, these rubrics can be modified into other types of rubrics (e.g., checklist, holistic or single point rubrics) based on the grading system and goal of assessment (e.g., formative or summative). As mentioned previously, these rubrics can be modified using the blank template provided.

  • Oral presentations  
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  • Research Paper
  • Video Storyboard

Additional information:

Office of Assessment and Curriculum Support. (n.d.). Creating and using rubrics . University of Hawai’i, Mānoa

Calkins, C., & Winkelmes, M. A. (2018). A teaching method that boosts UNLV student retention . UNLV Best Teaching Practices Expo , 3.

Fraile, J., Panadero, E., & Pardo, R. (2017). Co-creating rubrics: The effects on self-regulated learning, self-efficacy and performance of establishing assessment criteria with students. Studies In Educational Evaluation , 53, 69-76

Haugnes, N., & Russell, J. L. (2016). Don’t box me in: Rubrics for àrtists and Designers . To Improve the Academy , 35 (2), 249–283. 

Jonsson, A. (2014). Rubrics as a way of providing transparency in assessment , Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education , 39(7), 840-852 

McCartin, L. (2022, February 1). Rubrics! an equity-minded practice . University of Northern Colorado

Shapiro, S., Farrelly, R., & Tomaš, Z. (2023). Chapter 4: Effective and Equitable Assignments and Assessments. Fostering International Student Success in higher education (pp, 61-87, second edition). TESOL Press.

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

Teaching Commons (n.d.). Types of Rubrics . DePaul University

Teaching Resources (n.d.). Rubric best practices, examples, and templates . NC State University 

Winkelmes, M., Bernacki, M., Butler, J., Zochowski, M., Golanics, J., & Weavil, K.H. (2016). A teaching intervention that increases underserved college students’ success . Peer Review , 8(1/2), 31-36.

Weisz, C., Richard, D., Oleson, K., Winkelmes, M.A., Powley, C., Sadik, A., & Stone, B. (in progress, 2023). Transparency, confidence, belonging and skill development among 400 community college students in the state of Washington . 

Association of American Colleges and Universities. (2009). Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE) . 

Canvas Community. (2021, August 24). How do I add a rubric in a course? Canvas LMS Community.

 Center for Teaching & Learning. (2021, March 03). Overview of Rubrics . University of Colorado, Boulder

 Center for Teaching & Learning. (2021, March 18). Best practices to co-create rubrics with students . University of Colorado, Boulder.

Chase, D., Ferguson, J. L., & Hoey, J. J. (2014). Assessment in creative disciplines: Quantifying and qualifying the aesthetic . Common Ground Publishing.

Feldman, J. (2018). Grading for equity: What it is, why it matters, and how it can transform schools and classrooms . Corwin Press, CA.

Gradescope (n.d.). Instructor: Assignment - Grade Submissions . Gradescope Help Center. 

Henning, G., Baker, G., Jankowski, N., Lundquist, A., & Montenegro, E. (Eds.). (2022). Reframing assessment to center equity . Stylus Publishing. 

 King, P. M. & Baxter Magolda, M. B. (2005). A developmental model of intercultural maturity . Journal of College Student Development . 46(2), 571-592.

Selke, M. J. G. (2013). Rubric assessment goes to college: Objective, comprehensive evaluation of student work. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

The Institute for Habits of Mind. (2023, January 9). Creativity Rubrics - The Institute for Habits of Mind . 

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, sat essay rubric: full analysis and writing strategies.

feature_satessay

We're about to dive deep into the details of that least beloved* of SAT sections, the SAT essay . Prepare for a discussion of the SAT essay rubric and how the SAT essay is graded based on that. I'll break down what each item on the rubric means and what you need to do to meet those requirements.

On the SAT, the last section you'll encounter is the (optional) essay. You have 50 minutes to read a passage, analyze the author's argument, and write an essay. If you don’t write on the assignment, plagiarize, or don't use your own original work, you'll get a 0 on your essay. Otherwise, your essay scoring is done by two graders - each one grades you on a scale of 1-4 in Reading, Analysis, and Writing, for a total essay score out of 8 in each of those three areas . But how do these graders assign your writing a numerical grade? By using an essay scoring guide, or rubric.

*may not actually be the least belovèd.

Feature image credit: Day 148: the end of time by Bruce Guenter , used under CC BY 2.0 /Cropped from original. 

UPDATE: SAT Essay No Longer Offered

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In January 2021, the College Board announced that after June 2021, it would no longer offer the Essay portion of the SAT (except at schools who opt in during School Day Testing). It is now no longer possible to take the SAT Essay, unless your school is one of the small number who choose to offer it during SAT School Day Testing.

While most colleges had already made SAT Essay scores optional, this move by the College Board means no colleges now require the SAT Essay. It will also likely lead to additional college application changes such not looking at essay scores at all for the SAT or ACT, as well as potentially requiring additional writing samples for placement.

What does the end of the SAT Essay mean for your college applications? Check out our article on the College Board's SAT Essay decision for everything you need to know.

The Complete SAT Essay Grading Rubric: Item-by-Item Breakdown

Based on the CollegeBoard’s stated Reading, Analysis, and Writing criteria, I've created the below charts (for easier comparison across score points). For the purpose of going deeper into just what the SAT is looking for in your essay, I've then broken down each category further (with examples).

The information in all three charts is taken from the College Board site .

The biggest change to the SAT essay (and the thing that really distinguishes it from the ACT essay) is that you are required to read and analyze a text , then write about your analysis of the author's argument in your essay. Your "Reading" grade on the SAT essay reflects how well you were able to demonstrate your understanding of the text and the author's argument in your essay.

You'll need to show your understanding of the text on two different levels: the surface level of getting your facts right and the deeper level of getting the relationship of the details and the central ideas right.

Surface Level: Factual Accuracy

One of the most important ways you can show you've actually read the passage is making sure you stick to what is said in the text . If you’re writing about things the author didn’t say, or things that contradict other things the author said, your argument will be fundamentally flawed.

For instance, take this quotation from a (made-up) passage about why a hot dog is not a sandwich:

“The fact that you can’t, or wouldn’t, cut a hot dog in half and eat it that way, proves that a hot dog is once and for all NOT a sandwich”

Here's an example of a factually inaccurate paraphrasing of this quotation:

The author builds his argument by discussing how, since hot-dogs are often served cut in half, this makes them different from sandwiches.

The paraphrase contradicts the passage, and so would negatively affect your reading score. Now let's look at an accurate paraphrasing of the quotation:

The author builds his argument by discussing how, since hot-dogs are never served cut in half, they are therefore different from sandwiches.

It's also important to be faithful to the text when you're using direct quotations from the passage. Misquoting or badly paraphrasing the author’s words weakens your essay, because the evidence you’re using to support your points is faulty.

Higher Level: Understanding of Central Ideas

The next step beyond being factually accurate about the passage is showing that you understand the central ideas of the text and how details of the passage relate back to this central idea.

Why does this matter? In order to be able to explain why the author is persuasive, you need to be able to explain the structure of the argument. And you can’t deconstruct the author's argument if you don’t understand the central idea of the passage and how the details relate to it.

Here's an example of a statement about our fictional "hot dogs are sandwiches" passage that shows understanding of the central idea of the passage:

Hodgman’s third primary defense of why hot dogs are not sandwiches is that a hot dog is not a subset of any other type of food. He uses the analogy of asking the question “is cereal milk a broth, sauce, or gravy?” to show that making such a comparison between hot dogs and sandwiches is patently illogical.

The above statement takes one step beyond merely being factually accurate to explain the relation between different parts of the passage (in this case, the relation between the "what is cereal milk?" analogy and the hot dog/sandwich debate).

Of course, if you want to score well in all three essay areas, you’ll need to do more in your essay than merely summarizing the author’s argument. This leads directly into the next grading area of the SAT Essay.

The items covered under this criterion are the most important when it comes to writing a strong essay. You can use well-spelled vocabulary in sentences with varied structure all you want, but if you don't analyze the author's argument, demonstrate critical thinking, and support your position, you will not get a high Analysis score .

Because this category is so important, I've broken it down even further into its two different (but equally important) component parts to make sure everything is as clearly explained as possible.

Part I: Critical Thinking (Logic)

Critical thinking, also known as critical reasoning, also known as logic, is the skill that SAT essay graders are really looking to see displayed in the essay. You need to be able to evaluate and analyze the claim put forward in the prompt. This is where a lot of students may get tripped up, because they think “oh, well, if I can just write a lot, then I’ll do well.” While there is some truth to the assertion that longer essays tend to score higher , if you don’t display critical thinking you won’t be able to get a top score on your essay.

What do I mean by critical thinking? Let's take the previous prompt example:

Write an essay in which you explain how Hodgman builds an argument to persuade his audience that the hot dog cannot, and never should be, considered a sandwich.

An answer to this prompt that does not display critical thinking (and would fall into a 1 or 2 on the rubric) would be something like:

The author argues that hot dogs aren’t sandwiches, which is persuasive to the reader.

While this does evaluate the prompt (by providing a statement that the author's claim "is persuasive to the reader"), there is no corresponding analysis. An answer to this prompt that displays critical thinking (and would net a higher score on the rubric) could be something like this:

The author uses analogies to hammer home his point that hot dogs are not sandwiches. Because the readers will readily believe the first part of the analogy is true, they will be more likely to accept that the second part (that hot dogs aren't sandwiches) is true as well.

See the difference? Critical thinking involves reasoning your way through a situation (analysis) as well as making a judgement (evaluation) . On the SAT essay, however, you can’t just stop at abstract critical reasoning - analysis involves one more crucial step...

Part II: Examples, Reasons, and Other Evidence (Support)

The other piece of the puzzle (apparently this is a tiny puzzle) is making sure you are able to back up your point of view and critical thinking with concrete evidence . The SAT essay rubric says that the best (that is, 4-scoring) essay uses “ relevant, sufficient, and strategically chosen support for claim(s) or point(s) made. ” This means you can’t just stick to abstract reasoning like this:

That explanation is a good starting point, but if you don't back up your point of view with quoted or paraphrased information from the text to support your discussion of the way the author builds his/her argument, you will not be able to get above a 3 on the Analysis portion of the essay (and possibly the Reading portion as well, if you don't show you've read the passage). Let's take a look of an example of how you might support an interpretation of the author's effect on the reader using facts from the passage :

The author’s reference to the Biblical story about King Solomon elevates the debate about hot dogs from a petty squabble between friends to a life-or-death disagreement. The reader cannot help but see the parallels between the two situations and thus find themselves agreeing with the author on this point.

Does the author's reference to King Solomon actually "elevate the debate," causing the reader to agree with the author? From the sentences above, it certainly seems plausible that it might. While your facts do need to be correct,  you get a little more leeway with your interpretations of how the author’s persuasive techniques might affect the audience. As long as you can make a convincing argument for the effect a technique the author uses might have on the reader, you’ll be good.

body_saywhat

Say whaaat?! #tbt by tradlands , used under CC BY 2.0 /Cropped and color-adjusted from original.

Did I just blow your mind? Read more about the secrets the SAT doesn’t want you to know in this article . 

Your Writing score on the SAT essay is not just a reflection of your grasp of the conventions of written English (although it is that as well). You'll also need to be focused, organized, and precise.

Because there's a lot of different factors that go into calculating your Writing score, I've divided the discussion of this rubric area into five separate items:

Precise Central Claim

Organization, vocab and word choice, sentence structure, grammar, etc..

One of the most basic rules of the SAT essay is that you need to express a clear opinion on the "assignment" (the prompt) . While in school (and everywhere else in life, pretty much) you’re encouraged to take into account all sides of a topic, it behooves you to NOT do this on the SAT essay. Why? Because you only have 50 minutes to read the passage, analyze the author's argument, and write the essay, there's no way you can discuss every single way in which the author builds his/her argument, every single detail of the passage, or a nuanced argument about what works and what doesn't work.

Instead, I recommend focusing your discussion on a few key ways the author is successful in persuading his/her audience of his/her claim.

Let’s go back to the assignment we've been using as an example throughout this article:

"Write an essay in which you explain how Hodgman builds an argument to persuade his audience that the hot dog cannot, and never should be, considered a sandwich."

Your instinct (trained from many years of schooling) might be to answer:

"There are a variety of ways in which the author builds his argument."

This is a nice, vague statement that leaves you a lot of wiggle room. If you disagree with the author, it's also a way of avoiding having to say that the author is persuasive. Don't fall into this trap! You do not necessarily have to agree with the author's claim in order to analyze how the author persuades his/her readers that the claim is true.

Here's an example of a precise central claim about the example assignment:

The author effectively builds his argument that hot dogs are not sandwiches by using logic, allusions to history and mythology, and factual evidence.

In contrast to the vague claim that "There are a variety of ways in which the author builds his argument," this thesis both specifies what the author's argument is and the ways in which he builds the argument (that you'll be discussing in the essay).

While it's extremely important to make sure your essay has a clear point of view, strong critical reasoning, and support for your position, that's not enough to get you a top score. You need to make sure that your essay  "demonstrates a deliberate and highly effective progression of ideas both within paragraphs and throughout the essay."

What does this mean? Part of the way you can make sure your essay is "well organized" has to do with following standard essay construction points. Don't write your essay in one huge paragraph; instead, include an introduction (with your thesis stating your point of view), body paragraphs (one for each example, usually), and a conclusion. This structure might seem boring, but it really works to keep your essay organized, and the more clearly organized your essay is, the easier it will be for the essay grader to understand your critical reasoning.

The second part of this criteria has to do with keeping your essay focused, making sure it contains "a deliberate and highly effective progression of ideas." You can't just say "well, I have an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion, so I guess my essay is organized" and expect to get a 4/4 on your essay. You need to make sure that each paragraph is also organized . Recall the sample prompt:

“Write an essay in which you explain how Hodgman builds an argument to persuade his audience that the hot dog cannot, and never should be, considered a sandwich.”

And our hypothetical thesis:

Let's say that you're writing the paragraph about the author's use of logic to persuade his reader that hot dogs aren't sandwiches. You should NOT just list ways that the author is logical in support of his claim, then explain why logic in general is an effective persuasive device. While your points might all be valid, your essay would be better served by connecting each instance of logic in the passage with an explanation of how that example of logic persuades the reader to agree with the author.

Above all, it is imperative that you make your thesis (your central claim) clear in the opening paragraph of your essay - this helps the grader keep track of your argument. There's no reason you’d want to make following your reasoning more difficult for the person grading your essay (unless you’re cranky and don’t want to do well on the essay. Listen, I don’t want to tell you how to live your life).

In your essay, you should use a wide array of vocabulary (and use it correctly). An essay that scores a 4 in Writing on the grading rubric “demonstrates a consistent use of precise word choice.”

You’re allowed a few errors, even on a 4-scoring essay, so you can sometimes get away with misusing a word or two. In general, though, it’s best to stick to using words you are certain you not only know the meaning of, but also know how to use. If you’ve been studying up on vocab, make sure you practice using the words you’ve learned in sentences, and have those sentences checked by someone who is good at writing (in English), before you use those words in an SAT essay.

Creating elegant, non-awkward sentences is the thing I struggle most with under time pressure. For instance, here’s my first try at the previous sentence: “Making sure a sentence structure makes sense is the thing that I have the most problems with when I’m writing in a short amount of time” (hahaha NOPE - way too convoluted and wordy, self). As another example, take a look at these two excerpts from the hypothetical essay discussing how the author persuaded his readers that a hot dog is not a sandwich:

Score of 2: "The author makes his point by critiquing the argument against him. The author pointed out the logical fallacy of saying a hot dog was a sandwich because it was meat "sandwiched" between two breads. The author thus persuades the reader his point makes sense to be agreed with and convinces them."

The above sentences lack variety in structure (they all begin with the words "the author"), and the last sentence has serious flaws in its structure (it makes no sense).

Score of 4: "The author's rigorous examination of his opponent's position invites the reader, too, to consider this issue seriously. By laying out his reasoning, step by step, Hodgman makes it easy for the reader to follow along with his train of thought and arrive at the same destination that he has. This destination is Hodgman's claim that a hot dog is not a sandwich."

The above sentences demonstrate variety in sentence structure (they don't all begin with the same word and don't have the same underlying structure) that presumably forward the point of the essay.

In general, if you're doing well in all the other Writing areas, your sentence structures will also naturally vary. If you're really worried that your sentences are not varied enough, however, my advice for working on "demonstrating meaningful variety in sentence structure" (without ending up with terribly worded sentences) is twofold:

  • Read over what you’ve written before you hand it in and change any wordings that seem awkward, clunky, or just plain incorrect.
  • As you’re doing practice essays, have a friend, family member, or teacher who is good at (English) writing look over your essays and point out any issues that arise. 

This part of the Writing grade is all about the nitty gritty details of writing: grammar, punctuation, and spelling . It's rare that an essay with serious flaws in this area can score a 4/4 in Reading, Analysis, or Writing, because such persistent errors often "interfere with meaning" (that is, persistent errors make it difficult for the grader to understand what you're trying to get across).

On the other hand, if they occur in small quantities, grammar/punctuation/spelling errors are also the things that are most likely to be overlooked. If two essays are otherwise of equal quality, but one writer misspells "definitely" as "definately" and the other writer fails to explain how one of her examples supports her thesis, the first writer will receive a higher essay score. It's only when poor grammar, use of punctuation, and spelling start to make it difficult to understand your essay that the graders start penalizing you.

My advice for working on this rubric area is the same advice as for sentence structure: look over what you’ve written to double check for mistakes, and ask someone who’s good at writing to look over your practice essays and point out your errors. If you're really struggling with spelling, simply typing up your (handwritten) essay into a program like Microsoft Word and running spellcheck can alert you to problems. We've also got a great set of articles up on our blog about SAT Writing questions that may help you better understand any grammatical errors you are making.

How Do I Use The SAT Essay Grading Rubric?

Now that you understand the SAT essay rubric, how can you use it in your SAT prep? There are a couple of different ways.

Use The SAT Essay Rubric To...Shape Your Essays

Since you know what the SAT is looking for in an essay, you can now use that knowledge to guide what you write about in your essays!

A tale from my youth: when I was preparing to take the SAT for the first time, I did not really know what the essay was looking for, and assumed that since I was a good writer, I’d be fine.

Not true! The most important part of the SAT essay is using specific examples from the passage and explaining how they convince the reader of the author's point. By reading this article and realizing there's more to the essay than "being a strong writer," you’re already doing better than high school me.

body_readsleeping

Change the object in that girl’s left hand from a mirror to a textbook and you have a pretty good sketch of what my junior year of high school looked like.

Use The SAT Essay Rubric To...Grade Your Practice Essays

The SAT can’t exactly give you an answer key to the essay. Even when an example of an essay that scored a particular score is provided, that essay will probably use different examples than you did, make different arguments, maybe even argue different interpretations of the text...making it difficult to compare the two. The SAT essay rubric is the next best thing to an answer key for the essay - use it as a lens through which to view and assess your essay.

Of course, you don’t have the time to become an expert SAT essay grader - that’s not your job. You just have to apply the rubric as best as you can to your essays and work on fixing your weak areas . For the sentence structure, grammar, usage, and mechanics stuff 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 ? I manage the essay grading and so happen to know quite a bit about the essay part of this platform, which gives you both an essay grade and custom feedback for each essay you complete. Learn more about how it all works here .

What’s Next?

Are you so excited by this article that you want to read even more articles on the SAT essay? Of course you are. Don't worry, I’ve got you covered. Learn how to write an SAT essay step-by-step and read about the 6 types of SAT essay prompts .

Want to go even more in depth with the SAT essay? We have a complete list of past SAT essay prompts as well as tips and strategies for how to get a 12 on the SAT essay .

Still not satisfied? Maybe a five-day free trial of our very own PrepScholar test prep platform (which includes essay practice and feedback) is just what you need.

Trying to figure out whether the old or new SAT essay is better for you? Take a look at our article on the new SAT essay assignment to find out!

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Our classes are entirely online, and they're taught by SAT experts . If you liked this article, you'll love our classes. Along with expert-led classes, you'll get personalized homework with thousands of practice problems organized by individual skills so you learn most effectively. We'll also give you a step-by-step, custom program to follow so you'll never be confused about what to study next.

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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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The importance of rubrics.

A rubric is an assessment tool that includes:

  • Criteria: The categories or characteristics that you value in the task or assignment.
  • Performance levels: A detailed description of the levels of quality for each criterion.

When grading an assignment, the rater goes through each criterion and determines which performance level was achieved. These scores are then added together to create an overall performance evaluation. Written feedback can also be given to the student to explain why the assignment fell within the indicated performance level.

Rubrics have several benefits for instructors and students:

Benefits for Instructors

  • Improves fairness and objectivity in grading.
  • Adds guidance for grading complex assignments.
  • Offers clearer feedback to students (see Feedback ).
  • Creates consistency across assignments and increases interrater reliability.
  • Can be used repeatedly.
  • Can easily be adjusted and adapted.

Benefits for Students

  • Sets clear expectations for assignments.
  • Guides students to reach learning outcomes.
  • Offers the opportunity for peer and self-evaluation, supporting self-reflection.
  • Provides students with effective feedback.

While rubrics require an investment to create and calibrate, the long-term savings in time and the improved quality of feedback and objectivity in grading makes them a valuable resource to include in your course.

Using Rubrics in Your Course

Types of rubrics.

The following are different types of rubrics you may consider using depending on the type of assignment or situation.

Used to quantitatively evaluate knowledge, attributes or skills while providing detailed feedback about strengths and weaknesses. Includes explicit descriptions of criteria required to meet the level of quality present for each dimension.

Used when assessing a performance or attribute as well as for grading assignments quickly. Holistic rubrics don’t necessarily provide in depth feedback to students.

Used to identify whether criteria are present. For example, a student receives a point value of 1 for each component that is presented and a 0 for each one that is missing. A total score is then calculated. You can also allot more than one point or partial credit for each component.

Higher Order Thinking Skills

It is often difficult to create concrete measurable criteria to assess higher order thinking skills. For example, what makes one argument more critical than another? The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has created a variety of rubrics to assess student learning in the following areas:

Applying Rubrics

Rubrics are useful when determining if a grade is subjective or assignments are open-ended. Rubric use is especially beneficial when:

  • Assignments do not have a single correct answer, such as essays, projects or videos.
  • Consistency between raters is required, such as multiple graders or grading over time.
  • Transparency and fairness are paramount, such as practice interviews with students.
  • Feedback is provided on a large scale, such as grading presentations or projects.
  • Reflectiveness of the assessment is important, such as when scores impact student future performances.

One impactful way to apply rubrics is to guide students. Consider using a rubric as follows:

  • Share the rubric before the assignment begins and have a discussion with students about its categories and criteria. Answer any additional questions that may arise.
  • Review an assignment example or exemplar with the class and think aloud while using the rubric as an evaluation tool.  Ask students to help grade the example in each category and justify their responses with evidence. Support students through this process through modeling, scaffolding and feedback.
  • After students are comfortable using the rubric, have them give peer feedback while also practicing independent critical thinking skills. Both peer and instructor feedback can be used formatively to improve the assignment.
  • Use the rubric as a summative assessment tool to evaluate student work and provide transparency in grading and feedback. This can help students understand the rationale for their assignment’s assessment and grade.

The following rubric workbook has compiled important information for creating and using rubrics in your course:

When you are done choosing or creating rubrics continue:

or move on to:

Additional resources

Third party tools to help you create your own rubric.

An excellent guide to help you design a high-quality rubric.

Rubric examples for different disciplines and topics.

Additional templates and examples to help with creating a rubric.

Examples of rubrics created by professionals organized by grade level and subject.

Free rubric building tool that is great for project-based learning activities.

Guide for developing several types of rubrics.

Examples of rubrics organized by assignment type: paper, project, presentations and participation.

Use of single point rubrics to help students goal set and assess their own achievement.

Provides a different explanation of rubric times and gives authentic examples for each type.

Explains why communicating assessment with students can help improve teaching and learning.

  • OSCQR – Standard #46 Explains the importance and benefits of using rubrics in your course.
  • Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating significant learning outcomes: An integrated approach to designing college courses. Jossey-Bass. Pages 99-102
  • Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design . Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

What Is a Rubric?

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what is a rubric in an essay

  • B.A., English, University of Michigan

When kids get into high school and grades truly come to mean something, students begin to question the terms teachers have been using since they were in elementary school. Phrases like " weighted scores " and " grading on a curve ", which used to be just teacher talk, are now being called into question since those GPAs are so important 9th grade and beyond. Another question teachers get asked a lot is, "What is a rubric?" Teachers use them a lot in class, but students want to know how they are used, how they can help students' grades, and what sorts of expectations come with them.

A rubric is simply a sheet of paper that lets students know the following things about an assignment:

  • The overall expectations for the assignment
  • The criteria, arranged in levels of quality from excellent to poor, that a student must meet
  • The points or grades a student can earn based on the levels

Why Do Teachers Use Rubrics?

Rubrics are used for a few different reasons. Rubrics allow teachers to evaluate assignments like projects, essays, and group work where there are no "right or wrong" answers. They also help teachers grade assignments with multiple components like a project with a presentation, an essay portion, and group work. It's easy to determine what an "A" is on a multiple-choice exam, but it's much more difficult to determine what an "A" is on a project with multiple facets. A rubric helps students and the teacher know exactly where to draw the line and assign points.

When Do Students Get the Rubric?

Ordinarily, if a teacher is passing out the grading rubric (which he or she should do), a student will get the rubric when the assignment is handed over. Typically, a teacher will review both the assignment and the rubric, so students know the types of criteria that must be met and can ask questions if necessary. *Note: If you've received a project, but have no idea how you'll be graded on it, ask your teacher if you can have a copy of the rubric so you'll know the difference between grades.

How Do Rubrics Work?

Since rubrics offer the exact specifications for an assignment, you'll always know which grade you'll get on the project. Simple rubrics may merely give you the letter grade with one or two items listed next to each grade:

  • A: Meets all assignment requirements
  • B: Meets most assignments requirements
  • C: Meets some assignment requirements
  • D: Meets few assignment requirements
  • F: Meets no assignment requirements

More advanced rubrics will have multiple criteria for assessment. Below is the "Use of Sources" portion of a rubric from a research paper assignment, which is clearly more involved. 

  • Researched information appropriately documented
  • Enough outside information to clearly represent a research process
  • Demonstrates the use of paraphrasing , summarizing and quoting
  • Information supports the thesis consistently
  • Sources on Works Cited accurately match sources cited within the text

Each one of the criteria above is worth anywhere from 1 – 4 points based on this scale:

  • 4—Clearly a knowledgeable, practiced, skilled pattern
  • 3—Evidence of a developing pattern
  • 2—Superficial, random, limited consistencies
  • 1—Unacceptable skill application

So, when a teacher grades the paper and sees that the student displayed an inconsistent or superficial level of skill for criteria #1, "Researched information appropriately documented," he or she would give that kid 2 points for that criteria. Then, he or she would move on to criteria #2 to determine if the student has enough outside info to represent a research process. If the student had a great number of sources, the kid would get 4 points. And so on. This portion of the rubric represents 20 points a kid could earn on the research paper ; the other portions account for the remaining 80%.

Rubric Examples

Check out this list of rubric examples from Carnegie Mellon University for a variety of projects.

  • Philosophy Paper  This rubric was designed for student papers in a range of philosophy courses at CMU. 
  • Oral Exam  This rubric describes a set of standards for assessing performance on an oral exam in an upper-division history course.
  • Engineering Design Project  This rubric describes performance standards on three aspects of a team project: Research and Design, Communication, and Team Work.

Rubrics Summary

Having clear expectations is great for both teachers and students. Teachers have a clear way of assessing students' work and students know exactly what sorts of things are going to earn them the grade they want.

  • How to Create a Rubric in 6 Steps
  • How to Make a Rubric for Differentiation
  • How to Calculate a Percentage and Letter Grade
  • A Simple Guide to Grading Elementary Students
  • Group Project Grading Tip: Students Determine Fair Grade
  • Holistic Grading (Composition)
  • Sample Essay Rubric for Elementary Teachers
  • The Whys and How-tos for Group Writing in All Content Areas
  • What Is Grading on a Curve?
  • 5 Free Assessment Apps for Teachers
  • School Testing Assesses Knowledge Gains and Gaps
  • Writing Rubrics
  • Topics for a Lesson Plan Template
  • Grading for Proficiency in the World of 4.0 GPAs
  • The 12 Best Apps for Students and Teachers
  • Building an Effective Classroom

what is a rubric in an essay

What are rubrics and how do they affect student learning?

Christine Lee

Rubrics are scoring criteria for grading or marking student assessment. When shared before assessment, rubrics communicate to students how they will be evaluated and how they should demonstrate their knowledge and to understand their own score. As pedagogy continues to transform, It’s important to consider the history of rubrics as a context for this pedagogical moment.

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Rubrics are guidelines for student assessments, often used as scoring criteria for grading and marking student work. They are best made clear to students before an assessment; effective rubrics give students transparency into how they will be evaluated, how they should demonstrate their knowledge, what to expect on tests and assignments, and provide next steps in learning.

Rubrics also clarify any marking or grading outcomes, helping students understand why they received their particular score or grade. A good rubric promotes student learning .

In sum, rubrics make clear what counts, what defines excellent work, and uphold grading consistency so that students can succeed and learn in alignment with course expectations; they define the performance instead of judging. Rubrics, just like assessments, are best when designed to connect to learning and outcomes.

Notable pedagogist, Thomas R. Guskey, states , “Interest in rubrics surged during the 1990s as educators turned their focus to documenting student achievement of specific learning standards . Today, rubrics for describing and assessing student performance can be found at every level of education, from preschool and kindergarten to graduate and professional school.”

The history of rubrics follows the proliferation of compulsory education and learning standards. An increasing emphasis on formative assessment has further encouraged the adoption of rubrics within secondary and higher education classrooms, both in North America and East Asia ( Ragupathi & Lee, 2020 ).

Rubrics set evaluation standards that can promote fair grading practices, even across a teaching team. In the case of standardized exams, they uphold consistent marking across an even wider swath of students and graders. They are “multidimensional sets of scoring guidelines that can be used to provide consistency in evaluating student work. They spell out scoring criteria so that multiple teachers, using the same rubric for a student's essay, for example, would arrive at the same score or grade” ( Edutopia, 2018 ).

Furthermore, when students understand rubrics ahead of assessment, they understand how they will be evaluated.

In sum, effective rubrics can:

  • Measure higher-order skills or evaluate complex tasks
  • Clarify learning goals
  • Align students to your expectations
  • Foster self-learning and self-improvement in students
  • Aid students in self-assessment
  • Inspire better student performance
  • Improve feedback to students
  • Result in faster and easier scoring of assessments
  • Enable more accurate, unbiased, and consistent scoring
  • Reduce regrading requests from students
  • Provide feedback to faculty and staff ( Suskie, 2009 , Wolf & Stevens, 2007 ).

What do effective rubrics look like? They’re more than just a checklist, but rather guidelines that focus on skills that demonstrate learning.

According to Susan M. Brookhart , there are two essential components of effective rubrics:

  • Criteria that relates to the learning (and not “the tasks” )
  • Performance level descriptions against a continuum of quality.

Researchers recommend two or more performance criteria with distinct, clear, and meaningful labels ( Brookhart, 2018 ) along with 3-5 quality or performance levels ( Popham, 2000 ; Suskie, 2009 ).

An example of five performance levels might look like this:

  • Far Below Expectations
  • Below Expectations
  • Meets Expectations
  • Exceeds Expectations
  • Demonstrates Excellence

Criteria should center around learning, not tasks. “Appropriate criteria,” according to Brookhart’ s 2018 research , “are the key to effective rubrics. Trivial or surface-level criteria will not draw learning goals for students as clearly as substantive criteria. Students will try to produce what is expected of them.”

For example, examples of criteria might look like the following:

  • The thesis sentence is present with strong analytical components and supported by the rest of the essay
  • The thesis sentence is present with analytical components and supported by the rest of the essay
  • Thesis sentence is present, albeit more summary than analysis, and supported by the rest of the essay
  • Thesis sentence is present but not supported by the rest of the essay
  • Not present

There are two main types of rubrics for evaluating student work: holistic and analytic rubrics . Each has its strengths with regard to how educators can approach evaluation of student learning. A third type of rubric is the checklist, which contains no performance descriptions, and is solely composed of criteria.

Holistic rubrics focus on the overall product or performance rather than the components. For instance, instead of dividing essay evaluation into an evaluation of thesis, supporting arguments, structure, and so forth and so on, holistic rubrics look at the entire efficacy of the essay itself. Hence, holistic rubrics would have criteria that describe competency levels of essay writing in a single scale, from “essay does not successfully argue its point with no supporting arguments and consistent writing errors” to “essay introduces original ideas with strong supporting arguments and technical writing excellence.”

A holistic rubric produces a single score based on a judgment of overall student work.

Holistic rubrics are used when missteps can be tolerated, and the focus is on general quality and what the learner can do rather than what they cannot do ( Chase, 1999 ). Oftentimes, holistic rubrics can be used when student skills are more advanced. They can also save time because there are fewer components and decisions to consider.

Because they focus on the generalized quality of student work, it may be more challenging to provide feedback on specific components. This may be challenging when, for example, a student’s work is at varying levels—for example, if an essay has original ideas, analysis, and supporting arguments but has many syntactical errors. Additionally, because holistic rubrics tend towards sweeping descriptions, scoring may be susceptible to subjectivity.

Analytic rubrics provide levels of performance for multiple criteria, with scores for separate and individual components of student work; they assess work in multiple dimensions. Analytic rubrics also provide descriptions for each of these performance levels so students know what is expected of them ( Mertler, 2001 ). Additionally, criterion can be weighted differently to reflect the importance of each component.

Because they are more comprehensive and examine different components of student work, they take more time to develop. And unless the description for each criteria is well defined, scoring may be inconsistent.

With checklist rubrics, there are only two performance levels (yes/no, present/absent, pass/fail, etc.). And a useful checklist usually has many criteria. They do enable faster grading, and a checklist provides ample clarity for students. Checklists enable an all-or-nothing approach, which is helpful at certain stages of learning. For instance, if a student is learning to write an essay, a checklist is an effective way for students to understand what they need to provide.

Oftentimes, a checklist can be converted into an analytic rubric.

Checklists are long, and may be time-consuming to create. When students are no longer new to a topic, checklists don’t provide the nuanced feedback necessary to move from conscious incompetence to conscious competence. In other words, checklists aren’t as helpful when students are “most of the way” towards competence.

A rubric is most often structured like a matrix with two main components: criteria (usually listed on the left side) and the performance descriptions (listed across the top).

Rubric development involves several steps:

  • Define the purpose of an assessment
  • Establish evaluation criteria
  • Determine performance levels
  • Provide descriptions for each performance level

Is an assignment measuring the presence of criteria or the quality of criteria?

Consider the student stage of learning in this step. When students are just beginning to write an essay or engage in geometry theorems, they are in early stages of learning. Students learning a new concept or skill may benefit from a binary approach towards whether criteria is present or not.

Students in more advanced stages of learning may benefit from being measured by a spectrum of quality.

Analytic and holistic rubrics measure the quality of criteria. Checklists or checklist rubrics measure the presence of criteria.

When developing rubrics, select the most important criteria in evaluating student work. Part of establishing criteria is asking yourself questions about what you want to identify in student work. For instance, why are you giving students this assignment? What are the characteristics of good student work? What specific skills do you want demonstrated in the assessment?

By asking yourself questions about the purpose of the assessment and how it aligns to learning objectives, you can then decide the 3-8 criteria that shows what you want students to achieve.

Determine what the performance levels should be and how many. There are usually 3-5 performance levels (qualitative), and oftentimes they are associated with scores or points (quantitative). You may want to begin with the anchors (best and worst), first before exploring how many levels you want in between. Students can often be confused by the “fuzzy” middle, so it is important to make each level distinct.

According to notable researcher Susan Brookhart, it is important to be clear and thorough in performance descriptions, which also prompt student learning. Brookhart states, “If the criterion is simply having or counting something in their work (e.g., “has 5 paragraphs”), students need not pay attention to the quality of what their work has. If the criterion is substantive (e.g., “states a compelling thesis”), attention to quality becomes part of the work” ( Brookhart, 2018 ).

For holistic rubrics, it is critical to write thorough and clear narrative descriptions of each criterion, particularly because they have to be comprehensive in describing the whole product.

For analytic rubrics, each criterion needs a description of performance level.

Language should be neutral and as objective as possible, avoiding subjective words like “interesting.” Instead, outline objective indicators like “new idea that analyzes instead of summarizes.”

Finally, consider evaluating your own rubric.

Depaul University’s Teaching Commons suggests the following questions to ask when evaluating a rubric:

  • Does the rubric relate to the outcome(s) being measured?
  • Does it cover important criteria for student performance?
  • Does the top end of the rubric reflect excellence?
  • Are the criteria and scales well-defined?
  • Can the rubric be applied consistently by different scorers?

These two terms are often used interchangeably, but it is helpful to distinguish their differences. Rubrics are used to communicate student performance and expectations on assessments. Scales, on the other hand, describe how a student has progressed in their learning journey relative to stated learning goals ( University of Maryland Baltimore ).

“Rubrics with criteria that are about the task—with descriptions of performance that amount to checklists for directions—assess compliance and not learning. Rubrics with counts instead of quality descriptions assess the existence of something and not its quality,” according to Brookhart ( 2013 ).

Confusing learning outcomes with tasks can result in using rubrics as a checklist, which are often binary (e.g., “yes/no”) in nature. But rubrics that are more descriptive and reflect higher-order thinking provide students with action items, uphold assessment with integrity, and improve learning outcomes.

Rubrics that do not align to learning goals can also limit learning. Ensure that rubrics focus on core learning goals and are in alignment with course expectations. For example, if formatting margins on an essay is not a course objective but is included in rubrics, the efficacy of that rubric may be compromised. Students may confuse what it is they should do with what it is they should learn; when this occurs, once the students complete a task, they may feel their learning has ended instead of seeing learning as a continuum.

Other misperceptions include confusing rubrics with evaluative rating scales. Rating scales are useful for grading, and involve evaluations across a scale without description (e.g., 1-5, always/sometimes/never or A-F). While rating scales are useful for grading, they don’t offer students a description of quality that they can utilize as they navigate learning.

While effective rubrics can foster learning, they can be limited in scope. If, according to Angelo State University’s Instruction Design , “educators use the rubric to tell students what to put in an assignment, then that may be all they put. It may also be all that they learn.”

Wolf and Stevens, state that rubrics have more advantages than disadvantages but “If poorly designed they can actually diminish the learning process. Rubrics can act as a straitjacket, preventing creations other than those envisioned by the rubric-maker from unfolding. (“If it is not on the rubric, it must not be important or possible.”) The challenge then is to create a rubric that makes clear what is valued in the performance or product—without constraining or diminishing them” ( Wolf & Stevens, 2007 ).

Effective rubrics also take a lot of time to develop.

The formative feedback process, a core element of student-teacher communication, begins with setting expectations. Rubrics are “one way to make learning expectations explicit for learners” (Brookhart, 2018 ). These clear and explicit expectations help students see what learning looks like so that they can then absorb feedback in alignment with those learning goals.

Jay McTighe specifies that effective rubrics do the following:

  • Clearly define criteria for judging student performance based on targeted standards/outcomes
  • Promote more consistent evaluation of student performance
  • Help clarify instructional goals and serve as teaching targets
  • Provide specific feedback to learners and teachers
  • Help students focus on the important dimensions of a product or performance
  • Enable criterion-based evaluation and standards-based grading
  • Support student self- and peer-assessment ( McTighe, 2016 ).

Rubrics give students a greater chance of achieving a clear and defined target. They guide curriculum planning and uphold accurate assessments with integrity. Effective rubrics enable self-assessment and self-directed student learning.

Effective rubrics support the student learning journey. Additionally, rubrics have the potential to advance the learning of historically marginalized students. According to Wolf and Stevens, “An often unrecognized benefit of rubrics is that they can make learning expectations or assumptions about the tasks themselves more explicit ( Andrade & Ying, 2005 ). In academic environments [sic] we often operate on unstated cultural assumptions about the expectations for student performance and behavior and presume that all students share those same understandings” ( 2007, p. 13 ). In other words, rubrics make explicit what may be too nuanced for first generation students or English learners to access.

Rubrics are, in essence, not only part of assessment but also a teaching and learning junction with the potential to increase student learning outcomes and uphold integrity. When students feel supported, their love of learning increases into a lifelong journey.

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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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Essay Rubric: Basic Guidelines and Sample Template

11 December 2023

last updated

Lectures and tutors provide specific requirements for students to meet when writing essays. Basically, an essay rubric helps tutors to analyze the quality of articles written by students. In this case, useful rubrics make the analysis process simple for lecturers as they focus on specific concepts related to the writing process. Also, an essay rubric list and organize all of the criteria into one convenient paper. In other instances, students use an essay rubric to enhance their writing skills by examining various requirements. Then, different types of essay rubrics vary from one educational level to another. For example, Master’s and Ph.D. essay rubrics focus on examining complex thesis statements and other writing mechanics. However, high school essay rubrics examine basic writing concepts. In turn, a sample template of a high school rubric in this article can help students to evaluate their papers before submitting them to their teachers.

General Aspects of an Essay Rubric

An essay rubric refers to the way how teachers assess student’s composition writing skills and abilities. Basically, an essay rubric provides specific criteria to grade assignments. In this case, teachers use essay rubrics to save time when evaluating and grading various papers. Hence, learners must use an essay rubric effectively to achieve desired goals and grades.

Essay rubric

General Assessment Table for an Essay Rubric

1. organization.

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

Very Good/6 points: The essay contains a logical and appropriate organization. The writer uses clear topic sentences.

Average/4 points: The essay contains a logical and appropriate organization. The writer uses clear topic sentences.

Needs Improvement/2 points: The essay has an inconsistent organization.

Unacceptable/0 points: The essay shows the absence of a planned organization.

Grade: ___ .

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

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

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

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

Unacceptable/0 points: The writer does not contain apparent control over sentence structures and word choice.

Excellent/8 points: The content appears sophisticated and contains well-developed ideas.

Very Good/6 points: The essay content appears illustrative and balanced.

Average/4 points: The essay contains unbalanced content that requires more analysis.

Needs Improvement/2 points: The essay contains a lot of research information without analysis or commentary.

Unacceptable/0 points: The essay lacks relevant content and does not fit the thesis statement . Essay rubric rules are not followed.

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

Very Good/6 points: The written piece comprises a clearly stated argument. However, the focus would have been sharper.

Average/4 points: The thesis phrasing sounds simple and lacks complexity. The writer does not word the thesis correctly. 

Needs Improvement/2 points: The thesis statement requires a clear objective and does not fit the theme in the content of the essay.

Unacceptable/0 points: The thesis is not evident in the introduction.

Excellent/8 points: The essay is clear and focused. The work holds the reader’s attention. Besides, the relevant details and quotes enrich the thesis statement.

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

Average/4 points: The writer begins the work by defining the topic. However, the development of ideas appears general.

Needs Improvement/2 points: The author fails to define the topic well, or the writer focuses on several issues.

Unacceptable/0 points: The essay lacks a clear sense of a purpose or thesis statement. Readers have to make suggestions based on sketchy or missing ideas to understand the intended meaning. Essay rubric requirements are missed.

6. Sentence Fluency

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

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

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

Needs Improvement/2 points: The essay appears irregular and hard to read.

Unacceptable/0 points: Readers have to go through the essay several times to give this paper a fair interpretive reading.

7. Conventions

Excellent/8 points: The student demonstrates proper use of standard writing conventions, like spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, usage, and paragraphing. The student uses protocols in a way that improves the readability of the essay.

Very Good/6 points: The student demonstrates proper writing conventions and uses them correctly. One can read the essay with ease, and errors are rare. Few touch-ups can make the composition ready for publishing.

Average/4 points: The writer shows reasonable control over a short range of standard writing rules. The writer handles all the conventions and enhances readability. The errors in the essay tend to distract and impair legibility.

Needs Improvement/2 points: The writer makes an effort to use various conventions, including spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar usage, and paragraphing. The essay contains multiple errors.

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

8. Presentation

Excellent/8 points: The form and presentation of the text enhance the readability of the essay and the flow of ideas.

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

Average/4 points: The writer’s message is understandable in this format.

Needs Improvement/2 points: The writer’s message is only comprehensible infrequently, and the paper appears disorganized.

Unacceptable/0 points: Readers receive a distorted message due to difficulties connecting to the presentation of the text.

Final Grade: ___ .

Grading Scheme for an Essay Rubric:

  • A+ = 60+ points
  • A = 55-59 points
  • A- = 50-54 points
  • B+ = 45-49 points
  • B = 40-44 points
  • B- = 35-39 points
  • C+ = 30-34 points
  • C = 25-29 points
  • C- = 20-24 points
  • D = 10-19 points
  • F = less than 9 points

Basic Differences in Education Levels and Essay Rubrics

The quality of essays changes at different education levels. For instance, college students must write miscellaneous papers when compared to high school learners. In this case, an essay rubric will change for these different education levels. For example, university and college essays should have a debatable thesis statement with varying points of view. However, high school essays should have simple phrases as thesis statements. Then, other requirements in an essay rubric will be more straightforward for high school students. For master’s and Ph.D. essays, the criteria presented in an essay rubric should focus on examining the 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.

Summing Up on an Essay Rubric

Essay rubrics help teachers, instructors, professors, and tutors to analyze the quality of essays written by students. Basically, an essay rubric makes the analysis process simple for lecturers. Essay rubrics list and organize all of the criteria into one convenient paper. In other instances, students use the essay rubrics to improve their writing skills. However, they vary from one educational level to the other. Master’s and Ph.D. essay rubrics focus on examining complex thesis statements and other writing mechanics. However, high school essay rubrics examine basic writing concepts.  The following are some of the tips that one must consider when preparing a rubric.

  • contain all writing mechanics that relates to essay writing;
  • cover different requirements and their relevant grades;
  • follow clear and understandable statements.

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Analytic Rubrics

The who, what, why, where, when, and how of an analytic rubrics.

WHO : Analytic rubrics are for  you  and  your students .

WHAT : An analytic rubric is a scoring tool that helps you identify the criteria that are relevant to the assessment and learning objectives. It is divided into components of the assignment contains a detailed description that clearly states the performance levels (unacceptable to acceptable) and allows you to assign points/grades/levels based on the students’ performance.

WHY: Rubrics help guide students when completing their assignments by giving the guidelines to follow. Students also know what you are looking for in an assignment, and this leads to fewer questions and more time engaged in the assessment and knowledge attainment.  Rubrics help you or your assistant grade assignments objectively from the first submission to the last. Rubrics returned to students with the assignment, give the students basic feedback by selecting the correct criteria they met.

WHERE:  Create a paper rubric or use the Canvas interactive grading rubric. Learn more about using Canvas Rubrics by selecting the following link  https://guides.instructure.com/m/4152/l/724129-how-do-i-add-a-rubric-to-an-assignment

WHEN : Share the analytic rubric before the assessment to share the criteria they must meet and to help guide them when completing the assignment. After the assignment has been completed, return the marked rubric with the assignment as a form of feedback.

HOW:  Watch the following video on Analytic Rubrics.

what is a rubric in an essay

Optional Handouts: Blank rubric for the session (1)

Rubric Design Activity

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Home > Resources > Short essay question rubric

Short essay question rubric

Sample grading rubric an instructor can use to assess students’ work on short essay questions.

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  1. Informative Essay Rubric

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  1. Essay Rubric and CUSS

  2. Reviewing Writing Essay Rubric Up Dated Sp 2024

  3. Argument Essay Rubric

  4. Week 7 Persuasive Essay rubric

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COMMENTS

  1. Writing Rubrics: How to Score Well on Your Paper

    A writing rubric is a clear set of guidelines on what your paper should include, often written as a rating scale that shows the range of scores possible on the assignment and how to earn each one. Professors use writing rubrics to grade the essays they assign, typically scoring on content, organization, mechanics, and overall understanding.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Creating and Using Rubrics

    A team of faculty members evaluated the essays by applying an analytic scoring rubric. Before applying the rubric, they "normed"-that is, they agreed on how to apply the rubric by scoring the same set of essays and discussing them until consensus was reached (see below: "6. Scoring rubric group orientation and calibration").

  5. How to Use Rubrics

    A rubric is a document that describes the criteria by which students' assignments are graded. Rubrics can be helpful for: Making grading faster and more consistent (reducing potential bias). Communicating your expectations for an assignment to students before they begin. Moreover, for assignments whose criteria are more subjective, the ...

  6. 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 ... This rubric was designed for essays and research papers in history (Carnegie Mellon).

  7. Rubrics

    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."

  8. Sample Essay Rubric for Elementary Teachers

    An essay rubric is a way teachers assess students' essay writing by using specific criteria to grade assignments. Essay rubrics save teachers time because all of the criteria are listed and organized into one convenient paper. If used effectively, rubrics can help improve students' writing.

  9. Rubric Design

    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.

  10. 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.

  11. Rubrics

    Rubrics are an important tool to assess learning in an equitable and just manner. This is because they enable: A common set of standards and criteria to be uniformly applied, which can mitigate bias. Transparency regarding the standards and criteria on which students are evaluated. Efficient grading with timely and actionable feedback.

  12. 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. Download this file.

  13. ACT Writing Rubric: Full Analysis and Essay Strategies

    1. 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.

  14. SAT Essay Rubric: Full Analysis and Writing Strategies

    The SAT essay rubric says that the best (that is, 4-scoring) essay uses " relevant, sufficient, and strategically chosen support for claim (s) or point (s) made. " This means you can't just stick to abstract reasoning like this: The author uses analogies to hammer home his point that hot dogs are not sandwiches.

  15. Rubrics

    The Importance of Rubrics. A rubric is an assessment tool that includes: Criteria: The categories or characteristics that you value in the task or assignment. Performance levels: A detailed description of the levels of quality for each criterion. When grading an assignment, the rater goes through each criterion and determines which performance ...

  16. How to Create a Rubric in 6 Steps

    Analytic Rubric: This is the standard grid rubric that many teachers routinely use to assess students' work.This is the optimal rubric for providing clear, detailed feedback. With an analytic rubric, criteria for the students' work is listed in the left column and performance levels are listed across the top.

  17. What Is a Rubric?

    What Is a Rubric? A rubric is simply a sheet of paper that lets students know the following things about an assignment: The overall expectations for the assignment. The criteria, arranged in levels of quality from excellent to poor, that a student must meet. The points or grades a student can earn based on the levels.

  18. What are rubrics and how do they affect student learning?

    Rubrics give students a greater chance of achieving a clear and defined target. They guide curriculum planning and uphold accurate assessments with integrity. Effective rubrics enable self-assessment and self-directed student learning. Conclusion: How rubrics uphold student learning.

  19. 15 Helpful Scoring Rubric Examples for All Grades and Subjects

    Try this rubric to make student expectations clear and end-of-project assessment easier. Learn more: Free Technology for Teachers. 100-Point Essay Rubric. 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 ...

  20. Rubrics

    Essay rubric. An essay rubric is a type of writing rubric, but it is specifically used in relation to an essay. Categories will likely deal with the clarity of the thesis statement, the evidence ...

  21. What is a Rubric?

    A rubric defines in writing what is expected of the student to get a particular grade on an assignment. Heidi Goodrich Andrade, a rubrics expert, defines a rubric as "a scoring tool that lists the criteria for a piece of work or 'what counts.'. " For example, a rubric for an essay might tell students that their work will be judged on purpose ...

  22. Essay Rubric: Basic Guidelines and Sample Template

    Essay rubrics help teachers, instructors, professors, and tutors to analyze the quality of essays written by students. Basically, an essay rubric makes the analysis process simple for lecturers. Essay rubrics list and organize all of the criteria into one convenient paper. In other instances, students use the essay rubrics to improve their ...

  23. Analytic Rubrics

    Analytic Rubrics The WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHERE, WHEN, and HOW of an Analytic Rubrics. WHO: Analytic rubrics are for you and your students.. WHAT: An analytic rubric is a scoring tool that helps you identify the criteria that are relevant to the assessment and learning objectives.It is divided into components of the assignment contains a detailed description that clearly states the performance ...

  24. RUBRICS IN NARRATIVE ESSAY

    RUBRICS IN NARRATIVE ESSAY - View presentation slides online. GUIDE IN WRITING NARRATIVE ESSAY

  25. Short essay question rubric

    Short essay question rubric. Sample grading rubric an instructor can use to assess students' work on short essay questions. Download this file.