What Is a Rubric?

If students want to know the overall expectations for an assignment, the criteria he must meet (arranged in quality levels, from excellent to poor), and the grades or points he’s earns based on the levels he meets, he’d look at a rubric. Rubrics are assessment tools for grading assignments that breaks down the criteria on which the assignment will be graded as well as outlining the levels of achievement.

Why Are There Rubrics Anyway?

There are a few reasons that rubrics are used. One reason is that they help teachers with grading assignmentsthat have multiple components. One example might be a project with an essay portion, a presentation, and group work. It’s simple to determine grades on an essay, but it gets more complicated when projects have multiple facets. A rubric gives the teacher set guidelines to follow when assigning points. It is also there to allow teachers to evaluate assignments, such as essays, projects, and group work, where there are no “wrong or right” answers in the first place.

When Are Rubrics Given Out?

If a teacher is using a grading rubric, she will give it to each student with their assignment. Typically, the teacher will go over the rubric and the project with everyone as a class so each student understands the criteria that must be met to make a passing grade. This way, each student also has the opportunity to ask any necessary questions.

If students receive an assignment without receiving a rubric, they can ask their teacher to supply a copy. This way, they’ll know the difference between the grades and the criteria that must be met for each.

How Do They Work?

Simple rubrics give a letter grade with a few items listed beside each grade. For example:

  • A: Student’s project meets all of the requirements
  • B: Student’s project meets most of the requirements
  • C: Student’s project meets some of the requirements
  • D: Student’s project meets a few of the requirements
  • F: Student’s project meets none of the requirements

Advanced rubrics have multiple criteria that must be met for assessment. Below, you will find an example of the “Use of Sources” portion of a rubric from a research paper assignment. This is much more involved.

  1. The information researched was appropriately documented.
  2. There was enough information from outside sources to clearly represent a research process.
  3. The assignment clearly demonstrates the use of summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting.
  4. The information consistently supports the thesis.
  5. The sources in the “Works Cited” section accurately match the sources cited within the text.

Each of the above criteria could be worth anywhere from a set amount of 1—4 points. Those points would be based on the following scale:

  • 4—The assignment shows a clearly practiced, knowledgeable, skilled pattern.
  • 3—The assignment shows evidence of a developing pattern.
  • 2—The assignment shows random, superficial, limited consistencies.
  • 1—The assignment shows unacceptable skill application.

Therefore, when the teacher evaluates research paper, she will compare it closely to the above scale. If she finds that the research paper doesn’t meet the criteria for #1, “The information researched was appropriately documented,” she will award the student two points for that criteria. She’ll then move onto #2. If the student used enough outside sources to clearly represent a research process, then the teacher would give that student four points for that criteria. The rest of the criteria would be scored in this way. This portion of the rubric only represents 20% of the research paper’s score.


When both the teacher and student have a clear expectation of the assignment, things go much smoother.


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