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Graduate School Essay Rubric

Examples of Rubrics

Several examples of rubrics that can be found on the web are linked below to aid in the development of rubrics for post secondary education settings.

Template for Creating a Rubric

The below link is to a MSWord file that contains a template for a rubric and instructions for how to use and modify the template to meet individual grading needs. Instructors can download this file and modify it as needed to construct their own rubric.


The AAC&U VALUE initiative (2007-09) developed 16 VALUE rubrics for the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes. Elements and descriptors for each rubric were based on the most frequently identified characteristics or criteria of learning for each of the 16 learning outcomes. Drafts of each rubric have been tested by faculty with their own students’ work on over 100 college campuses.

The VALUE rubrics contribute to the national dialogue on assessment of college student learning. The AAC&U web is widely used by individuals working in schools, higher education associations, colleges, and universities in the United States and around the world.

Instructors can use the rubrics in their current form. They can also modify the language and rubric elements to meet the specific needs of their assignment or assessment goal.

Access to the VALUE Rubrics is free. AAC&U requests that users register before downloading PDF or Word versions of the rubrics to assist their research on rubric use.

External link to AAC&U Rubric download page:  http://www.aacu.org/value-rubrics

Collections of Rubric Links

Classroom Participation

Graphic Organizers

Interactive Quality of an Online Course


Short Essays

Student Paper

Student Peer Review

Team Participation

Theses and Dissertations

Updated: 06/20/16 gb

Scoring rubrics are descriptive scoring schemes developed to assess any student performance whether it's written or oral, online or face-to-face.Scoring rubrics are especially well suited for evaluating complex tasks or assignments such as: written work (e.g., assignments, essay tests, papers, portfolios); presentations (e.g., debates, role plays); group work; or other types of work products or performances (e.g., artistic works, portfolios). Scoring rubrics are assignment-specific; criteria are different for each assignment or test. It is a way to make your criteria and standards clear to both you and your students.

Good scoring rubrics:

  • Consist of a checklist of items, each with an even number of points. For example, two-point rubrics would indicate that the student either did or did not perform the specified task. Four or more points in a rubric are common and indicate the degree to which a student performed a given task.
  • Are criterion based. That is, the rubric contains descriptive criteria for acceptable performance that are meaningful, clear, concise, unambiguous, and credible--thus ensuring inter-rater reliability.
  • Are used to assess only those behaviors that are directly observable.
  • Require a single score based on the overall quality of the work or presentation.
  • Provide a better assessment and understanding of expected or actual performance.

Rubric Template (PDF)

Sample Rubric for Quizzes and Homework (PDF)

Why Develop Scoring Rubrics?

Here are some reasons why taking the time to construct a grading rubric will be worth your time:

  • Make grading more consistent and fair.
  • Save you time in the grading process.
  • Help identify students' strengths and weaknesses so you can teach more effectively.
  • To help students understand what and how they need to improve.

Guidelines for Developing a Scoring Rubric

Step 1: Select a project/assignment for assessment.

Example: Work in small groups to write and present a collaborative research paper.

Step 2: What performance skill(s) or competency(ies) are students demonstrating through their work on this project?

Example: Ability to work as part of a team.

Step 3: List the traits you'll assess when evaluating the project--in other words, ask: "What counts in my assessment of this work?" Use nouns or noun phrases to name traits, and avoid evaluative language. Limit the number of traits to no more than seven. Each trait should represent a key teachable attribute of the overall skill you're assessing.

Coherence and Organization
Graphics and visuals

Step 4: Decide on the number of gradations of mastery you'll establish for each trait and the language you'll use to describe those levels.

Five points of gradation:

5=Proficient4=Clearly Competent3=Acceptable2=Limited1=Attempted

Four points of gradation:


Step 5: For each trait write statements that describe work at each level of mastery. If, for example, you have seven traits and five gradations, you'll have 35 descriptive statements in your rubric. Attempt to strike a balance between over-generalizations and task-specificity. For the trait "coherence and organization" in a four-point rubric:

Exceptional:Thesis is clearly stated and developed; specific examples are appropriate and clearly develop thesis; conclusion is clear; ideas flow together well; good transitions; succinct but not choppy; well-organized.
Admirable:Most information presented in logical sequence; generally very organized but better transitions between ideas is needed.
Acceptable:Concept and ideas are loosely connected; lacks clear transitions; flow and organization are choppy.
Amateur:Presentation of ideas is choppy and disjointed; doesn't flow; development of thesis is vague; no apparent logical order to writing

Step 6: Design a format for presenting the rubric to students and for scoring student work.

Step 7: Test the rubric and fine tune it based on feedback from colleagues and students.

Source: Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment, Barbara E. Walvoord, Virginia Johnson Anderson, Thomas A. Angelo (Foreword by) (1998).

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