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Short essay question rubric

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

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rubric for essay test

GRADING RUBRIC FOR ESSAY EXAMS   For PRINTABLE VERSION click here

The rubric below is designed to help you understand the standards which will be used to grade your essays. Read the chart from the bottom to the top.

The content of your essay is more important than the style of your writing.  But you should be aware that content and writing technique are closely linked.  You may know* the material, but if you cannot convince the reader that you know, your grades will disappoint you.  There are four general standards which must all be observed:

1.  Your writing must be clear:  Be sure to say exactly what you mean.  It is not sufficient to hint or suggest your meaning.  You must state your points explicitly so there is no doubt about your meaning.  Students often ask, "Couldn't you figure out what I meant?"  It isn't the reader's job to guess your meaning.  It is your job to say it clearly.  Even when I suspect that a student knows an answer, if it is not clearly stated, I will not give credit for what is not said.

2.  Your writing must be unambiguous:   Although this is closely related to clarity, it is so important that it deserves separate mention.  Your writing should not be open to multiple interpretations.  Statements that are too general can cover too much ground.  Poor grammar or poor word choice can confuse meaning.  You must communicate your ideas so there is no doubt about your meaning.

3.  Your answers must be complete:   Partial answers deserve only partial credit.  To get full credit, you must answer the entire question, not just a part of it, and certainly not some other question (like the one you studied for).  Multiple-part questions require multiple-part answers.  Giving a complete answer to the specific question asked demonstrates your mastery of the material.

4.  Your answers must be accurate:   Being clear, complete, and unambiguous doesn't count for much unless you are also accurate.  Silly mistakes or oversights can rob essays of their accuracy.   (For example, writing, "Smith would agree with Jones.", instead of,  "Smith would disagree with Jones.")  Unless you re-read your essay for accuracy, you run the risk of letting little mistakes rob your writing of its intended meaning.  Take the time to review your work for accuracy.

* Passive Understanding vs. Active Mastery:   Students sometimes confuse passive understanding with active mastery.  Because material makes sense (passive understanding) when they read it, or when it is discussed in class, they think they "know" it and are disappointed when they earn a "C".  Active knowledge and mastery require not just that you understand the material when someone else speaks or writes about it; they require that you, yourself, are able to clearly and accurately explain what the material means and what it implies.  Just as passive understanding of a word does not guarantee that you can use it correctly, passive understanding of a subject is not the same as knowing it.  Passive understanding earns a " C ", at best.  Active knowledge earns a " B ".  Mastery earns an " A ".

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Create a Rubric – for scoring essays and written responses

Information.

Attaching a rubric to a question is a feature available in our PREMIUM version.

To create a rubric you have to begin with creation of an essay type question.

1. Create a New Assessment from your Assessments tab

2. Give your assessment a Name and then click on the Author New Question button at the top.

3. Choose “Essay Type” under Classic Question Types

rubric for essay test

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Essay Rubric

Essay Rubric

About this printout

This rubric delineates specific expectations about an essay assignment to students and provides a means of assessing completed student essays.

Teaching with this printout

More ideas to try.

Grading rubrics can be of great benefit to both you and your students. For you, a rubric saves time and decreases subjectivity. Specific criteria are explicitly stated, facilitating the grading process and increasing your objectivity. For students, the use of grading rubrics helps them to meet or exceed expectations, to view the grading process as being “fair,” and to set goals for future learning. In order to help your students meet or exceed expectations of the assignment, be sure to discuss the rubric with your students when you assign an essay. It is helpful to show them examples of written pieces that meet and do not meet the expectations. As an added benefit, because the criteria are explicitly stated, the use of the rubric decreases the likelihood that students will argue about the grade they receive. The explicitness of the expectations helps students know exactly why they lost points on the assignment and aids them in setting goals for future improvement.

  • Routinely have students score peers’ essays using the rubric as the assessment tool. This increases their level of awareness of the traits that distinguish successful essays from those that fail to meet the criteria. Have peer editors use the Reviewer’s Comments section to add any praise, constructive criticism, or questions.
  • Alter some expectations or add additional traits on the rubric as needed. Students’ needs may necessitate making more rigorous criteria for advanced learners or less stringent guidelines for younger or special needs students. Furthermore, the content area for which the essay is written may require some alterations to the rubric. In social studies, for example, an essay about geographical landforms and their effect on the culture of a region might necessitate additional criteria about the use of specific terminology.
  • After you and your students have used the rubric, have them work in groups to make suggested alterations to the rubric to more precisely match their needs or the parameters of a particular writing assignment.
  • Print this resource

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