Grading Rubrics: Sample Scales

Different assignment types may require different grading scales and different numbers of levels. As you develop your rubric, decide how many different levels it should have. For example, you may choose a rubric with three or four levels for an essay assignment, while a one-level rubric (or credit/no credit) may be useful for smaller assignments and save you time when grading. You may also consider whether to list the highest possible level of achievement first or last. Be mindful with your word choice when labeling your rating scales, especially if the grading rubric will be shared with the student. As Stevens & Levi note, “labeling the levels on the scale can be a delicate matter. We need to be clear about expectations and about failures as well as successes, yet we also try to avoid overly negative or competitive labels. These can discourage students" (pg 41).


Three Levels

Weak, Satisfactory, Strong

Beginning, Intermediate, High

Weak, Average, Excellent

Developing, Competent, Exemplary

Low Mastery, Average Mastery, High Mastery

Four Levels

Unacceptable, Marginal, Proficient, Distinguished

Beginning, Developing, Accomplished, Exemplary

Needs Improvement, Satisfactory, Good, Accomplished

Emerging, Progressing, Partial Mastery, Mastery

Not Yet Competent, Partly Competent, Competent, Sophisticated

Inadequate, Needs Improvement, Meets Expectations, Exceeds Expectations

Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent

Five Levels

Poor, Minimal, Sufficient, Above Average, Excellent

Novice, Intermediate, Proficient, Distinguished, Master

Unacceptable, Poor, Satisfactory, Good, Excellent

Six Levels

Unacceptable, Emerging, Minimally Acceptable, Acceptable, Accomplished, Exemplary


Stevens, Dannelle D. and Antonia Levi (2005). Introduction to Rubrics : An Assessment Tool to Save Grading Time, Convey Effective Feedback, and Promote Student Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Stanny, Claudia J. and Linda B. Nilson. (2014). Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.