Grading rubrics and lists of grading standards play an important role in shaping student writing. They help the professor apply equal standards to a set of papers and they help students focus on the crucial writing issues the professor wishes to stress. 

Rubrics and standards can vary from extremely precise to very open and fluid. The examples collected here provide a representative sampling.

Rubric for Grading an Application Paper [Direct Download]
Example: Capstone Rubric [Direct Download]
Grade Criteria
Holistic Grading
Primary Trait Scoring
Problem-Solution Grading Scale



Select which of the criteria below are important for your assignment and what % of the total grade each element is worth.

  1. Meets requirements of the assignment

  2. Development of ideas

    • Clear thesis
    • Quality of supporting evidence
    • Organization within paragraphs
    • Organization of paper
    • Originality of ideas
  3. Grammar

    • Sentence Structure
    • Punctuation/Capitalization
    • Spelling
    • S-V agreement, pronoun case, verb tense
    • Complete sentences
  4. Style

    • Vocabulary/word choice
    • Vocabulary size
    • Level of diction
    • Syle/tone appropriate to audience/task
  5. Correct documentation of sources


  1. What will I do with the assignment? How will I evaluate the work?
  2. What constitutes a successful response to the assignment?
  3. Will students be involved in the assessment process?
  4. Does my grading system encourage revision?
  5. Have I discussed evaluation criteria with the students before they began work, and will I discuss what I expect again as the due date approaches?


Your essay is supposed to provide a supported answer to the following questions:

[insert topic here]

In order to do well on this paper, you need to do these things:

  1. Have your own clear answer to this question,
  2. Support your answer with strong arguments and textual details, drawing on your own experiences or the experience of others, and
  3. Make your essay clear enough for the reader to understand with one reading.

Criterion 1:

Does your essay have a thesis statement at the within the first paragraph that answers the question? (_____points)

Criterion 2:

Is your thesis supported with strong argumentation and use of significant details? (_____points) 

Criterion 3:

Is your paper easy for a reader to follow?

  • Paragraph and transitions (_____points)
  • Clear sentences (_____points)
  • Accurate mechanics (grammar, punctuation, spelling, neatness) (_____points)



Problem has been clearly identified along with its significance for your audience. The solution is clearly defined, describes the potential impact on the problem, and outlines steps for implementation. Benefits of the solution and any potential shortcomings are identified. Some effort has been made to refute objections. 

Points Possible: 50
Points Earned: 


The paper is well organized with logical development of ideas and good use of transitions to the reader follow the logic of your argument. Assertions are supported. Outside source material had been incorporated, using appropriate citations and with logical connections to surrounding material, judicious use of direct quotes, effective paraphrasing and appropriate analysis and interpretation. 

Points Possible: 37.5
Points Earned: 

Evidence of Revision

The author has significantly reshaped portions of the text rather than merely correcting surface errors. 

Points Possible: 25
Points Earned: 

Formal Requirements

The paper uses MLA (APA, Chicago, _____________) style and a reference list is included. The paper is relatively free of spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. 
Points Possible: 12.5
Points Earned: 

Total Points Possible: 100
Total Points Earned: 

Making Comments on Student Papers

The following suggestions offer a strategy for teaching through the comments you make on a student paper or set of papers.

  1. Read the paper through once before making any marks on it.

  2. Identify the one or two problems you will concentrate on for this draft.

    You should pick problems whose solution would vastly improve the quality of the paper.
    • When dealing with a whole class, again pick the one problem made most often that could most improve the student papers. This usually means starting with problems that, if uncorrected, will automatically ruin the rest of the paper.
    • This means focusing initially on issues of thesis, audience and purpose.
  3. Note what the student has done well

    and, when possible, tell the student why that works well.
  4. Ask open-ended questions that encourage the student

    to re-examine the paper and become self-critical.
  5. Play the role of reader, not editor.

    Instead of correcting the student’s paper (and doing his work for him), simply share your reactions as a reader.
    • “I don’t understand your meaning here.”
    • “How does this follow logically from the material above.”
    • “What is the connection?”
    •  “You sound bored.”
  6. In your final comments, be sure to :

    • give legitimate praise to at least one thing
    • identify one or two problems and explain why they make the piece hard to understand
    • set a goal for the next draft or paper
    • suggest specific strategies for reaching that goal
  7. Xerox your final comments so you can chart your students’ progress.