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What Is an Essay Rubric and Why it is Important

Help with Essay Rubric

Help with Essay Rubric

A rubric is an assessment tool used to communicate expectations of quality. A rubric utilizes a set of rules or instructions to score a student’s performance based on a set of defined guidelines. The teacher can use the rubric as a scoring tool to grade an essay, and when a student has a rubric to follow, he knows exactly what the teacher is looking for in the essay. During the grading process the teacher can use the rubric as an assessment tool to grade an essay; it saves time, and the grading process is fair. Precise criteria are clearly defined, facilitating the grading process and increasing objectivity; therefore, when a rubric is used for grading, it reduces the likelihood that students will argue about the grade they receive. The guidelines are clear, and the student knows exactly how to accumulate points on the assignment. Rubrics also aid them in setting goals for their work.

Components of an Essay Rubric

An essay grading rubric includes components on which the student’s performance is rated. It is also comprised of a scale, which is used to score each criterion. If the essay meets the criteria outlined in the rubric, a high number is assigned for that specific objective; however, if the essay does not meet the criteria, a lower number is assigned. The total score on the essay is generated by adding the score for each component identified on the rubric. The elements of a scoring rubric include:

  • Criteria for assessment
  • Definitions and examples to clarify the meaning of each criteria
  • The different levels of achievement for each criteria

There are many advantages for implementing an essay grading rubric. For example, an assessment criterion can be developed to assist students in completing the essay, and it will tell them exactly what the teacher will be grading them on. Moreover, an assessment rubric can help bridge the communication between teacher and student. It can aid the student in gaining a greater understanding of what is acceptable in the essay and what is unacceptable. Furthermore, essay rubrics clearly identify the levels of performance. For example, the rubric may have a category for very good, good, needs improvement, or poor. The score that is received in each category is used to determine the grade that the essay receives. If a teacher is unsure of how to construct an essay rubric, he or she should obtain a sample rubric.

Essay Rubric Points

An essay rubric provides an objective way to complete and grade an essay, indicate what the essay should entail, and it shows how performance will be evaluated. Here are three criteria that an essay rubric can employ using a scoring scale ranging from very good (4 points) to poor (1 point).

  • The essay has a clear and concise thesis statement
  1. Very good (4 points): Is the thesis statement clear and concise? Does it make the reader aware of the writer’s stand on the subject? Does it connect the subject with the main idea
  2. Good (3 points): The thesis statement is clear and concise, but it leaves the reader unsure of the writer’s stance
  3. Needs Improvement (2 points) : There is a thesis statement but it is vague
  4. Poor (1 point): There is not a clear thesis statement, and the writer does not take a stance.
  • The essay is free from punctuation, spelling, and grammar errors
  1. Very Good 4 points): There is good sentence structure, and there are not any grammar and spelling errors in the essay.
  2. Good (3 points): Most sentences are structured correctly but not all, and there are one or two grammar and spelling errors in the essay
  3. Needs Improvement (2 points): The essay contains grammar and spelling errors, and a few of the sentences does not have the correct structure
  4. Poor (1 point): Sentences are repetitive and difficult to understand. Poor grammar is used and there are spelling errors
  • The essay is well organized
  1. Very good (4 points): Information is well organized, the thesis and argument is clear, and the conclusion is strong
  2. Good (3 points): The introduction includes the thesis statement, states the main idea, but the essay is not well organized
  3. Needs Improvement (2 points): The introduction states the main topic, but the thesis statement is vague.
  4. Poor (1 point): There is no clear introduction and the paper is not well organized.

Essay Grading According to a Rubric

Teachers can use rubrics for grading at all academic levels. In addition to rubrics being used at the college level, teachers can devise a high school essay rubric or an elementary school rubric. Furthermore, teachers can incorporate rubrics for all types of essays, such as a compare contrast essay rubric, a narrative essay rubric, and a persuasive essay rubric. When using a four-point essay rubric, four points are scored when the essay is very well written, and a score of three shows that the essay is acceptable. Teacher’s who use a rubric can turn the points into a letter grade by assigning a letter grade to each set of point values. For instance, in the example below there are four criterions and each criterion is assigned a point value. The maximum number of points a student can achieve is sixteen. Here is an example of how the points can be turned into a grade.

16-14 Points = A     13-11 Points = B      10-8 Points = C    7-5 Points = D      4-0 Points= F


Very Good

4 Points


3 Points

Needs Improvement

2  Points


1 Point



The essay is well organized and the sentences and paragraphs are transitioned well

The essay is organized well and transitions are present but not always clear

The essay is organized but the sentences transitions are vague

Organization is poor.


Focus on topic

The essay focus on the topic  and the main idea is well supported

The essay has a clear topic and the main idea is somewhat supported

Main idea is clear, but the essay does not have supporting information

Main idea and supporting information is vague


Word choice

The entire essay uses words effectively and in the right place.

A few words are inaccurate, but most are used effectively

Communication is sometimes unclear

Writer uses a limited

Vocabulary and communication is unclear


Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation

Sentences are well structured, and there are no errors

The sentences are well structured but the essay have a few errors in grammar

There are several errors is spelling and grammar

The sentences are not well constructed and there are numerous grammar errors



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