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Grading Criteria

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What are grading criteria?

Grading Criteria are a way of communicating the levels of attainment that are expected of students and mapping them to particular grade bands. They can be specific to a particular assessment or assessment type or more general e.g. set at programme level. The criteria will be influenced by the academic level of the assessment to which they relate.

Why are they used?

Grading criteria are a valuable resource for students looking to understand what is expected of them when being assessed. They also provide a framework for feedback that ensures it is consistent, meaningful and fair. Consequently it is important that grading criteria are articulated in a transparent, logical and accessible form

Don't assume the language within criteria is self-explanatory and teams should aim to work closely together and with students to be sure everyone understands what is meant by such terms as 'critical evaluation' 'analysis' in each context. Many Schools have assessment drop-ins or 'unpacking' sessions so that everyone is on the same page - these usually involve the opportunity to pose questions anonymously. Some schools have co-authored their criteria with students to ensure clear communication.

What is the University's approach to using grading criteria?

The University is committed to promoting excellence in assessment and feedback. UPR AS13 2013-14 (5.2.1) states that

  • Every programme must publish the grading criteria in the programme handbook
  • Grading criteria must relate to the University’s Grade Descriptors and associated grades
  • Relevant grading criteria should be available for all assessments that students will encounter on the programme
Some useful principles to bear in mind when developing critieria are:
  • The levelness of the grading criteria can be differentiated by (indicative) weighting e.g. level 4 would have less focus on analysis than level 6.  The SEEC level descriptors (2016) would be a useful reference tool here and are included in the resources set out below.
  • Criteria can be developed for different assessment formats e.g. written work, OSCE, lab test
  • Sub-criteria for each criterion should be agreed, where applicable, to give greater differentiation and to enhance feedback detail for students e.g. referencing could include appropriate choice of references, correct citation in the text, correct application of referencing convention in the reference list
  • There should be a description of each sub-criterion at each grade for clarity
  • Circularity should be minimised, try to show progression and be clear about the difference between different bands
  • Focus on precision of terms and definitions
  • Language/adjectives must be consistent with university grade descriptors (eg 60-69 = good)
  • Ensure the language used is accessible to students and staff
  • Ensure grids have horizontal and vertical consistency

How should grading criteria be incorporated into the assessment process?

The grading criteria in use should be explained to students as early in the assessment process as possible so that they can develop their assignment accordingly.  It can be really helpful to work with students to mark examples of work - this way they can understand the criteria in action. Many colleagues use peer marking for the same reason - it develops a literacy with the criteria and prompts conversations about what makes for excellent performance

For electronic submission, you will need to provide grading criteria at the point of setting up an assignment, unless the assignment is formative. Some schools have collected their standard criteria together in a library of Grading Criteria. You may wish to choose criteria from this library or, alternatively, upload a document containing the grading criteria from your own computer. If you wish to add to your School’s collection of Grading Criteria, please contact your Associate Dean Learning and Teaching.

Please see the folders below for examples and resources. 

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Examples of Grading Criteria Examples of Grading Criteria

Grading scales and descriptors Grading scales and descriptors

SEEC level descriptors 2016 (492.7kb)
This 2016 edition of the seec level descriptors updates the context for their use to reflect changes in the sector since they last underwent major review in 2010. The descriptors themselves remain unchanged.