Continuous Improvement

Creating Rubrics

There are many rubric resources available to teachers—online and in published materials—so the first piece of advice we have to offer is: Find and adapt existing rubrics! It is rare to find a rubric that is exactly right for your situation and your students, but by using rubrics that have worked well for others as a starting point, you can save a great deal of time.

There are many rubric formats. In the grid format shown here, which is one of the possible ways to lay out a rubric, we illustrate a few common, frequently recommended, features of multiple trait rubrics:

An even number (4 or 6) of levels of performance on the scale. Many assessment experts recommend an even number of levels of performance because raters have to make a more precise judgment rather than selecting the middle range. However, most of the rubric samples on this website are 3-tiered: Strong Performance, Meets Expectations, Approaching Expectations. A fourth level “Does not meet Expectations” is eliminated. This approach prefers communicating to the student that the submitted work is not of a ratable quality. Instructors may choose to add a fourth level of “Not ratable” or “Does not meet expectations” to document the elements that are weak or missing.

High to low scale. The highest level of performance is described at the left. Students read first the description of an exemplary performance in each criterion. A few labels for a four-point scale include:

  • Strong performance, Meets expectations, Approaching expectations, (Not ratable)
  • Exemplary, Excellent, Acceptable, Unacceptable
  • Exceeds expectations, Meets expectations, Progressing, Not there yet
  • Superior, Good, Fair, Needs work

Limited number of dimensions or criteria. The criteria are those components that are most important to evaluate in the given task and instructional context. A rubric with too many dimensions may be unworkable in classroom assessment because it asks the student and the rater to focus on too many criteria. .

Equal steps along the scale. The difference between 4 and 3 should be equivalent to the difference between 3 - 2 and 2 - 1. "Yes, and more," "Yes," "Yes, but," and "No" are ways for the rubric developer to think about how to describe performance at each scale point. Some common descriptive terms are listed in the chart below. Again, notice that if a 4-level rubric is used, the descriptors for a “1” indicate that the work is not of a quality that merits a passing grade.


Strong Performance

Meets Expectations

Approaching Expectations

Not ratable
(Does not meet Expectations)

Language Control

Any errors in structures are minor and infrequent and do not interfere with communication

Any errors in structures are infrequent and do not interfere with communication

Some errors in structures may disrupt communication at times.

Many errors make communication difficult.


Includes a wide variety of both new and familiar vocabulary appropriately.

Includes a variety of both new and familiar vocabulary appropriately.

Includes familiar vocabulary and limited new vocabulary appropriately.

Limited vocabulary; may include inappropriate use of some words


Fully developed and supported, accurate

Adequately developed and supported, accurate

Partially developed and supported, may have minor inaccuracies

Incomplete development and support, may have inaccuracies



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