Rubrics Part 7: Points-Based Rubrics

Rubrics fall into two broad evaluation categories: holistic and points-based. Holistic rubrics assign levels to student performance on various criteria. This approach is more subjective, produces fewer accurate results and does not integrate well with percentage-based reporting systems.

Points-based rubric systems also use a leveling approach to assessment. However, in these rubrics points are assigned to each level of success on every criteria. For example, level four is worth 4 points. These points are then tallied to arrive at a student’s mark.  You can see a typical Hekademia, points-based rubric below.rubric_emergingTech

Points-based rubrics improve objectivity and allow students to see clearly where they lost marks. This type of rubric also streamlines assignment marking and provides a convenient starting point for teachers. Points-based rubrics will improve rubric usage rates at Hekademia.

Unfortunately, when points are tallied on a points-based rubric, the final score does not align well with the four achievement levels. For this reason, use a custom points scheme to align achievement levels with an existing grading scheme at your institution.

The following points scheme will aligns the points outcome based on a given level with the appropriate percentage.

Level 5: 10 points
Level 4: 8.5 points
Level 3: 7.5 points
Level 2: 6.5 points
Level 1: 5.5 points
Level 0: 0.0 points

Teachers using paper-based rubrics, identify the points for each level in either the header or footer rows of the rubric. In the case of electronic rubrics in an LMS, the custom points scheme may need to be entered for every new criterion on a rubric. However, once a criterion with a custom points scheme has been created it can be copied repeatedly to save time and prevent errors.

Many LMS rubrics also allow the points scheme of a rubric to be hidden from the student view. When this option is enabled, students see only the levels of a rubric, not the points associated with each level. All points-based rubrics should be configured to hide scores from student views.

Hiding points has two clear advantages. Pedagogically speaking, when instructors assess students’ assignments it is often desirable to de-emphasize or eliminate the marking scheme. Doing so diverts the student’s focus away from points-based assessment and directs them towards the actual criteria necessary to improve the product.

Furthermore, when points are hidden, teachers have the discretion to override the points assigned to that level without the student seeing the change. If points are not hidden, students will be aware that each level is assigned a pre-determined number of points. Conflicts may arise when teachers override the default score for a level in individual cases.

Do you have a preference for points-based rubrics or would you prefer to delete points from the rubrics and “eye-ball” the score?  If you have questions or comments about this post or rubrics in general, leave a comment below , email me at, or catch me on twitter @TonyStecca.

2 thoughts on “Rubrics Part 7: Points-Based Rubrics”

  1. Hi Tony
    Thanks for the article which is very informative. I have two queries. How do you turn off the scores for students in D2L Brightspace? You probably know this and I can be lazy and not search for that information.
    I understand that the numeric score that is generated can be misleading, but if each criteria is equally weighted, and you have the task specified to go to the gradebook as a mark out of 15 (we use a 15 point scale A+ A A- B+ etc), after marking by rubric, is there anything invalid in that score that shows out of 15, regardless of what the number shows? I hope this makes sense to you.

  2. Hi John.

    On the “Edit Rubric” screen there is a “Hide Scores” option. This feature is, however, new-ish. It appeared in our LMS about 8 months ago as part of a service pack. I couldn’t tell you what SP number we’re at though. If you don’t see the option, you might have to check with you LMS administrator.

    Out of curiosity, do you teach k-12 or post-secondary?

    Regarding the points system, it is definitely possible to get invalid scores if you set up your points wrong. Rubrics points for each level represent the mid-point of a range. If you’re trying to produce a percentage score (89%, 98%, etc) you won’t be able to give a student perfect or zero. That’s why our top level is 10 points and not 9.5. We use a modified system.

    You’ll run into this problem too, with your 15 point scale. The only way out of it for you will be to grade every criteria out of 15. That is, use a 15 column rubric. Not a totally bad idea.

    The alternative is to use, say, a 6-column rubric (5,4,3,2,1,0) and have each level be worth a range of points (15-13, 12-10, 9-7, 6-4, 3-1). If an instructor chose all level-5 (15-13) the student’s score would be 14. It would be impossible to give the student 15.

    I have seen some schools use a 7-column rubric to avoid this problem. The first column is the “out-of” or “max score” column. We think that’s kind of a clumsy solution and confusing for students.

    Remember that the instructor can always adjust score for every criteria and the over-all rubric. This is the ultimate safety-valve for instructors and your assessment policy.

    I hope this helps.

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