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Determining a Grading System for Your Course

Before setting up a grading system or grade book, consider the following:

What assignments, quizzes, exams, etc., do I plan to use to evaluate my students, and how much will each item be worth?

In answering this question, you might be wondering whether a Points-Based or Percentage-Based grading system is appropriate. Let's see how they compare.

Points-Based versus Percentage-Based Grading Systems

  • Points-Based

    In a points-based system, each assignment, quiz, etc., is given a point value. The final grade is determined by adding up all the points earned and comparing it to a grading standard.
  • Percentage-Based

    A percentage-based system groups all assignments, quizzes, etc., into "categories" and assigns a percentage or weight to each category. The sum of all the categories will be 100%.
  • While each assignment may be assigned a point value, the final grade is based on the percentage or weight or the categories. For instance, even if the total number of points possible for quizzes equals 300 and the total number of points possible for homework is 100, the homework may still count more towards the final grade, if it counts for a greater percentage of the final grade.

The following instructions are for creating a grading system based on 1000 points.

A 1000 Point Grading System will take the best of both a points-based and a percentage-based system and make your grading system easy for you to use and easier for your students to understand.

  1. Start by determining the types of items you will be assigning. For demonstration purposes, let's use the following example:

    Graded Items
    Homework
    Quizzes
    Discussions
    Midterm Exam
    Research Paper
    Final Exam
  2. Next, determine what percentage each type of graded item should be worth determining the overall grade for a total of 100%.

    Assignments and tests should be weighted relative to their value in the course. In other words, weigh each item according to the amount of effort and its importance to course learning outcomes. I.e., assignments requiring more effort that are important to the learning outcomes should weigh more, etc. Generally, final exams, projects or research papers count for one-third or less (33%) of the final grade.

    Continuing with the above example:

    Graded Items % of Final Grade
    Homework 20%
    Quizzes 30%
    Discussions 10%
    Midterm Exam 10%
    Research Paper 10%
    Final Exam 20%
      100%
  3. Next, detrmine the number of points available for each category of graded items based on the percentage as shown below. Your overall number of points possible should add up to 1000.

    Graded Items % of Final Grade Multiply by 1000 Points
    Homework 20% .20 x 1000 = 200 200
    Quizzes 30% .30 x 1000 = 300 300
    Discussions 10% .10 x 1000 = 100 100
    Midterm Exam 10% .10 x 1000 = 100 100
    Research Paper 10% .10 x 1000 = 100 100
    Final Exam 20% .20 x 1000 = 200 200
      100%   1000
  4. To determine the number of points each individual item should be worth, divide the total number of points for each category by the number of items assigned as illustrated below.

    Graded Items # Assigned To Determine the
    Number of Points
    for Each
    Points Each Total Points
    Homework 20 20 ÷ 20 = 10 10 points each 200
    Quizzes        
    Discussions        
    Midterm Exam        
    Research Paper        
    Final Exam        
            1000

    If you planned for 20 homework assignments, to determine the point value for each homework assignment, divide the total homework points by how many homework assignments you have. For example, you would take the 200 total homework points, divide it by the 20 homework assignments, making each homework assignment worth 10 points.

It is not necessary to divide a category equally. You can "divide" up the points however you need to. For example, if you have one homework assignment that is more time consuming than the others, you can assign it more points, as long as all the homework assignments add up to 200 points.

When you are done, your grading system will look something like this:

Graded Items # Assigned Determine the
Number of Points
for Each
Points Each Total Points
Homework 20 200 ÷ 20 = 10 10 points each 200
Quizzes 6 300 ÷ 6 = 50 50 points each 200
Discussions 5 100 ÷ 5 = 20 20 points each 100
Midterm Exam 1 100 ÷ 1 = 100 100 points Exam 100
Research Paper 1 100 ÷ 1 = 100 100 points Paper 100
Final Exam 1 200 ÷ 1 = 200 200 points Final 200
        1000

At the beginning of the semester, it is imperative that your students are aware of your grading system, perhaps via your syllabus. The following is an example of a 1000 points grading system matched against the standard numerical scale used at LCC:

Homework (20 at 10 points each) 200
Quizzes (6 at 50 points each) 300
Discussions (5 at 20 points each) 100
Midterm Exam (1 at 100 points) 100
Research Paper (1 at 100 points) 100
Final Exam (1 at 200 points) 200
  1000
Total Number of
Points Earned for
the Semester
Recommended Guideline for
Performance Achievement of
Objectives
College Standard
905 - 1000 91% to 100% 4.0
855 - 904 86% to 90% 3.5
805 - 854 81% to 85% 3.0
755 - 804 76% to 80% 2.5
705 - 754 71% to 75% 2.0
655 - 704 66% to 70% 1.5
595 - 654 60% to 65% 1.0
0 - 594 0% to 59% 0.0
Source: www.lcc.edu

Advantage of a 1000 Point Grading System:

At any point during the semester, you and your students will always know how they are doing in your course.

At any point during the semester both you and your students will be able to add up the points earned to-date, then divide by the total points possible up to that point in the course. This will determine a percentage. That percentage can then be matched against the grading scale percentages to see if the student is on track for a 3.0, or 4.0, etc. For instance, if a student has earned 415 points at mid-semester when 500 points are possible, their average is 83% (415 ÷  500 = .83 or 83%). Based on the guidelines above, the student is currently earning a 3.0 in the course.

Developing Your Grading System Worksheet

Use the following tables to create your own 1000 point grading system.

Types of Items % of Final Grade Multiply by 1000 Points
Ex: Homework 20% .20 x 100 = 200 200
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
  100%   1000
Types of Items # Assigned To Determine the
Number of Points
for Each
Points Each Points
Ex: Homework 20 200 ÷ 20 = 10 10 points each 200
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
         
        1000

References
Davis, B.G. Tools for Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993. Print.

DeWitt, Rhonda Simplified Grading: The "1000 Points Grading Method." Connecticut Community Colleges: Instructional & Informational Technology Training for Faculty & Staff. Web. 24 Aug 2007.

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