C. Scoring Essay Items
Although essay questions are powerful assessment tools, they can
be difficult to score. With essays, there isn't a single, correct
answer and it is almost impossible to use an automatic scantron
or computer-based system. In order to minimize the subjectivity
and bias that may occur in the assessment, teachers should prepare
a list of criteria prior to scoring the essays. Consider,
for example, the following question and scoring criteria:
Sample Question (10th Grade Social Studies)
Consider the time period during the Vietnam
War and the reasons there were riots in cities and at university
campuses. Write an essay explaining three of those reasons.
Include information on the impact (if any) of the riots.
The essay should be approximately one page in length.
Your score will depend on the accuracy of your reasons,
the organization of your essay, and brevity. Although
spelling, punctuation, and grammar will not be considered
in grading, please do your best to consider them in your
writing. (10 points possible)
Scoring Criteria (for the teacher)
- Content Accuracy -- up to 2 points for each accurate reason
the riots ensued (6 points total)
- Organization -- up to 3 points for essay organization
(e.g., introduction, well expressed points, conclusion)
- Brevity -- up to 1 point for appropriate brevity (i.e.,
no extraneous or "filler" information)
No penalty for spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors.
By outlining the criteria for assessment, the students know precisely
how they will be assessed and where they should concentrate their
efforts. In addition, the instructor can provide feedback that is
less biased and more consistent. Additional techniques for scoring
constructed response items include:
- Do not look at the student's name when you grade the essay.
- Outline an exemplary response before reviewing student responses.
- Scan through the responses and look for major discrepancies
in the answers -- this might indicate that the question was not
- If there are multiple questions, score Question #1 for all students,
then Question #2, etc.
- Use a scoring rubric that provides specific areas of feedback
for the students.
Detailed information about constructing checklists and rubrics
for scoring is provided in the Performance