Types of rubrics

This article discusses the types of rubrics used to grade student assessments at Southern Cross University.

More about rubrics

For more information about what rubrics are, and how they are used at Southern Cross University please see the following article: Rubrics

Types of rubrics 

There are two types of rubrics commonly used at Southern Cross University – holistic and analytic. 



Holistic rubrics are best used when making an overall or holistic judgement about the quality of the response by considering all criteria together. 

Analytic rubrics are best used when making judgements about each criterion separately, then weighting and combining each judgement to make an overall decision on the quality of the response. 

The following video discusses analytic and holistic rubrics with concrete examples of each type of rubric. 

Holistic rubrics 

In holistic rubrics, each standard is articulated by a single, detailed, descriptive statement. Holistic rubrics are used when it is more difficult or not desirable to partition a task into separate criteria. For example, in some tasks, the criteria are intertwined and overlap too much. This often occurs in complex, extended abstract or creative tasks where there are a variety of ways to go about the task and the task cannot easily be partitioned into components. In such cases, we make holistic judgments about the work, rather than analytical judgments based on individual criteria. Holistic rubrics are particularly ideal for oral presentations but may be appropriate for other assessment types as well such as a multi-media project or a portfolio.

Example: Oral Presentation

Learning Outcome: Communicate an effective argument using an oral presentation.

Assessment Task: Present a ten-minute oral presentation that argues a position. Use the list of topics to choose your topic and evidence that supports your conclusions.

Holistic rubric example

SCU Grade Descriptors 

Description of Grade 

High Distinction

The thesis is very clearly stated and addresses the specific audience. Presentation has a clear introduction that catches the audience’s attention and the conclusion summarises the speech. Main points are supported by clearly communicated, succinct and highly relevant evidence. Language and tone is confident and appropriate with effective use of eye contact and gestures, and with no excessive use of vocalised pauses (e.g. “ah, um”). References have been incorporated logically and insightfully, with accurate documentation. 


The thesis is clearly stated and addresses a professional audience. Presentation has an introduction that catches the audience’s attention, and the conclusion is clear. Main points include concrete, specific evidence. Most language and tone usage is accurate and appropriate, and eye contact established with the audience. Gestures used to reinforce ideas with occasional vocalised pauses. References are used logically, proficiently and are accurately documented, with one or two minor errors. 


Thesis is clear and the audience has been considered. Presentation has a clear introduction and conclusion which are somewhat related to the whole. Most main points include evidence. Most language and tone usage is correct and appropriate, with some use of eye contact with the audience. Gestures are used a few times to reinforce ideas and several vocalised pauses used. References are appropriately incorporated and most are correctly documented. 


Thesis is vague and the speech targets a general audience. Introduction and conclusion are ineffective with no use of transitions. Some points are supported by evidence. Language and tone are generally appropriate but uses limited eye contact with the audience. Gestures are seldom used with vocalised pauses relied upon frequently. References inappropriate or unclear and require more accurate documentation. 


The thesis is unclear and the audience has not been considered. The presentation is lacking a logical plan, an introduction or conclusion. Main points are not supported by specific examples or evidence. Language and tone used is inappropriate and/or confusing. No eye contact is made with the audience. References have not be included and/or do not follow the APA standard. 

Analytic rubrics

Analytic rubrics are used when the judgment of the assessment task can be partitioned into criteria, each of which are assessed individually. The results for each criterion are then aggregated to provide an overall grade for the task. Criteria may be weighted relative to their importance to achieving the learning outcomes for the assessment task.

Example: Argumentative essay

Learning Outcome: Apply effective research, synthesis and critical thinking skills to formal written communication.

Assessment Task: Write an argumentative essay that systematically analyses both sides of the debate and uses evidence to support your conclusions. 

Analytic rubric example

Level of Student Performance (SCU Grade Descriptors) 


High Distinction (85-100%) 

Distinction (75-84%) 

Credit (65-74%) 

Pass (50-64%) 

Fail (0-49%) 

Critical thinking and argument 

A clear, concise argument that effectively addresses alternative viewpoints. Applies perceptive critical thinking skills to build the argument. Succinctly defines and applies concepts relevant to the argument. 

Well-supported argument. Applies well-developed critical thinking skills to build a cohesive argument. Thoughtfully defines and applies concepts relevant to the argument. 

Factually correct argument. Applies developed critical thinking skills to build a clear argument. Clearly defines and applies concepts relevant to the argument. 

Argument is not based on all relevant facts, or has not been stated clearly. Basic critical thinking skills illustrate a limited insight. Defines and applies some concepts relevant to the argument. 

No argument stated, or the argument relies on logical fallacies. Demonstrates a lack of critical thinking skills. Does not apply concepts relevant to the argument. 

Research and evidence 

Skilled selection and use of highly relevant evidence. A wide range of key sources have been purposefully integrated into the essay. 

Comprehensive selection and use of relevant evidence. A range of key sources integrated into essay. 

Selection and use of relevant evidence. A range of relevant sources provided in the essay. 

Selection and use of mostly relevant evidence. Several appropriate sources included in the essay. 

Little selection or use of relevant evidence. Few or no sources provided. 


Clear, concise and logically structured essay with a succinct, clear introduction and convincing conclusion. Demonstrates professional use of writing mechanics to engage the intended audience. 

Well-structured essay with clear introduction, logical paragraph structure and persuasive conclusion. Well-developed writing mechanics highly appropriate to audience. 

Essay includes a clear introduction and reasonable conclusion. Paragraphs in a logical sequence. Successful use of writing mechanics, suited to a general audience.

Essay includes an introduction and conclusion, however lacks clarity. Paragraph sequence could be more logical. 
Adequate use of writing mechanics. 

Essay lacks structure with an unclear introduction and 
weak conclusion. Major issues with writing mechanics. 

Advantages and disadvantages

The table below provides a comparison between analytic and holistic rubrics, and includes suggested uses for each rubric type. 





  • Useful for assessing higher-order, interrelated skills, and knowledge 
  • Useful for tasks that are holistic in nature e.g. works of art, creative writing, engineering design, projects 
  • May be more authentic in nature 
  • Can be quicker to develop 
  • Suit small, simple assessment tasks with few interrelated criteria or a single learning outcome 
  • Useful when assessing discrete skills and knowledge 
  • Provides direct feedback on set criteria and specific strengths and weaknesses 
  • Easier to moderate marking in large classes with a large number of markers 
  • Suits large complex tasks with multiple discreet criteria and learning outcomes 


  • More difficult to moderate in large classes with a large number of markers 
  • Provides less detailed feedback 
  • Can produce a biased result if markers are not clear on what is required 
  • Difficult to determine whether multiple, discrete learning outcomes have been achieved 
  • Too many criteria over-partition a task so that the result is biased towards small skills 
  • Can produce a biased result - where criteria are not carefully selected or weighted 
  • Can focus on detailed, lower-level skills rather than deeper understanding and knowledge 
  • Can take more time to develop

Specific use 

These are suggestions. The decision must be made based on individual consideration of a particular assessment 

Oral presentations, short blog entries/discussion board posts, portfolios, and multimedia projects. 

Essays, lab reports, prac reports, literature reviews, case studies, reflective journals, and annotated bibliographys. 

(Please note - it's better to refer to the Online version rather than export, as it's always up to date)