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Rating Scales

Saturday, November 18, 2017


  • A checklist with a graduated scale added in order to rank or appraise the level or extent of attainment
  • Instrument that collects information about how often or what quantity an item, concept or action occurs
  • Indicates the degree or frequency of the behaviors, skills and strategies displayed by the learner
  • Typically states the criteria and provides 3 or 4 response selections that describe the quality or frequency of student work


  • Useful when looking at frequency of behavior
  • Useful for assessing quality of a product
  • Used to give students information for improving performance
  • Used to give students information for goal setting
  • Used to provide students with detail on quality standard to be met


  • Grid

Horizontal axis contains Response Descriptors:

  • Phrase detailing the quality expected at said level
  • with assigned point value

Vertical Axis contains the Item Stem:

  • identified item [behavior, product, etc.]
  • from one word to an informational phrase

Common Descriptors

Most commonly used descriptors to describe:


  • Never
  • Rarely
  • Sometimes
  • Often
  • Always

Quality Level:

  • Very poor
  • Poor
  • Fair
  • Good
  • Excellent
  • Not at all acceptable
  • Slightly acceptable
  • Moderately acceptable
  • Very acceptable
  • Completely acceptable

Balance the Descriptors

Balanced rating scale:

  • __very good __good __average __poor __very poor

Negatively balanced rating scale:

  • __good __average __poor __very poor __awful

Positively balanced rating scale:

  • __excellent __very good __good __average __poor

Most Effective Descriptors

  • Most effective rating scales use descriptors with clearly understood measures
  • Scales that rely on subjective descriptors of quality [such as fair, good or excellent], are least effective
  • Single adjectives do not contain enough information on what criteria are indicated at each of the points on the scale
  • The more precise and descriptive the words for each scale point, the more reliable the tool
  • The descriptive word is more important than its related number
  • Descriptive words should help students pinpoint specific strengths and needs

How to

  1. Decide what the scale is intended to measure
  2. Decide on the format of the scale
  3. List the items to be addressed
  4. Draft the item stems
  5. Draft the response descriptors
  6. Draft instructions for using the rating scale
  7. Ask colleagues and experts in the field to review & provide feedback
  8. Pilot test the rating scale with a small sample of intended users: students and faculty
  9. Revise as results indicate

Some Tips

  • Always keep at the forefront when designing the scale: What is it intended to measure?
  • Keep descriptors precise and concise
  • Use simple, straightforward language
  • Keep language within users’ readability level


Foreign Language Presentation (PDF)

Working Collaboratively (PDF)