Teaching & Learning

How do I write criteria sheets?

version 8


Best practice in writing criteria sheets

A criteria sheet describes the evidence you expect in students responses to assessment tasks at each standard or level. This evidence can be about the processthat students use, the product they create/produce during the process or both the process and the product (note that process here can be singular or plural depending on the discipline and task). A well developed criteria sheet has the following characteristics:

  • it has five standards - four passing grades and one failing grade
  • the standards are HD, DN, CR, PP, NN. Not, for example, novice to expert, extremely competent to inept, A – E or 100% - 0%.
  • the standards descriptors are concise verbal descriptions not single words, such as excellent and are not excessively negative at the lower standards (see Write descriptors, step 5, part 4)
  • the middle of each standard is what is described - that is, the typical HD, the typical NN not the minimum of each range
  • it is about one to two pages in length
  • the layout is in a readable font and uncluttered
  • only the important expected features in the student response at each standard are described, not the minutiae.

See examples of criteria sheets. Download a template for a criteria sheet, workshop version of How do I write criteria sheets? and word banks handout.


Why a criteria sheet without standards descriptors is not application of criterion-referenced assessment principles

The criteria sheet below has criteria (1-3) and standards (HD, DN etc). However, it does not demonstrate the intent of criterion-referenced assessment because there no standards descriptors – describing expectations at each standard. This type of criteria sheet is unhelpful to students and to assessors for the following reasons.


  • While it does tell the student that the grade for their assessment task was arrived at using criteria, it does not tell them why their work was graded at a particular level/standard (HD, D etc), or whether the criteria were of equal weighting or not. The sheet does not indicate to assessors what to match students’ work to, in order to make judgments and award a grade.
  • The sheet does not tell students or assessors up front (feedforward) what the expectations are for particular grades (or standards) or how grades for each criteria are combined– this allows students to evaluate their work before submission and assessors to practice grading examples to ensure comparability of judgment between assessors.
  • The only feedback given is in the comments at the bottom which tend to be summary statements at best plus any comments written on the assignment itself which may not be clearly linked to particular criterion. The contribution that effective feedback can make to improved learning is thus much reduced.