Educational Tips For Teachers: How to Grade Tests

By virtue, tests are used to measure the students’ successful attainment of the goals for a particular course, and the items in the test illustrate the skills, principles, and concepts that are the most important to remember. Right after the test is given, the teacher will collect the tests to check and grade them. Naturally, the time needed to accomplish this is highly dependent on the type of questionnaire and the overall quality of the test.

In general, there are two ways in which tests can be graded: norm-referenced grading and criterion-referenced grading. Learn about how to do these grading approaches below.

Norm-referenced grading

Also known as grading on a curve, norm-referenced grading is a process of measuring the achievement of one student in relation to other students in the class. Teachers who find the process of setting a specific grading standard or those who are not sure about the difficulty of their tests may opt to grade using the gradecam approach. One of the advantages of this approach is that teachers can grade on a curve in order to normalize the scores of the students.

  • A lot of available grading approaches can place students in competition with other students in the class; as a result, the chances of obtaining high grades become more difficult.
  • A number of scientific studies suggest that this approach of grading could diminish the motivation of students to study and understand their lessons. Aside from that, this type of grading approach can be problematic as it cannot indicate how much the students have understood; only where they stand relative to everyone in the class.
  • In order to avoid this problem, some teachers tend to adjust the cut-off scores or assign a relatively higher value for a score if the students are good.

Criterion-referenced grading

In this way of grading, tests scores or grades are dependent on an absolute scale that was prepared even before the said test is given to students and is checked. Basically, in criterion-referenced grading system, students can have varying grades (i.e. A’s, B’s, C’s, etc.). Aside from that, the test given is focused on the students’ understanding and mastery of the concepts; hence, their final grades should somehow showcase what they have understood, compared to the standard of the teacher.

  • There are actually a number of ways to determine the criterion for each grade to be given. Students could achieve a specific grade if they have correctly answered a particular number of items on a test (e.g. 95 and above correct answers for a grade of A).
  • This type of grading requires skills in making tests and establishing a scale for grading. As such, new teachers should learn from the more experienced ones on how to use this approach.


Indeed, grading tests is not merely about putting scores; rather, teachers are responsible for putting improvements to solutions, and any explanations about the items students have incorrectly answered. Alternatively, giving words of encouragements to students might help them motivate to do better in a course.

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