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Standard & Custom Grading Scales in Moodle

An alternative to giving numerical grades on an assignment is to use Grading scales. For example, you could use a custom scale when you want students to see Excellent, Good, or Fair as a grade on an assignment as opposed to a numerical score.

Grading scales are best for record keeping purposes and other assessments you do not intend to factor into the course total in your Moodle gradebook. However, keep in mind that Moodle still assigns numerical values to each term within the scale in order to do mathematical operations (see below). Depending on your gradebook setup, these values can impact your grade calculations in ways you may not intend. For help using custom grading scales with the Moodle gradebook, we recommend contacting the Instructional Media Lab.

Standard Grading Scales

Moodle at UMass Amherst provides the following standard grading scales:

  • Satisfactory: Not satisfactory, Satisfactory, Outstanding
  • Received: Not Received, Received

How Grading Scales Work

While you and your students will see the values assigned by a grading scale in the Grader report and User report, these values will function numerically in grade book calculations depending on the kind of grade calculation being used.

  • Using Sum of grades: The first value in the scale is given the value of 1, and subsequent values are assigned the next whole number (e.g. "Very Poor" = 1, "Poor" = 2, "Fair" = 3, "Good" = 4, "Excellent" = 5).
  • Mean of grades or Custom weights: The first value in the scale is given the value of 0, and subsequent values are assigned the next whole number (e.g. "Very Poor" = 0, "Poor" = 1, "Fair" = 2, "Good" = 3, "Excellent" = 4).

Use caution with custom scales that replicate a standard letter scale:

While you could create a conventional letter scale using a custom scale, doing so may have unexpected effects on grade calculation because of the way each letter is assigned a numerical value (see below).

F (1), D (2), D+ (3), C- (4), C (5), C+ (6), B- (7), B (8), B+ (9), A- (10), A (11)

When using a custom scale like this instance, calculating a grade percentage will not align with the traditional letter scale. For instance, a C on the scale above would be equivalent to 45% (5 / 11). If you want to see grades in your gradebook displayed as letter grades, it may be simpler to edit the category settings and change the display mode as discussed in Letter Grades in Moodle.

Depending on your gradebook setup, these values can impact your grade calculations in ways you may not intend. For help using custom grading scales with the Moodle gradebook, we recommend contacting the Instructional Media Lab.

Create a Custom Grading Scale

To create a custom grading scale:

  1. On your main course page in the Administration block, click Grades. The gradebook will open to the Grader report.
  2. In the navigation tabs (at top), click Scales. The Course scales page will open.
  3. Click Add a new scale. The Add a scale page will open.
  4. Type a name for your scale in the Name box.
  5. Enter the actual terms of your scale in order from least to greatest, separated by commas (e.g. "Very Poor, Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent").
  6. (Optional) Enter a description for your scale.
  7. Click Save Changes when complete.

Apply a Scale to a Grade Item or Category Total

After creating a custom scale, it can be used with a grade item or category total by editing advanced settings. For more information on these settings, see Advanced Grade Item Options in the Moodle Gradebook
Note: The scale for an activity-based grade item is set on the activity settings page. 

  1. On your main course page in the Administration block, click Grades. The gradebook will open to the Grader report.
  2. In the navigation tabs (at top), click Categories and items. The Categories and items page will open.
  3. Under Actions, in the row for a grade item or category title click Edit (Edit Grade Item Icon). The Edit page for this item will open.
  4. On the Edit page, click to the Grade item or Category total heading to view and adjust the settings. 
  5. In the Grade type drop-down menu, select Scale. (If you do not see this option, click Show more... to view all options)
  6. In the Scale drop-down menu, select the name of the scale.
  7. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save changes.