Testing and Grading

Resource Title:
Testing and Grading

Testing and grading are important aspects of course design and implementation. Testing and grading are linked to the learning objectives of a course and provide ways of gauging student learning. Below we provide information about grading policies and procedures and academic integrity, and we suggest best practices for designing and grading exams, creating grading criteria or rubrics, grading lab reports, and evaluating student writing.

Grades at U-M

This section explains the grading policies and procedures specific to the University of Michigan, including the timeline for online grade submission and the process for changing grades after submission.

Grading and Online Grade Submission

On the Ann Arbor campus, grades are due within 72 hours after the scheduled final examination. If there is no exam scheduled for the class, grades are due 72 hours after the last day of the class or 72 hours after the completed work was due for the class. There is no University-wide grading scale, although some units have guidelines or requirements about grading procedures. Please check with your academic unit for information about any policies or procedures that may apply. In general, acceptable letter grades for undergraduates are:

Symbol Significance
A+, A, A- Excellent
B+, B, B- Good
C+, C, C- Acceptable
D+, D, D- Deficient, but passed
E Not passed

In addition to the standard A-E grades, there are several special reports you may use:

  • NR (no report): Used if a student on the grade sheet has attended class not at all or only sporadically, thus providing insufficient basis for a grade.
  • X (missed final): If the student has completed all course requirements except the final exam, you should report “X”. Reporting “X” does not oblige you to allow a make-up of the final. It only leaves you free to do so, if the student provides an excuse satisfactory to you. Find out your college’s policy regarding the date when the student must complete the final exam. At that time you must submit a revised grade (see “Changing Grades” below). If the student does not complete the final, or if the excuse is unacceptable to you, the “X” will automatically be turned into an “E” on the transcript.
  • I (incomplete): Find out your college’s policies regarding the assignment of incompletes. Note that submitting an “I” presumes that you have made arrangements for the student to complete the work at a later date. Once you submit the “I” you are obliged to accept and grade the student’s missing work if it is submitted before the college deadline or before an earlier deadline specifically set by you. In cases where a student has not completed the course assignments yet has made no acceptable arrangements with you for late submission of the work, do not bind yourself by submitting an “I”. Use “NR” instead, and if the student subsequently makes satisfactory arrangements with you, the “NR” can be changed to “I” (see “Changing Grades” below).

In Fall 2005, the University replaced paper grade rosters with an online system for grade submission on Wolverine Access (http://wolverineaccess.umich.edu/). In June 2008, Teaching Support (the previous name of the online grade submission system) was renamed Faculty Business. Complete information on using Faculty Business may be found at: https://csprod.dsc.umich.edu/htmldoc/eng/dftie/lsaa/htm/sr_fb_facultybusinessmenu.html

Departments determine who has access to online grade rosters, for both entering and approving grades. However, a proxy can also be assigned by the instructor(s), also through Faculty Business.

Posting Grades and Returning Exams and Papers

Some faculty post grades outside of their office or in some other public place. It is important not to post grades by name, social security number, UM ID, or by any method in which students can be identified, because to do so violates the students’ right to privacy. If posting grades, use non-identifiable lists, such as a pre-established code name or number for each student. Please do not leave graded material lying in the hallway or outside your office because this practice violates students’ federal privacy rights under FERPA (for more information please see: https://compliance.umich.edu/topics/education/student-records/).

In general, it is advisable to return papers and exams to students so that they can see their performance, correct their mistakes, and learn from your comments. If you have specific reasons for not returning a set of papers or exams, you are free to do so, but please announce your policy to the class in advance. If at all possible, return papers and exams in class, electronically to individual students, or during office hours; alternatively, ask students to give you a large self-addressed envelope with adequate postage so that you can return their materials.

If you retain papers or exams, you should keep them for a year after the end of the course so that students will still have the opportunity to examine them and to learn from your comments. Saving unreturned papers and exams will also protect you in case a student charges you with improper grading. Disputes regarding grades are handled according to the policy and procedure of the school or college.

Your records showing the class grades throughout the term, as well as the final course grades given, should also be retained. If you leave the University, you should leave your grade records with the department for safekeeping along with a mechanism for contacting you if students have questions about their grades. Even if you are only on leave, it is useful if the department has access to your records in order to be able to respond to questions that might arise during your absence.

Changing Grades

In February 2007, the University implemented an online grade change process to replace the Supplemental Grade Report (SGR) paper-based forms. Please note that grades can be changed only after the grade roster has been posted, and only by an instructor with “Approve” grade roster status or a proxy with “Grade Change” access. Grade changes can be made through Faculty Business via Wolverine Access. Each School/College has different approval rules that are encoded into the system, so please check with your department to see if grade changes must be reviewed and approved by staff. Paper grade change request forms may still be required in cases where there is no electronic grade roster (i.e., pre-2005).

Most often grades are changed due to some kind of clerical error or a decision that in retrospect a particular piece of work was graded too low (or too high). Be sure to check with your department to find out the situations in which it is acceptable to change a grade.

If the student’s report is “I” (incomplete) or “X” (missed final exam), the work must be completed according to the deadline set by your college; however, your instructional team (i.e., you and the faculty teaching the course) can set an earlier deadline if appropriate. The notation “I” or “X” will remain on the student’s transcript as a sign that the course was completed after the end of the term. In general, but especially with graduating seniors, it is important for you to report the final grade as soon as possible.

Academic Integrity

Best Practices for Testing, Measurement, and Grading

The links in this section address frequently asked questions about this topic, offer suggestions for constructing exams and test items, describe measurement methods, and offer best practices for grading and providing feedback.

  • Best practices for designing and grading exams: Adapted from CRLT Occasional Paper #24, this page provides an overview of the science of developing valid and reliable exams, especially multiple-choice and essay items. Also described are key issues related to grading: holistic and trait-analytic rubrics, and normative and criterion grading systems.
  • IDEA Paper #16: Improving Multiple Choice Questions (IDEA Center, Clegg & Cashin, 1986): A very clear, concise overview of the advantages and drawbacks of multiple choice questions, along with a step-by-step guide for item construction.
  • Improving Multiple Choice Questions (University of North Carolina, 1990): Another overview with a more narrative approach to multiple choice question design, this paper also offers a discussion of analyzing questions for the effectiveness and gives examples of questions designed to test higher level thinking skills.
  • Grading Criteria and Rubrics: A compilation of resources for establishing grading criteria and creating rubrics from the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning at Brown University. Includes links to sample rubric collections, online rubric generators, and an online tutorial for creating rubrics.
  • Best practices for grading lab reports: This page discusses the purpose of lab reports and offers suggestions for easier grading of lab reports.
  • Evaluating student writing: This page provides links that describe ways to construct and react to assignments based on student written work, including creation of questions, strategies for grading, and ways to respond effectively to student writing. Also included are some resources regarding the use of learning portfolios and e-portfolios.