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The article reviews how to create a grade distribution plan to determine the value of graded assessments.

It can be a challenge to determine how to spread out the points for a course. Instructors want to be sure that assignment scores reflect the amount and importance of the work a student is expected to complete. They may want to reach a particular balance in group and individual work. They may intend to recognize the role of formative versus summative assessments with more points assigned to summative activities. And, students may benefit from a balanced workload with grades spread across a semester for regular feedback on their progress. How to accomplish these goals varies depending on the course, the content, and the instructor.

Some instructors like to create a Grade Distribution Plan that identifies each individual assignment to be graded as well as when they will take place during the course and the estimated time it will take an instructor to grade each submission. This can be useful for checking on the distribution of points throughout the semester and determining if the planned grading load is realistic for providing timely and effective practical feedback to students. A full distribution plan isn’t always necessary, but some find it valuable to take that step prior to determining the Grade Values for a course.


A grade values and percentages table is useful for determining how points are allocated across the various assignment types in a course. For example, are the discussion activities worth more total points in the course than the final exam? Determining which type of activity should carry more points is a decision of the instructor. One method for calculating the breakdown is described below. This can be done in any format, but the example below draws from a spreadsheet that allows for automated calculations.

  1. Refer to all of the activities taking place in a course and identify all the graded work. Categorize the graded work in broad Assessment Categories. List those in a table.

  2. If you have a desired target for total points in the course, consider


  1. noting it. If you are not concerned about reaching a specific number, skip this step.

  2. Enter the desired points per submission for each assignment category in a second column.

  3. Next to the points per submission, enter the


  1. units (or Number of Submissions) a student will have in that category. For example, if there is a weekly reading quiz in each of the 7 weeks of a course, then enter 7.

  2. Calculate the Total Points possible by multiplying the Points Per Submission by the Units, then enter the result in a Total Points column.

  3. Determine the percentage of the course grade


  1. . Divide each category’s Total Points by the Total Course Points. In the example below, one would divide 140 (the Total Points for Discussions) by 1,000 (the Total Course Points), resulting in .14 or 14%.

After doing the calculations, review the percentages and adjust points per submission as needed to achieve the desired balance for the course.