Each assignment task you receive will come with a marking rubric – a breakdown of the elements you are being assessed on and what you need to demonstrate to achieve different grade levels. Understanding the marking rubric is a crucial part of the assignment process, and you should refer to it at all stages to ensure that you are on the right track and have included what you need to.

In brief:

  • Navigate your marking rubric to establish the activities being assessed in your assignment. Use the information to set goals for the marks that you hope to achieve in your assignment
  • Pay close attention to the weighting (the percentage of marks) awarded for each activity so you know where to focus your attention. Create a checklist to help guide you to meet the requirements of the assignment.
  • Refer to the unit’s learning outcomes for further direction on the skills you should be demonstrating in your assignments.

The marking rubric is usually presented as a table, with the grade levels (credit, distinction, etc.) presented across the top. Down the left-hand side are the elements that are being assessed. These elements may include activities such as the level of analysis demonstrated, the quality of sources used, and written elements such as correct grammar and referencing.

As with assignment questions, you may be presented with marking rubrics that provide broad or detailed information. Examples of both are provided below.

Detailed marking rubric example

Assessed activities Fail Pass Credit Distinction High Distinction Mark
Following instructions
Does the submission follow the instructions?
  • Submission is 2000 words (+/- 10%)
  • Submitted in appropriate format (Word doc or similar) through Turnitin by due date
  • Font, spacing, and margins meet specifications.
The submission does not demonstrate that instructions have been followed. Meets at least 50% of the requirements but many were missed. Meets at least 60% of the requirements but several were missed. Meets at least 70% of requirements but some were missed. Meets all requirements. /5
Does the submission show a good interrogation of the available literature, with a minimum of five credible/scholarly sources presented?
Less than the minimum number of sources used, or sources were not credible/scholarly. Minimum sources included, but with questionable relevance to the topic. Minimum sources included with relevance to the topic. More than minimum number of sources used with strong relevance to the topic. A number of credible/scholarly sources included with strong relevance to the topic and argument presented. /10
Does the submission demonstrate understanding and engagement with the topic, answering the question effectively and persuasively?
Limited understanding and engagement demonstrated. Question not answered to an appropriate standard. Passable engagement and understanding demonstrated with question addressed. Engagement and understanding demonstrated, though further work is required to answer the question effectively. Engagement and understanding of the topic demonstrated with a concise, clear and persuasive argument. Engagement and understanding of the topic highly demonstrated with a very clear, concise and persuasive argument. /20
Structure and expression
Is the submission clearly structured, with a clear and logical flow, well-constructed paragraphs?
No clear structure, logical flow or poorly constructed paragraphs. Work may contain significant grammatical or spelling errors. Structure, flow and paragraphs are OK, but there is significant room for improvement. Some distracting errors in spelling and grammar. Structure, flow and paragraphs are mostly well constructed with some room for improvement. Minimal spelling or grammar errors noted. Well-structured submission with logical and clear flow. Few spelling or grammar errors noted. Well-structured submission that is engaging, eloquent and flows extremely well. No spelling or grammar issues noted. /10
In-text and reference list entries presented in APA 7th.
Not submitted or significant inaccurate referencing in-text and in the reference list. Reference list and in-text citations included however significant and consistent APA7 formatting errors noted. Reference list and in-text citations included with limited errors noted and APA7 formatting largely consistent. Reference list and in-text citations included with only one-two errors in consistence or style noted. Reference list and in-text citations included. No errors identified. /5

Broad marking rubric example

Criteria Marks
Follows instructions
  • Follows instructions provided in the assignment brief
  • Inclusion of the required number/type of sources
  • Font, spacing, margins and document set-up
  • Word limit
  • Submission by due date
Structure of the assignment
  • Clear presentation of information
  • Logical flow
  • Demonstrated understanding of content
Academic writing
  • Spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • Well-constructed paragraphs
  • Logical flow
Accurate use of APA7 referencing style

The detailed marking rubric conveys what the marker will look for with each assessed activity, setting the minimum standards for each grade level. If you know that you are aiming for a distinction in a particular assignment, you can look at the descriptions listed in the distinction column for each activity to ensure that you meet the standard.

The marking rubric also gives a weighting for each activity. From the broad marking rubric example, we can see that 80 per cent of the assignment marks will come from the structure of the assignment and academic writing. Accurate use of the APA7 referencing style accounts for only 10 per cent. This functions as a guide on where to dedicate the bulk of your efforts.

The language used in a marking rubric can be ambiguous or difficult to understand. Discuss anything you’re confused about with your classmates or lecturer/tutor as soon as you can so that you are clear on how your work is going to be assessed.

Utilising the rubric

An easy way to effectively use the rubric is to break it down into a checklist for yourself.

Begin by going through your rubric and marking or highlighting the items you want to achieve. These can be from different grade levels; it’s important to think about what is achievable for you or what you want to strive for.

Once you have highlighted these points, begin putting them into a written checklist.

Example assignment checklist:

You are aiming for a distinction in your assignment and know that you will be assessed against the requirements outlined in the detailed marking rubric. The following checklist will help you check that you are meeting the requirements:

Following instructions


Understanding Demonstrated understanding of the topic by:


Converting your marking rubric into checklists makes the tasks easier to visualise – and you get the joy of crossing them off the list when you have achieved them in your final draft!

Learning outcomes

Another great source of information to help you improve your grades in an assignment is the unit’s learning outcomes. You’ll find them listed in your unit outline, and they specify the skills you will develop while working through your unit. It’s a good idea to refer to your unit outline and keep these outcomes in mind while completing your assignment.

Depending on your unit and how it is delivered, the learning outcomes may be referred to in your marking rubric when explaining how you will be assessed, or in an assessment summary in your unit outline.