Using letters and scales in the Moodle gradebook

Following on from our first post about using the gradebook in Moodle 2, I’m going to look here at two ways of awarding students non-numerical grades: using letters and using scales. There are default letter grades and scales available across the University’s Moodle site, but you can also customise them.

Using Letters

If your department prefers to award letter grades to students until work has been second marked, you can use the letter grade scale in Moodle. The teacher awards a numerical grade when grading the work, which is then converted by Moodle into a percentage, and shown as the relevant grade letter in the gradebook.

Letter gradesThere is an existing letter grade scale, which is set as default for the whole of the University’s Moodle site (and is different to the default Moodle setting). To see this, go to Settings > Course administration > Grades. Then, from the dropdown menu on the top left, select Letters > View. So, if a student is given 70% or above, they would see an ‘A’ grade; if they get less then 40% they will see the word ‘Refer’.

If you wish to make changes to any of the grade letters on your course, click on the Edit grade letters link. Click into the tickbox next to Override site defaults to make the editing options available, and edit the grade letters and/or the boundaries as appropriate.

For students to see letter grades in the gradebook, you need to edit the graded item. So, from the dropdown menu on the top left, under Categories and items, select Simple view. Then click on the ‘edit’ icon next to the relevant grade item and under the Actions column:

Simple view

Grade itemOn the Grade Item screen, you may need to click on Show Advanced to see all of the options.

Next to Grade display type, select Letter from the dropdown menu. This would show the student the relevant letter grade in relation to the percentages set on the letter grade scale. Alternatively, you could choose Letter (percentage), which would show students the letter grade and the percentage in brackets, or Letter (real) which would show them the letter grade and the actual grade in brackets).

Using Scales

Another non-numeric way of evaluating a student’s performance is to use a scale, which would give the student a word or a small phrase as the feedback. When marking work, the tutor sees the scale options in a drop-down list, and can choose the grade to be awarded.

To see the scales available on your course, go to the gradebook and from the dropdown menu, select Scales > View. You will see the Standard scales which are set up as default for the whole Moodle site. The standard scale you are most likely to use is probably Pass/Refer (Fail, Refer, Pass, Merit, Distinction).

However, you can also create your own custom scale; click on Add a new scale. Give your scale a Name and in the Scale box, create the scale by listing the words/phrases, from negative to positive, and separated by commas. You can then use the Description field to help the students understand what their awarded scale means.

seminar participation

Save changes. You can edit or delete your new scale until you start to use it for an activity on the course, when the editing icons will disappear.

To make use of a standard or custom scale, when you create a graded activity (e.g. an assignment) you would choose the relevant Scale: option from the Grade dropdown box (where you will see both the standard scales for the whole site and any custom scales you have created for the course).

If you are adding a grade item to the gradebook (for example, for work completed outside of Moodle such as a presentation, or seminar participation), then you would choose Scale for Grade type, and then choose the relevant scale from the Scale dropdown menu.


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