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Make Life Easier: Use the 1,000 Point Grading Framework

Grading is a time-consuming endeavor for college instructors and worrying about grades is stressful for students. However, building a course with a student-centered scoring framework can reduce the stress for everyone involved. 

Enter the 1,000-point scoring framework! 

In this framework, the assessments in a course add up to a total of 1,000 points. The points are equally-weighted (a point is a point) so the instructor gives a higher point value to more critical assessments, like exams, and fewer points to smaller assignments, like weekly discussions.  

Here’s how this framework might look in a 10-week online course: 

  • 10 discussion assignments worth 10 points each (100 points) 

  • 10 projects worth 50 points each (500 points) 

  • 1 midterm exam worth 200 points 

  • 1 final project worth 200 points 

Having 1,000 equally-weighted points makes for very simple arithmetic: a final score of 850 points is easily converted (by both students and the instructor) to a final grade of 85%. No calculators required! 

At a college where the ‘A’ grade range begins at 90%, students can lose up to 100 points and still earn an ‘A’ as their final letter grade. In the syllabus, these 100 points can be described as the “cushion” to keep an ‘A.’  

At the assignment level, the instructor should use a scoring rubric to communicate to students how points are deducted for errors or omissions. Timely scoring is critical; instructors must make every effort to score assessments quickly. 

Students Can Easily Track the Points  

There are more advantages to this scoring framework than the simplicity of the math. Its greatest strength is that students always know where they stand in terms of the highest possible final grade they can still earn.  

For example, let’s say it’s the third week of the term in our example course. 

So far, the students have been asked to complete six assessments: three discussion assignments (at 10 points each = 30 points) and three projects (at 50 points each = 150 points).  

In most courses, if a student wanted to know their grade so far, they would: 

  • Check their learning management system’s grade book to see how many points they have lost of these 180 points so far. 

  • Divide their points earned by the total points so far.  

  • Figure out how many assignments are remaining, and how those assignments are weighted relative to the work they’ve already done. 

These tasks require a comfort level with arithmetic that many students find daunting!  

By contrast, in the 1,000-point framework, the student must only pay attention to the total number of points they’ve lost so far.  

Here’s a case study of a student in our example course: 

Rico earned perfect scores in the first two weeks, but he scored 35/50 on this week’s project because he skipped one of the steps.  

Rico sees that he’s lost 15 points so far. He knows exactly what this means for his overall grade: he’s “used up” 15 points of his 100-point cushion to earn an ‘A’ in this course. 

If he scores 100% on everything from now on, Rico will end the course with a final score of up to 985 points, or 98.5% (A+).  

But, more realistically, Rico has plenty of wiggle room for a few hiccups in the rest of this term, like missing a deadline or misunderstanding an assignment’s instructions. 

No Late Work, No Extra Credit 

Extra credit is bad budgeting. It’s like finding yourself $100 short on your bills this month and hoping to find five twenties lying in the street!  

But a well-designed course should allow students to mess up a few times, whether they forget to do an assignment or complete it with errors, and still finish the course successfully. The 1,000-point framework easily incorporates this extra cushion into the course so that instructors and students don’t have to haggle or debate late work and extra credit. 

Your Assignment Might Not be Your Student’s Priority Today 

There’s an unexpected side-effect of the 1,000-point scoring framework: students might feel so empowered that they make an informed decision to skip an assignment or two. And instructors should be okay with that! 

Could a student manipulate the math and skip all the low-stakes assignments in the course and still earn an ‘A’? Yes. But remember many of our students have other, more high-stakes tasks in their busy lives that they need to complete.  Providing students with a cushion of extra points affords them the independence to think critically about what they need to accomplish and allocate their time accordingly. Key skills all instructors should strive to incorporate as secondary lessons. 

For some students, a “B” in your course will be a reasonable, realistic goal. If so, their “cushion” to earn the grade they desire is an even bigger (and less stressful) 200 points. And they might use that entire cushion.  

Here’s another case study: 

Now it’s week 6 of our 10-week course. Cheryl always does her coursework after her kids are asleep, but both of her kids are sick this week. Cheryl doesn’t feel well today, herself. She hopes she’s just exhausted.  

Tonight’s the deadline to submit this week’s project and discussion in our online course. Cheryl understood this week’s lesson perfectly, and she doesn’t have any questions about any of it.  

What would happen if she went to sleep early and skipped these two assignments? 

Cheryl quickly calculates that she’s only lost a total of 20 points so far. If she also lost all 60 points this week, the highest final score Cheryl could earn would still be 920 points, or 92%.  

Cheryl decides to go to sleep early tonight. She’s proud of herself that she’s an ‘A’ student in this course, and relieved that she saved her “cushion” for when she really needed a break.  


When students know how many points they can lose and still finish the course with an ‘A’, they can make informed decisions about the consequences if they miss class, do poorly on an exam, or skip an assignment.  

About the Author

Anna Johnson is an award-winning instructor at Mt Hood Community College in Oregon where she has worn many hats since 2005. Joining the faculty as an instruction librarian, Anna then spent 10 years as a career-technical instructor, preparing students for living-wage jobs as administrative assistants and front-end web developers, and now leads the college’s Business transfer degree program. Anna enjoys using problem-based learning and flipped classroom methodologies to prepare students for future workplace challenges. When she's not teaching, Anna is an avid cook, formidable fantasy football player, National Park enthusiast, and volunteer usher and tour guide for Portland's performing arts center. Anna has supported other instructors in their use of SIMnet as an MHE Digital Faculty Consultant since 2015.

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