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Analytic vs. Holistic Rubrics: Which Type of Rubric Should You Use?

Analytic vs. Holistic Rubrics: Which Type of Rubric Should You Use?

“One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.” ~Maria Montessori

Good teachers use an array of tools to assess student learning, provide feedback, and improve their teaching skills. The use of rubrics is something that has become increasingly popular – but the question is, what type of rubric should you use, and when?

The Alludo PD content catalog includes a variety of microlearning activities related to the creation and use of rubrics. One of the most important questions to ask before designing a rubric is whether to use a holistic rubric or an analytic rubric. In this post, we’ll explore the components of analytic vs. holistic rubrics, including which type is easiest to create, when to use them, and the pros and cons of each type.

Need to know more about how to create effective rubrics, then check out 'The Art of Rubric Design: Crafting Effective Assessment Tools'

Table of Contents

  1. What is a Holistic Rubric?
    1. Advantages of Holistic Rubrics
    2. Disadvantages of Holistic Rubrics
  2. What is an Analytic Rubric?
    1. Advantages of Analytic Rubrics
  3. When Should You Use a Holistic vs Analytic Rubric?
    1. Best Time to Use a Holistic Rubric
    2. Best Time to Use an Analytic Rubric
  4. Alludo's Take
  5. Equip Teachers in Your District to Develop Rubrics

What is a Holistic Rubric?

A holistic rubric is a rubric where all elements of a student’s work are evaluated together using a single scale. Students are assigned a point score based on an overall judgment of the work presented. There may be many elements that affect the score, but these things are not scored individually in a holistic rubric.

In general, holistic rubrics are useful when a teacher wants to grade a student’s general progress and performance and doesn’t need the specificity that would come with a different type of rubric. Holistic rubrics are typically scored on either a scale of 1-4 or a scale of 1-6. Holistic rubrics have their advantages but they’re not ideal for every assignment or situation.

Advantages of Holistic Rubrics

Holistic rubrics can be useful for evaluating a student’s general performance and grasp of the subject matter being taught. 

Emphasize What Learners Can Do

Holistic rubrics put the emphasis on what learners can do as opposed to what they cannot. Marking a rubric by focusing on student achievement can boost learners’ confidence and help them feel good about their work while still offering room for improvement.

Easy to Create and Use

Compared to some other types of rubrics, holistic rubrics are less time-consuming to create and use because there is a single scale. Students understand that they will be given one overall point score and raters can assess the results quickly.

Consistent and Reliable

Holistic rubrics tend to have more consistent ratings than other rubrics because scores can be applied consistently by trained raters. Consistent scoring of rubrics makes scores more reliable and that’s useful to both teachers and students.

Disadvantages of Holistic Rubrics

Here are some of the disadvantages of holistic rubrics.

No Place for Specific Feedback

The primary disadvantage of holistic rubrics from the perspective of learners is that there is no room for them to receive specific feedback about elements that might be scored separately with a different type of rubric. Targeted feedback helps students improve and holistic rubrics don’t provide it.

Scoring Can Be Challenging

Because scorers must assign a single score for the entire assignment, it can be difficult to nail down a single score for work that spans multiple criteria. Scorers must find a way to evaluate the work even when some areas of the student’s work are excellent and others need improvement. 

Criteria Are Not Weighted

When scoring a holistic rubric, the criteria are not weighted. The assignment must be evaluated as a whole and that can be disadvantageous because students may not understand what they’ve done well and what needs improvement. It can also make the scoring process more difficult for teachers because there’s no one-size-fits-all way to calculate an appropriate score that takes all elements of the presentation into account.


What is an Analytic Rubric?

In contrast to a holistic rubric, an analytic rubric is scored using a grid that outlines the criteria for a student assignment. Each criterion should be in a separate row and each potential score in a separate column.

The levels of student performance are typically assigned a number and may also have descriptive tags such as Above Average, Sufficient, Developing, or Needs Improvement. The cells in the center of the grid may be used to describe the details of what the criteria would look like for each potential score. 

Unlike what happens with a holistic rubric, analytic rubrics allow for the separate scoring assessment criteria. Common criteria include the following:

  • Clarity: Is the thesis supported by relevant information and ideas?
  • Organization: Is the information presented in a logical order that helps the presentation flow?
  • Mechanics: Is the grammar and spelling correct or does it distract from the presentation?

Teachers may want to use the space in the middle of the graph to spell out details that support the score. For example, a high score in mechanics would be supported if the student made no or few spelling and grammatical errors.

Advantages of Analytic Rubrics

Using analytic rubrics has some advantages that accrue to both teachers and students. Here are the most important advantages to consider.

Feedback on Strengths and Weaknesses

In an analytic rubric, students receive scores that reflect their individual strengths and weaknesses. Specific feedback allows students to identify areas where they need improvement and focus on them for future assignments. This feature is also useful for teachers who are able to pinpoint areas where students may need help to meet expectations.

Criteria Are Weighted

Each criterion that makes up the rubric is considered in the overall grade. A student who struggles with spelling may make up for a low score in mechanics if they do an excellent job of presenting the information in an organized manner with facts that support their thesis. Weighting criteria also makes scoring easy for teachers, particularly if the middle of the rubric grid is used to spell out what elements must be present (or missing) to earn each score.

Disadvantages of Analytic Rubrics

There are two main disadvantages to consider when designing an analytic rubric and both are important.

Time-Consuming to Create

Analytic rubrics take more time to create than holistic rubrics because they have more parts and are more complex due to the need to define and score individual elements of the student’s work. Teachers may spend time detailing the specifics of what each score means and that can be time-consuming as well.

Consistency Can Be an Issue

Consistency can be an issue with analytic rubrics unless the person creating them takes the time to define each element and the criteria to be used to judge it. Inconsistent scoring can undermine trust in the scorers.


When Should You Use a Holistic vs. Analytic Rubric?

The choice of whether to use a holistic or an analytic rubric is important because each has its uses and advantages. In most cases, the assignment itself will dictate which rubric will be most helpful in scoring students’ work.

Best Time to Use a Holistic Rubric

The best time to use a holistic rubric is when creating an assignment where there is no single, correct answer or response. Your goal is to get students to think through a problem and present what they have learned and considered in a compelling way.

Said another way, holistic rubrics are most useful if you want to grade students’ work based on its overall quality or their overall understanding of concepts and information. Providing feedback based on individual criteria is less important than gauging a student’s progress and general performance.

Best Time to Use an Analytic Rubric

The best time to use an analytic rubric is when you need to evaluate students’ work in multiple areas and want to assess their proficiency or progress in each.

Analytic rubrics are useful for problem-solving assignments or projects with multiple components. An example would be a student presentation that would be graded on content, language, organization, style, and other elements.

You should use an analytic rubric if you want to show students their relative strengths and weaknesses with an eye toward helping them improve where improvement is needed.


Alludo’s Take

Alludo partners with school districts around the country to help them provide dynamic and engaging professional learning for teachers, staff, and administrators. We understand that teachers who are familiar with and flexible about the type of rubric they use can work most efficiently. It’s for that reason we have included missions and micro-learning activities about rubrics in our content catalog.

In addition to including information about various types of rubrics and how to create them, we have also included activities to help teachers learn about rubric assessments and how to apply scores consistently.


In districts using the Alludo platform, teachers are engaged because we give them a voice and a choice in what they learn. By incorporating gamification and a system of rewards, we make professional development both accessible and fun.

Equip Teachers in Your District to Develop Effective Rubrics

Developing rubrics requires careful planning and an understanding of analytic vs. holistic rubrics, including the advantages and disadvantages of each. The information we’ve included here can help you determine which type of rubric is best for an assignment. 

Experience personalized learning for all levels of educators with a free trial of Alludo’s professional development platform. You’ll enjoy:

  • Hundreds of core topics
  • Asynchronous microlearning activities
  • Timely and specific feedback
  • Analytics that show learning impact
  • Access anytime, anywhere

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