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Scoring Rubric

Used for Geology Comprehensive Examinations and Thesis and Dissertation Defenses

Explanation: Candidates will be scored in five areas, using a 5 (highest) to 1 (lowest) scale. The minimum composite passing score will be 17. A score lower than 3 in any area will NOT be accepted.

Faculty committee members and graduate students are expected to study this rubric BEFORE their comprehensives/defenses, so that expectations are clear to all concerned.

Scoring Criteria:


  1. Student demonstrates an exceptional grasp of both general and discipline-specific concepts.
  2. Student has a firm grasp of both general and discipline-specific concepts, but is missing some key ideas.
  3. Student shows adequate mastery of general knowledge, but discipline-specific knowledge has significant gaps.
  4. Student shows poor knowledge of both general and discipline-specific concepts.
  5. Student has minimal understanding of general and discipline-specific concepts.


  1. Student's response to the problem is immediate with a clear understanding of questions; analysis is relevant, sophisticated and original. Student moves easily to higher levels of detail, establishes hypotheses and shows an ability to 'work the problem'.
  2. Student responds well to the problem, analysis goes beyond the obvious with an ability to move to higher levels of detail.
  3. Student provides an adequate response which may contain factual, interpretive or conceptual errors; additional prompting or information is required to proceed to higher levels of detail.
  4. Student confuses concepts including those in the prompt and cannot proceed to additional levels even with additional information.
  5. Student is unable to proceed through prompt and does not understand central concepts.


  1. Student has an exceptional understanding of methodologies, rationale for use, and outcomes; can provide all details of the procedure(s).
  2. Student has a general understanding of methodologies, but may not be clear regarding overall outcomes; some details on process(es) are provided.
  3. Student recognizes methodologies, but overall application and rationale is lacking; cannot provide details of process(es).
  4. Student is aware of methodologies but does not know/understand process or application.
  5. Student does not recognize technique.


  1. Student shows clear organization in working problems and issues, uses correct terminology, draws diagrams and/or sketches on the board without prompting, speaks clearly, and demonstrates “command of the room”.
  2. Student shows organization in working problems and issues, speaks well, but is not consistent in use of diagrams and/or sketches and requires some prompting.
  3. Student is not well organized in working the problem and shows many instances of the mis-use of terminology when discussing a concept. Explanations tend to be verbal and no diagrammatic presentations on the board are presented even with prompting.
  4. Student shows minimal organization, making no use of diagrams or drawings, as appropriate, during explanations, and verbal communication is scattered.
  5. Student is unable to link ideas and concepts and does not use diagrams or drawings to explain concepts even with prompting. Verbal communication is poor.


  1. Student shows a clear understanding of the literature and individuals who conducted key studies and references supporting material when working through problems and/or issues.
  2. Student shows an understanding of key papers and recognizes some individuals, but only occasionally references supporting materials when working through problems.
  3. Student has an understanding of discipline-specific literature, but does not recognize some key papers and does not consistently reference supporting materials while working through problems.
  4. Student has a poor grasp of the literature and does not recognize key individuals or studies. Supporting literature is not referenced while working through problems.
  5. Student has no knowledge of the general or specific literature.