What is the difference between a category and a grade item in the Moodle gradebook?

On the ‘Gradebook setup’ page of the Moodle gradebook, you can set-up all of the details of your specific gradebook.

Category vs. Grade Item

  1. A gradebook category is not something that will be graded on its own. It is a space used to group multiple items together where the individual items are set to be graded. Common uses for a gradebook category include:
    1. Homework category – The grade for all of the Homework assignments together carries 15% of the course’s total grade. This category averages together all of the assignments throughout the course and then that grade becomes 15% of the course’s total.
    2. Quizzes category – Six quizzes will be offered through the course, but only five will be counted. This category groups the quizzes together and then is set to drop the lowest quiz grade automatically.
    3. Forums category – Each week the students receive a two points for forum participation, earning up to 32 points. Each weekly forum is placed in a forums category that sums the points together for ultimately grade out of 32 points.

Note: you would not use a category for something that you would be grading directly. As of Moodle version 3.8, you cannot manually put in a grade for a category total as that overwrites the automatic calculations and can impact the accuracy of a student’s grade.

  1. A manual grade item is what you would create to house a grade for an assignment, quiz, presentation, forum, or other item which does not have a corresponding activity on the main page of the Moodle course. These grade items can be created inside of categories to house the individual grades or they can be created outside of categories in the main portion of the gradebook. Common uses for a manual grade item:
    1. Attendance at an extracurricular presentation. (If you are using a points-based aggregation, you can also mark this extra credit.)
    2. In-class quizzes or exams.
    3. Presentation grade.

These manual grade items will be graded through the “Grader Report” page. Here is the FAQ on entering grades through the “Grader report” page, How do I enter grades and feedback for a manual grade item?, as well as grading through the “Single view” page.

When you create a graded activity on the main page of the course, it will automatically appear in your Moodle gradebook. So if you are asking your students to turn their final paper through Moodle, you will not need to set-up a manual grade item for this, assuming that you indicated that the ‘assignment activity’ is to be graded on the assignment’s settings page when you created it.

How do you choose which to use?

Ask yourself whether this is a single item that needs to be graded directly (e.g., Midterm Exam, Final Presentation, Take-home assignment #3, etc.) or whether this is a set of items (e.g., Quizzes, Homework Assignments, Papers, etc.) where each individual item will have an individual grade.

If the item will be graded directly, then you need to create a manual gradebook item, and you would do so by clicking the ‘Add grade item’ button at the bottom of the ‘Gradebook setup’ page; ‘button B’ in the image above. A detailed FAQ on adding manual grade items can be found at this link, while an FAQ on grading manual items can be found here.

If this needs to be a space to house multiple items that will be graded, but will not itself be directly graded, then you need to create a gradebook category, and you would do so by clicking the ‘Add category’ button at the bottom of the ‘Gradebook setup’ page; ‘button A’ in the image above. A detailed FAQ on adding gradebook categories can be found at this link.

More Gradebook Resources

Additional resources on understanding the Moodle gradebook can be found in the Faculty resource course in Moodle titled, ‘Moodle Gradebook for Faculty.’ This resource course will be listed in your “My Courses” block once you are logged into Moodle.