Bb Mailbag: Gradebook Categories


Welcome to the Blackboard Mailbag, where we feature a commonly asked question that has been hitting our mailbox recently: You’ll find an archive of all of the previous questions and answers on our website.  

Note:  Features may change with future updates.  

Q:  Is there a way for Blackboard to calculate grades using categories?

Categories are buckets or labels assigned to any gradable Blackboard item, such as Tests, Assignments, or Discussion Boards. Blackboard automatically assigns new gradable items with a default Category; for example, when you use the Test tool in Blackboard to create an Assessment, Blackboard will label it as “Test.”

Add Categories or Assign Categories

add new category screenshot

Does your syllabus require more flexibility than Blackboard’s default Categories offer? You can add new Categories by selecting Settings (gear icon) in the Gradebook, then clicking Add New Category, and typing in what you’d like to add.

select category from dropdown

Once you have added a Category to the Gradebook, you can place any Assessment in it by going into the Settings and choosing the Category from the dropdown menu.

cowboy on a horse wrangling assignments

Categories in the Overall Grade

The greatest power of Categories comes in when you’re calculating the Overall Grade in your course’s Gradebook. Assignments that are grouped together in a Category can be counted together as a single grade.

For example, if you are giving 12 weekly quizzes over the semester that are worth a total of 10% of the final grade, you could enter them into the Overall Grade as a single “Weekly Quiz” Category. You won’t have to calculate how much each quiz is worth – Blackboard will automatically weigh each one for you!

Drop Grades within Category

You can also use Categories to drop the lowest (and highest) grades from a group of Assessments. Let’s say you want to drop the two lowest Weekly Quiz scores. In the Overall Grade, select “(+) Edit calculation rules” below the name of the Category.

edit calculation rules screenshot

In the panel that opens, enable the Category Calculation Rule. Then, select Drop Scores, and enter the number of dropped scores in the textbox (so, 2 in our example). Click continue, and be sure to save your Gradebook before closing it out.

edit calculation rule options to drop lowest or highest score

For more about using categories in the Gradebook, visit the Bb Instructor guide on this topic.

For additional FAQs and resources about Blackboard, visit, attend one of our workshops, or reach out to us with your availability and we will accommodate small groups and one-on-one sessions.

Have feedback or suggestions on features?  Blackboard’s parent company Anthology hosts The Idea Exchange.  This is a place specifically for Blackboard to track and manage enhancement requests. It allows for things like upvoting ideas and sharing development plans and statuses. You will need to create an account to access the Idea Exchange.

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