What are grade book categories and items?

"Things" that receive grades are called Items.

Every "Activity" that you add to your course automatically generates a Grade Item in the course grade book. Every grade Item is placed in some Category.

If you don't specify the category, the grade item, by default, is placed in the main category for the course. However, you probably will want to have several grade items of the same type all in their own category. If so, you will need to create a sub-category for these items. So, if there are several "things" of the same type, such as several quizzes or several written assignments, you will probably want to have a category for quizzes and/or a category for assignments. If there is only one "thing" of that type, such as a final exam, you probably will not want to place it in a category.

You can create “Categories” in your grade book by going to Administration --> Grades and then clicking on the “Categories and Items” tab. Near the bottom of the page is a “Create Category” tab. The default values will work well, except that most teachers prefer to use the “Aggregation” method or “Mean of grades” or “Weighted mean of grades.” The “Aggregation” is discussed in the next wiki. In addition, some professors want letters or no grade to be displayed in some places in the grade book. These options are discussed in some of the later wikis.

You can create a grade item by going to the main course page, turning editing on, and adding an "Activity" to your course. If you want to have a grade item for something that is not submitted electronically, such as an assignment or test that is handed in on paper or a class presentation, you can do this in one of two ways. First, you can create an "off-line" activity. Or, second, you can go to the area to control "Categories and Items" and add a grade item. I find the latter way to be easier.

If you want to have a grade item appear in a certain category, it is best to create the category first. However, grade items can be moved from one category to another very easily, so the order of creating the item and the category is not very important. It is important that you check to be sure the grade items are in the correct categories.

These ideas may be clearer by considering an example grade book. Here is a picture of some grade items and categories. (To get to this page, I went to the course, clicked on "Grades" under "Administration" and then clicked on the "Categories and Items" tab and the "Simple View" link. You can also get to the same place using the drop-down menu at the upper left of the grade site.)
Categories and Items

This picture shows the grade book from the course JunkinTest. JunkinTest is the main category in the grade book and it is shown in pink. There is a sub-category "Quizzes" (in blue) and a grade item "Final Exam" in this grade book. Both are part of the JunkinTest category. The grade for the course (the "Course Total") is based on the grade for the item ("Final Exam") and the grade for the sub-category ("Quizzes"). The grade for the sub-category "Quizzes" ("Category total") is based on the grades of the items (quizzes) in the category.

You can create “Categories” in your grade book by going to Administration  Grades and then clicking on the “Categories and Items” tab. Near the bottom of the page is a “Create Category” tab. The default values will work well, except that most teachers prefer to use the “Aggregation” method or “Mean of grades” or “Weighted mean of grades.” The “Aggregation” is discussed in the next Wiki. In addition, some professors want letters or no grade to be displayed in some places in the grade book. These options are discussed in sections later wikis.

You can create, edit, and delete items and categories. You can move items and categories from one location to another. It may be easiest to do this by using the icons beside the different items or categories.

The "Categories and Items" location also allows you to change the way that the Moodle program calculates the averages for categories. (The calculation of averages is called "Aggregation" in the Moodle program.)