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Sample Grading Guide for Essays

Sample Grading Guide For Essays

This guide is adapted from a grading guide developed by William Irmscher, who evaluated in five areas; content, form, diction, correctness and style. This guide focuses on content, form, rhetorical awareness, mechanics, and style and diction. Note that this is only a general guide and that the context and nature of the specific assignment will suggest additional or alternate criteria.

A — Demonstrates high competence

  • An ability to be reflective and thus gain insights that are personal and often illuminating.
  • A capacity to develop ideas flexibly and fluently, yet with control and purpose.
  • A strong rhetorical awareness and considerable success in dealing with the exigencies of audience, purpose and subject matter.
  • Written fluency, an ability to use punctuation rhetorically, for effect as well as for clarity.
  • A willingness to be inventive with words and structures in order to produce a clearly identifiable style, even though at times the efforts may be too deliberate or fall short of the writer's intentions. A special concern for—and often delight in—language.

B — Demonstrates Competence

  • An ability to absorb ideas and experience and to interpret them meaningfully in a context of the writer's own conceptions.
  • A capacity to develop an idea with a clear sense of order.
  • Demonstrates some rhetorical awareness: text is designed with an audience and purpose in mind.
  • An ability to use mechanics as an integral part of the meaning and effect of the prose.
  • A capacity to draw upon words adequate to convey the writer’s own thoughts and feelings; ability to weigh alternate ways of expression as a means of making stylistic choices possible.

C — Suggests Competence

  • Tends to depend on the self-evident and the cliché; Discourse is often uninformative.
  • Problems with organization. Organizational plan is obvious and perhaps inappropriate (e.g, five-paragraph essay), OR essay is produced aimlessly, apparently without a plan.
  • Sense of audience and purpose is erratic or incompletely worked out. Although there may be some audience appeal, most of the writing is writer-based.
  • An ability to use mechanics correctly or incorrectly in proportion to the plainness or complexity of the style. (i.e., sentences may be kept short, simple and fairly correct; or sentences are longer and more complex, but with more errors.)
  • A limited range of words and expressions, leading to tedious repetition or dependence on clichés. A general unawareness of choices that affect style and thus an inability to control the effects a writer may seek.

D — Suggests Incompetence

  • Tends to exploit the obvious. Suggests lack of understanding, difficulty with reading, failure to grapple with a topic, or lack of interest. Content is generally superficial.
  • Demonstrates rudimentary or confused development and organization. The paper tends to wander aimlessly because of a lack of overall conception, OR it may have a semblance of form without the development that makes the parts a whole.
  • At best, a vague sense of audience and purpose; little success in pursuing the purpose consistently and appropriately for an audience.
  • Frequent failure to make careful distinction among periods, commas and semicolons; difficulty with standard usage. High incidence of error in all but the shortest and simplest sentences.
  • Either a tendency to write highly convoluted sentences that are close to the rapid associations of our thoughts before we straighten them out, OR a tendency to play safe by avoiding the sentence elements that invite error (introductory modifiers, embedding, coordination, and various other sentence-combining techniques). Likewise, an attempt to “play safe” with words seriously limits the writer’s ability to express ideas.

F — Demonstrates Incompetence

  • Shows no competence in all or most of the five areas.