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 and 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 experiences 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., the five-paragraph essay), or the 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 it safe by avoiding the sentence elements that invite error (introductory modifiers, embedding, coordination and various other sentence-combining techniques). Likewise, an attempt to play it safe with words, seriously limiting the writer’s ability to express ideas.

F — Demonstrates incompetence

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