Standards for Grading Exams in Level 2 & 3
Why do I start this list with the "B" paper?
Because a B is a fine thing to get on a paper and because a B paper
is a paper that fulfills the requirements of the assignment in full.
In short, a B is the description of work well done. The A paper adds
several positive qualities that surpass all the requirements of the
assignment. Among these are clarity and richness in content. More
detail is given below.
- B paper (Good): It is significantly
more than competent. Besides being almost free of mechanical
errors, the "B" paper delivers substantial information--that is,
substantial in both quantity and in relevance. Its specific points
are logically ordered, well-developed, and unified around a clear
organizing principle that is apparent early in the paper.
It has positive value that goes beyond the avoidance of error, but
it lacks one or more qualities that would bring it close to
perfection. It may develop an idea fully and accurately but lack
elements of originality. It may have all the qualities of an A
paper except naturalness of organization, or it may be marred by
improper form, inappropriate style, or occasional obscurity.
Stylistically, the opening paragraph draws the reader; the closing
paragraph is both conclusive and thematically related to the
opening. The transitions between paragraphs are, for the most
part, smooth, the sentence structures varied. The diction is more
concise and precise than that of the "C" paper. In general, a "B"
paper offers substantial information with few distractions.
The B paper, then, is a complete paper in
fulfilling the assignment, but lacks something in organization,
clarity, richness of detail, quantity of information , or
cleanness of style. If you receive a B on a paper, ask me what
from this list describes what is missing. Often, the B paper is
one revision away from being an A. The revision involves noticing
the flaws and thinness in analysis, content, or style, and then
moving vigorously to correct them.
- A paper (Superior): The Superior paper is written
far above the minimum standards I have outlined for the assignment. It includes
all the positive qualities of the B paper listed above. In addition, it displays
originality, imagination, vitality, and a personal voice for the author. But
the principal characteristic of the "A" paper is its rich content and analysis.
The quality, quantity, clarity, and density of the information delivered is
such that the reader feels significantly taught by the author, sentence after
sentence, paragraph after paragraph. The "A" paper is also marked by stylistic
finesse: the title and the opening are engaging; the transitions are artful
and related to the argument of the paper, not mere window dressing; the phrasing
is tight, fresh, and specific; the tone enhances the purpose of the paper.
Finally, the "A" paper shows a subtlety of logic that often escapes
the more straightforward "B" paper; it makes strong claims while
anticipating nuance, special circumstances, and irony. The "A" paper, because
of its careful organization and development, imparts a feeling of wholeness,
clarity, and strength of argument.
- C paper (Adequate): It is generally
competent but lacks intellectual rigor; it meets the assignment,
has few mechanical errors and is reasonably well-organized and
developed. The actual information it delivers, however, seems thin
and commonplace. One reason for that impression is that the ideas
are typically cast in the form of vague generalities--generalities
in presentation of theory, experimental findings, or even
application examples. The paper may not be developed fully, its
logic may be unconvincing or its organization, paragraphs, or
sentences weak. Stylistically, the "C" paper has other
shortcomings: a weak opening paragraph, a perfunctory conclusion,
strained transitions, choppy and monotonous sentence patterns, and
diction marred by repetition, redundancy, and imprecision.
Occasionally, a paper may rate an A or B in content and receive a
C because of errors of form. Just as often, a paper may be
relatively correct in form, but its content may be uninspired or
thin, thus warranting a grade no higher than C.
- D paper (Unsatisfactory): This paper is largely faulty,
often because of errors of form or mechanics, but it does not warrant complete
disregard. It may contain little or no content, it may simply restate arbitrarily
selected material from the sources, or it may lack coherent organization.
It does, however, have some saving graces: a spark of originality, an important
argument buried in incoherent syntax, some mastery of sentence skills, or
a relative grasp of organization.
- F paper (Not acceptable): Its treatment of the subject
is superficial; its theme lacks discernible organization; its prose is garbled
or lacking in clarity or style. Mechanical errors are frequent. In short,
the ideas, organization, and style fall far short of acceptable college writing
in English (the language, and also likely, the Department).
Significantly adapted from Shaw, H.E. (1984). Teaching Prose: A Guide for
Writing Instructors (pp. 114-154). New York: W. W. Norton.