In Class Exams: What Makes an “A” Essay?

It’s that time of the year again–midterms!

So what are your teachers really looking for when it comes to what you put on the page during that timed in class essay writing exam?

The following holistic grading criteria or rubric is full of reminders about “what teachers are really looking for,” especially in a community college setting, and particularly for students in a fundamentals of English (pre-transfer level) class.

And yes, my students, if you are wondering, this is what I am looking for too in your midterm and final in class essays and it offers great guidelines for regular papers as well!

Good luck on your tests!

An “A” paper will:
* respond completely and directly to the assignment
* include a clear thesis to which body paragraphs are clearly connected
* be well organized (intro, unified body paragraphs, conclusions)
* contain clear sentences with some varied syntax
* very few mechanical error which do not overly detract from essay

A “B” paper will:
* respond to the assignment
* have a thesis to which body paragraphs connect
* be organized
* contain clear sentences
* some mechanical errors that do not distract from content

A “C” paper will:
* generally respond to the assignment
* have a thesis somewhere to which body paragraphs may relate or digress
* be mostly organized, possibly short intro, short or missing conclusion
* examples and details may be poorly developed and executed
* sentences may be clear but overly simple or awkwardly constructed
* mechanical errors may slightly distract from meaning

A “D” paper will:
* miss or misinterpret part of the assignment
* have a weak thesis and mostly unrelated body paragraphs
* use few details and examples
* mechanical errors obscure meaning

An “F” paper will:
* not respond to the assignment
* have no thesis
* no detectable organization
* be undeveloped
* contain numerous and random errors which make the essay unreadable