The descriptions below will help students understand general differences between the various letter grades for any type of writing assignment (e.g., essays, research papers, essay exams, discussion postings). Variation will, of course, occur between professors and assignments.
A: A writing assignment graded “A” excels in both content and style. It goes beyond the requirements of the assignment. It also takes careful, creative “risks.” It presents a clear central thesis, which is effectively developed throughout the paper. It contains interesting and original ideas, which are organized in a logical structure. Paragraphs are unified, coherent, and well developed. The “A” paper relies on support that is sufficient, appropriate, and effective. Transitions within and between paragraphs are fluent and guide the reader along a clear line of reasoning. Sentences are varied in structure and consistently correct. Vocabulary is well chosen, specific, and precise. The “A” paper contains few, if any, errors, in form, grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
B: A writing assignment graded “B” responds to the topic with engaging and interesting ideas. It has a clearly stated thesis and logical structure, but it may reveal minor lapses in development. Paragraphs clearly relate to the paper’s main idea; however, transitions between ideas may be less fluent and supportive evidence less effective than in an “A” paper. The “B” paper uses words accurately and effectively and contains few errors in the mechanics of writing. Occasionally, an essay that excels in other areas but contains some sentence-level errors may receive a grade of “B.”
C: A writing assignment graded “C” displays a satisfactory response to the assignment; a “C” is not a penalty grade. The “C” paper may present the central idea in general terms, depending on platitudes or clichés to develop its points. While it usually shows some pattern of organization, transitions from point to point may be less fluent than in an “A” or “B” paper. Support may be in the form of generalizations or examples that are not relevant. Sentence structure may be repetitive and word choice imprecise. The “C” paper may contain mechanical errors, but these should not be numerous or hinder the communication of ideas. A paper that has few errors but relies on superficial reasoning or broad generalizations will generally receive a “C.”
D: A writing assignment may be graded “D” for a variety of reasons. It may respond inappropriately to the topic or fail to present a clear thesis. It may be organized illogically, with few internal transitions between ideas. Paragraphs may not relate to the central idea, may lack development, or may rely solely on repetition and generalization. The “D” paper may contain sentences that lack variety and may exhibit frequently inappropriate or limited word choice. A paper graded “D” often contains frequent errors in sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
F: A writing assignment may be graded “F” for any one or more of the following reasons. It may lack a thesis and display no clear logical pattern. Development may lack complexity, may be repetitive, or may be unduly brief. Paragraphs may be absent or undeveloped and disorganized. Numerous mechanical errors may impede the clear communication of ideas. A paper will generally also be graded “F” if it does not respond to the assignment. Plagiarism and cheating are also grounds for a failing grade.
This grading rubric is copied and modified from similar rubrics found across the Internet.