Department Grading Standards

In order to avoid confusion about departmental standards and expectations, the following guidelines will apply to all assigned paper and essay exams. Individual instructors have the authority to emphasize one element or standard more than another and may provide you with either an oral or written extension of these guidelines. In lieu of other instructions, however, the following criteria will apply:

(A) The A essay is an excellent piece of writing. It presents a focused thesis that is clearly supported throughout the essay. It is structurally sound, with smooth and apt transitions between sentences and paragraphs. The work demonstrates effective organization and development of ideas as well as originality and substantive content. The essay logically moves toward its stated purpose, and is appropriate in language and style for its audience. The writing is clear and controlled, and the language is often sophisticated, effective, and interesting. Papers at this level show an ability to interpret or criticize in depth; often, they reveal creative and imaginative approaches. The essay is original, forceful, and compelling; it is free of spelling, typographic, and/or other grammatical errors. If documentation is required, clear and graceful signal phrases appear in text, and style conventions in the Works Cited are accurately followed. In other words, an A paper is one of exceedingly high quality.

* Grade inflation in high schools and in many college classes may lead students to believe that "good" work is the same as "excellent" work. It is not. The Department of Literature and Language maintains standards and believes that an A must be earned honestly and diligently. To lower those standards harms all students by devaluing the quality of their education.

(B) The B essay is a good piece of writing. It supports a thesis in an organized and thoughtful way, developing the subject with few mechanical errors. The B essay shows an ability to discuss or interpret on more than a superficial level. The language is effective. Such work differs from A work in that it may show definite competence while lacking distinction; the examples and details may be pertinent, but not particularly revealing or interesting. It may contain shortcomings, such as occasional monotony in expression, lack of originality, ambiguity in purpose, or some lack of precision and economy in word choice. If documentation is required, clear and graceful signal phrases appear most of the time in text, and style conventions in the Works Cited are closely, if not perfectly, followed.

(C) The C essay is a fair piece of writing -- acceptable college work. It meets the minimum requirements of the assignment. There is likely a thesis, but it may be too broad or too narrow, or not adequately supported throughout the essay. It reveals an adequate grasp of subject and a basic understanding of major elements. It offers examples but may rely on predictable arguments and obvious supports or hasty generalizations. There are likely transitional flaws. Language is adequate, but flawed with awkwardness and/or imprecision. There are likely spelling, typographic, and/or grammatical errors in most paragraphs. Logic may not always be evident; some ideas may not be clearly explained. The C essay lacks originality, significant purpose, or development. If documentation is required, some signal phrases may be missing from the text, and the Works Cited may contain repeated errors. In general, a C paper fails to show an understanding or appreciation of the more subtle qualities in language or the subject being written about. On the other hand, it remains minimally satisfactory.

(D) The D essay falls below acceptable college standards. It may partially address the assignment, but lacks insight corresponding to the goal of the essay. It may express a thesis, but it is likely inappropriate for the assignment. Paragraphs do not exhibit coherent organization or sufficient development. Imprecise word choice, monotonous sentence patterns, rambling or illogical organization, and repetition of ideas may be present on every page. Sentences are poorly constructed, and spelling, typing, and/or grammatical errors appear frequently. If documentation is required, signal phrases do not appear in the text, and the Works Cited contains a large number of errors.

(F) The F essay is an unsuccessful piece of writing that shows a multitude of flaws. It may have no thesis or no support, and little development or organization of ideas. It likely contains many spelling, typing, and grammatical errors. The essay may show little understanding of the assignment. If documentation is required, the lack of accurate source attribution may suggest plagiarism. An essay that receives a failing grade means that performance on the particular assignment is markedly below college standards and that prompt intervention and improvement needs to be made if the student hopes to pass the class.