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Grading Standards* for College-Credit Courses (11 and beyond)


An essay graded "A" excels in both content and style. 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.


An essay graded "B" responds to the topic with engaging and interesting ideas. It has a clearly stated thesis and logical structure, but may reveal minor lapses in development. Paragraphs clearly relate to the paper's main idea; however, transitions between ideas may be less fluent and supporting evidence less effective than in the "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."


An essay 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 the "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 receive a "C."


An essay 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.


An essay 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 and grammatical errors may impede the clear communication of ideas. Occasionally a paper will be graded "F" because it does not respond to the assignment.

* These standards are adapted from the National Council of Teachers of English by the BCC English 11 Committee.

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