Grade Levels for Learners
I won’t always be able to tell you why your essays don’t quite achieve the grades you want. Even after you respond well to feedback and make your essay grammatically correct, provide good sources, and make reasonable arguments, you might still not earn the highest grade. Writing beautifully and persuasively is more than a matter of following rules, and you may simply require more practice or more skill than can be achieved in a single semester.
Nobody wants to be told: “You just don’t sound as if you know what you’re talking about,” or: “You spend so much time proving the obvious there’s no room left for new insight,” but that may be the truth of the matter, and it may be the unspoken reason your grade didn’t improve as much as you hoped.
Following are some writing samples I hope will illustrate obvious differences in writing quality. The differences are enough to be worth a letter grade. These are relative values, of course, not absolutes. Not every writing course requires exactly this level of accomplishment for an A grade. Neither would the worst example necessarily earn a D grade in this course. Still, the comparisons should be helpful
No clear claims:
A large percentage of Americans are homosexuals, or at least they’re willing to say they are. Nobody should be allowed to tell them that they can’t serve in the Army if they’re brave enough to go to war, so it’s not fair to make them admit to being gay because it’s not relevant to their ability to serve as soldiers. The Army’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy would probably not be passed by a majority of Americans because most Americans know somebody who is gay and they don’t have prejudice against them. The religious groups don’t like “don’t ask, don’t tell” because they think if gay soldiers are allowed to be in the Army, then who can say whether they would create problems for the other soldiers? And not just whether they would be brave enough to be in combat; we have to wonder how they would behave when there was no actual fighting.
Poorly connected unclear or contradictory claims:
A large percentage of American couples are same-sex couples. If heterosexual couples have the right to marry, then homosexual couples should have that right too. When the Army wanted to have a policy about “don’t ask, don’t tell,” they should have enforced that for heterosexual soldiers too and not just homosexuals because if one group has the right to express itself, then every group should have that right too. A majority of Americans favor gay marriage except for some very conservative religious groups who may be against it. We are a democracy that’s based on majority rules, so if a majority of Americans want equality for homosexuals, then that should be the law of the land for this great nation.
Unconnected but reasonable declarations:
Denying same sex couples the right to marry is discriminatory. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays enlisting in the army was an example of an unconstitutional rule because it took away the rights of freedom of speech and expression from the homosexual community. A majority of Americans favor gay marriage because it treats all citizens equally. Although religious groups may be against it, the government should make laws based on how the majority believes.
Reasonable claims, nicely transitioned to guide reader through a persuasive argument:
The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays enlisting in the army is just one example of the discriminatory laws that deny freedom of speech and expression to the homosexual community. Overturning that wrongheaded legislation as unconstitutional was a good first step toward awarding gays the equal rights a majority of Americans favor for them. It’s time for our government to stand up to religious zealots who oppress sexual minorities and to pass humane laws that grant all citizens their constitutional freedoms, such as the right to choose a spouse.
I hope the value differences among these samples are obvious, and that you feel inspired by the differences to strive for the most specific, most logical, most persuasive writing to achieve your goal—not better grades, but an enhanced ability to get what you want from people by persuading them.
I don’t know any better way to demonstrate the difference between essays that earn different grades than to provide examples like this.
Click HERE to see the above examples organized into a nifty chart.
Click HERE to see SpongeBob’s take on Composition Class.
Please evaluate the effectiveness of this illustration with a Reply below.
19 thoughts on “Grade Levels”
This example was very effective and will help a lot with this class in the future. You give great examples and you clearly show us what we must do to receive an exceptional grade.
I’m glad this was helpful NR. The concept is much easier to illustrate than to explain.
The A grade has specific details and is breif and to the point in the explanation. The D grade has a lot of junk and filler words that do not do much for the argument.
That sums up the lesson nicely, JD.
This makes sense and seems effective to me. D seems very unorganized while A seems to fit lots of arguments in a small paragraph.
Sentences that seem effortless hide their work well. D is definitely not a first-draft paragraph.
Each letter grade towards an A shows a progression of taking what started off as a rant by an angry teen to a well though-out argument made by a respected individual.
Sounding like respected individuals is all we have going for us, Knuckles. Without specific credentials, our tone and our reason provide us all the authority we have.
The different paragraphs make sense. The claims in D and C are just not there and you can clearly see the sentence structure making it a B to an A.
I maintain that good sentences are tiny arguments. The sentences in A, and most of the B sentences too, make bold clear claims.
As the grades get better, the authors perspective on the issue gets more fine tuned. The lower grades has a lot of fluff and bad claims. D has a couple ideas in it while a has one idea
Grade A has a clear idea and supporting ideas that do not add “fluff”, but instead adds a lot of seriousness and hard facts in a series’s of strong transitions that helps the paper flow. The previous paragraphs have the right ideas and a lot of content, it just seems very jammed in and unorganized. You can see the progression from grade D to grade A.
You’re right to point out the content in D and C, AO. They have plenty.
This layout makes it very clear and easy to see what distinguishes an A grade from a D grade. The A grade makes an effective and concise argument, whereas the D grade makes a sloppy, confused argument which would have been better if the majority of the sentences were cut out.
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
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This makes sense to me. i understood the difference between the work handed in as well as why they were graded that way.
The differences are harder to see in our own work. Sadly, we all think our first drafts are A paragraphs.
– very helpful to learn about how we are graded.
NOTES FROM THE DAY!
– reviewed white paper.
– braille. examples of different letters in braille.
– there is no letter “w” because a french teenanger invented it, and there is not a “w” in the french alphabet.
– “why is there braille at the drive through window?”
– essay mechanics.
Thanks, SummerGirl. I’ll apply this to your attendance records.