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writerAdvanced Composition 
How Teachers Mark Your Essays

March 10, 2005


In tonight's class, we will take a look at the teachers' marking rubric and discuss the meaning of CFSM. Each student essay handed in last week has an attached copy of the marking rubric to help students understand the strengths and weaknesses of their writing.

How Teachers Mark Your Essays

To mark your composition, teachers will look at four areas: Conventions, Form, Style, and Meaning. Each of these is worth 25% of your total score on any composition. 

The teachers assign a mark for each area in the same order as given above (C, F, S, M).

Briefly, the four areas are defined as follows:

Conventions: These are the basic parts of your writing: the spelling, punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure. Teachers look for the number of errors made and, more importantly, to see if these errors make it hard to understand your writing.

Form: This is the order of your writing and how easy it is to follow your ideas. In an essay, for example, teachers examine how well your introduction, body, and conclusion work together and how logical your order of ideas is inside each paragraph. (See class notes with tips for good essays)

Style: Here, your sentence variety and knowledge of idiom and vocabulary are very important. How fluent is your language? Are your sentences precise? To excel, a student needs a good repertoire of sentence types, along with a strong vocabulary. (View the Advanced Composition Worksheet Archive)

Meaning: Teachers look here for signs of your developing voice in writing. The more individual (meaning your ideas are specific to your own experience and you have conveyed them well) the better. Are your ideas convincing? Are they mature? Originality counts here. Remember the rule: Show, Don't Tell! (Worksheet on Show, Don't Tell)

Composition Marking Scale
NOTE: Off topic essays are awarded DNP (did not pass)


Not Yet Within Expectations

Meets Expectations (Minimal)

Fully Meets Expectations

Exceeds Expectations



          Ideas and information

          Use of details

          Unfocused; may omit thesis

          Little understanding of topic

          Details and examples are not clearly linked to topic

          Clear topic and thesis statement

          Mostly relevant details

          Mostly accurate information

          Clear, focused thesis

          Sound understanding of topic; some depth

          Clearly and logically developed

          Accurate and complete information

          Well defined thesis and sense of direction

          Vivid, relevant details and examples (show not tell)

          Accurate and complete information



          Clarity, variety, and impact of language


          Little awareness of the reader

          Simple, limited range of sentences

          Repetitive language


          Language is clear and varied

          Some variety in sentences (compound OR complex)

          Varied, clear language; has some impact

          Varied, complex AND compound sentences

          Some idiomatic English

          Precise language chosen for effect

          Sentences are varied to create a particular effect




          Organization and sequence



          No title

          Introduction is not engaging; may omit purpose or thesis statement

          difficult to follow; transitions are weak or missing

          may end without a logical conclusion


          Title with errors

          Introduction states simple thesis; attempts to engage reader

          Logical organization; some use of transitions

          2-3 body paragraphs with topic sentences with controlling ideas

          Correct title

          Introduction clearly states thesis; engages reader

          Logically organized; varies transitions

          topic and concluding sentences in each body paragraph

          Restates thesis in first sentence of conclusion


          Effective title

          Introduction catches attention; offers well-developed thesis

          Effectively developed paragraphs

          Has an effectively restated thesis as first sentence






          Sentence structure



          Frequent, repeated errors in basic language

          meaning is unclear


          Some errors, but meaning is clear




          May have occasional that do not affect meaning



          May making occasional errors when taking risks (e.g. using a difficult word but misspelling)




Please also visit your Advanced Composition Class Page where you can access current and past lessons.

More Lessons (index of past lesson worksheets)