Grade Levels

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

D Grade
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.

C Grade
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.

B Grade
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.

A Grade
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 SpongeBob’s take on Composition Class.

10 Responses to Grade Levels

  1. fatboy489zt says:

    As the grade for the paragraphs improved, the claims became more clear and explained while leaving out sentences that didn’t have any good reason to be there. The sentences begin to flow better while having good transitions throughout the paragraph.

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  2. gymrat230 says:

    The differences between a D Grade versus an A grade are vastly different. The coherency of the A paragraph is unmatched even in a B or C paragraph. The A grade provides the most substance while still being the easiest to follow.

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  3. hollyp715 says:

    As we read each writing sample, it becomes obvious that those with stronger language receive a higher grade. This is likely due to the level of confidence the writer conveys in their message. The A grade presents bold claims, while the D grade seems to dance around making a claim and just provides a general overview of each side of the argument.

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  4. The D graded papers appear to state the obvious as well as repeat ideas. There are also no clear claims.
    The C graded paper had better organization than the D paper for the reader to follow, but the only problem is the claims contradict one another. Also, I do not have any idea what the writer is claiming.
    The B graded paper was well organized and way easier to follow; I could tell what claims are being made; the only problem is instead of making two claims connected to one central idea. The two claims are two individual claims and not connected.
    The A graded paper is basically perfect as it guides readers through their claims and connects their claims to one central idea.

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  5. The D-level work provides good information but poorly connects all the points made. It reads very choppily, and I was confused about where the argument was headed. The C and B-level work provided the same information, they just did a better job of connecting everything together. The C-level however was too wordy and could be condensed. The A-level work is definitely worthy of the grade. The argument was made clear, and it read very smoothly. There was no question about what the main point was. The points were all connected very nicely.

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  6. giantsfan224 says:

    The “A” paragraph is much more simplified compared to the “D” paragraph but it is bold and concise. The claims are well connected, making it easy to follow.

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  7. mochaatrain says:

    The first sentence revisions from D and C to A and B are night and day. D and C have poor first sentences that just state a fact instead of making a valuable statement toward an argument. From there D was lacking in declarations and specific details, it was broad and left the reader confused. In C, there still were no strong statements that promoted an argument. It just stated what is known and wasn’t persuasive. Then B starts off the bat with a statement that gives you an immediate idea of what the author is arguing. It answers specifics on why Americans favor gay marriage and why they don’t ask don’t tell policy is an example of an unconstitutional rule which was not done in the C and D paragraphs. Lastly, A basically evolved from B and become a stronger persuasive statement that argues for gay marriage.

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  8. duck says:

    As the example paragraph was graded higher, I noticed the opening statement was much more attention-grabbing, clear, and concise. The paragraphs became less wordy as the grade became better, and was done so by removing superfluous information. The D-level work has the information needed,but it is diluted by wordy sentences and poor connections. The B and C level work became less wordy, but still could use some work on connecting their points together, and the A level work provided bold, clear, and concise claims

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  9. rubes1256 says:

    The grade A paragraph has much bolder, clearer claims then the other three paragraphs. It’s coherent, and easy to follow for the reader. The three other paragraphs, while still containing the content that the author was trying to get across, are poorly connected, and harder to follow.

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  10. sillyinternetperson says:

    As the grade improved, the voice kind of changed. Even just the jump from D to C eliminates that, “or at least” statement that does not have a place in the argument and can almost make the reader go on a tangent in their head of the cases (the people mentioned in that added bit) that aren’t relevant to the argument.

    It is later put back but in a manner that is relevant, using the “don’t ask don’t tell” legislation in the military to start off the conversation about legislation for same-sex relationships in the A Grade version.

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