Getting to know the grading criteria & how to meet the top ones

by ariadnesthread101

It’s never too early to have this information 🙂

In this post is a set of assessment criteria which will be used to grade your essays if you are doing any of the environmental studies programmes at Essex. We’ll discuss this in greater depth in the study session tomorrow. If you click on the link, you’ll get the cover sheet in full: Cover Sheet for Essays

In this post and the next are my notes on the table (‘Assessment Criteria’). In these notes I’ll go through:

  • What each of the four categories mean
  • What the top-end (80%!) looks like
  • How to aim for this end of the grading scale 🙂

In this post, I’ll address the first and the last categories: Quality of writing, and Reading, research and referencing.

Before I begin, I should add a little disclaimer. Am I doing these posts in order to help you get a good grade? YES! Do I think grades are everything? No. Are they the ultimate goal in education? No. But they are important, and when assessment is done well, they are a useful way of finding out how much you know and how well you can think about it. And that’s important. Disclaimer over!

Quality of writing:

What it means and what the top end looks like: Some of this is pretty simple! It simply asks you to turn in a polished ‘product’ by paying attention to things like spelling, grammar and punctuation. Use the right words in the correct way. Don’t use a big word because it sounds cool. That is never cool. Don’t use 20 words if 1 will do. Write what you mean to say, in a way that makes it crystal clear to the reader. Flow and structure are equally important. Good structure follows a logical sequence. The reader should understand why you are telling her x after y, and how this relates to what is going to come afterwards.

How to get there: This is one place where it is relatively ‘easy’ to score at the higher rather than the lower end, even if English is not your first language. You just need practice and planning. Practice will come with time (believe me!). Planning means that you should schedule time for:

  1. Knowing what you want to say (which means reading; see below)
  2. Making an outline. Do not, ever, just try to write the whole essay without knowing what the outline is. The outline can change, but have one.
  3. Writing what you want to say under each point, and re-writing until it sounds clear and each point follows the other well.
  4. Revising
  5. Proofreading, and getting someone to proofread for you (even if you were born speaking English, people make mistakes)
  6. Revise again.

Here’s a page full of further advice and forward links, and a list of points to keep in mind. 

Reading, research and referencing: 

What it means and what the top end looks like: The bit about referencing is like the bit about spelling in the point above. You should lose NO marks, EVER, for incorrect referencing, because there is tonnes of information available on how to do it well.

The more challenging bit is: “Full, critical coverage of literature. Accurately cited and referenced.”

Full coverage: You should read widely. Know your topic:

  • Key definitions, concepts and theories
  • Key authors and what they say
  • Key criticisms of their perspectives

In addition to simply knowing what everyone has said about something, you also need to demonstrate critical analysis.  The word critical appears twice in the 80% band because it is super important. Simply put, it means going beyond describing, to thinking about the key (‘critical’) point and showing that you understand (‘analysis’) whether it is a valid idea. This is an important skill to develop.

How to get there:

The P-word is important here too. Plan time for:

  1. Finding references
  2. Knowing what they say (Summarise them, underline key points, highlight!)
  3. Analysing how they relate to your question
  4. Describing and evaluating their contribution to your answer.

Here’s a bunch of resources on how to develop and practice your ability to think critically and show your examiner that you can think critically. Especially important is this sheet, which describes, in clear and simple points, what critical analysis is.

Okay! This was a long post! Hope it was useful! Next time around, I’ll tackle ‘Quality and relevance of information’ and ‘Understanding’.

– Zareen