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Grading Rubric for AP Essays


General Directions: This scoring guide will be useful for most essays, but final judgment rests upon both the evaluator’s understanding of the subject and professional expertise. Poorly written essays should never be scored in the upper half, and those with serious literacy problems should not receive a score higher than a 3.

Top scores 9-8: These are well-written papers which respond fully to the question asked. The best papers are confident and persuasive, showing a thorough understanding of the issue (text) and supporting their points with well-selected quotations, details, and/or arguments. Writers of these essays demonstrate stylistic maturity by an effective command of sentence structure, diction, and organization. The writing need not be without flaws, but it should reveal the writer’s ability to choose from and control a wide range of elements of effective writing. These papers are frequently characterized as distinguished/substantial.

Upper scores 7-6: These essays also respond appropriately to the prompt but less fully or effectively than the essays in the top range. Their discussion may be less thorough and less specific. These essays are generally well-written in an appropriate style but may reveal less maturity, less support, or less insight than the top papers. Nevertheless, they do make us of suitable textual support and details to prove their points. Some lapses in diction or syntax appear, but the writing demonstrates sufficient control over the elements of composition to present the writer’s ideas clearly. These papers are frequently characterized as excellent/solid.

Middle score 5: These essays respond to the question, but the discussion may be simplistic or imprecise; they may be overly generalized, vague, or tend toward the superficial. These essays are adequately written, but may demonstrate the inconsistent control over the elements of composition. Organization is attempted, but it may not be fully realized or particularly effective. The analysis or discussion may be formulaic. These papers are frequently characterized as minimally adequate.

Lower scores 4-3: These essays attempt to deal with the questions, but do so inaccurately, partially, or without adequate supporting evidence. They may show some misunderstanding or omit pertinent analysis. The writing may convey the writer’s ideas, but it may reveal weak control over diction, syntax, or organization. These essays often contain spelling and grammatical errors. Statements generally lack the support of persuasive and well-chosen evidence. These papers are frequently characterized as deficient.

Lowest score 2-1: These essays compound the problems of the 4-3 essays. They fail to respond adequately to the question. They may reveal misunderstanding or may distort the interpretation. Generally, these essays are unacceptably brief or poorly written on several counts. Although some attempt to answer the question may be indicated, the writer’s view has little clarity. When present, supporting detail and/or quotations are slight or poorly chosen, or quotations may be used to replace discussion. These papers are frequently characterized as severely deficient.