Skip To Content

Athabasca University

Marking Scheme for Writing Assignments

This scheme is currently used on the writing courses and some other courses at the Athabasca University. It should be used as a guide to writing expectations. Some instructors may use different marking schemes.

Table of Contents

Content—refers to the following elements:

  • A clear understanding and complete analysis of the topic (given the length/scope of the assignment)
  • An awareness of audience and purpose
  • The use of appropriate quotations (where relevant)
  • Originality of ideas and expression
  • Appropriate evidence of reading and research (where relevant)

10

Outstanding

  • Original ideas well developed, relevant, and thoroughly supported
  • Analysis complete
  • Ideas and expressions original
  • Evidence of reading and research apparent (where appropriate)
  • Perceptive insights
  • Text interesting

9

Excellent

  • Topic coverage complete
  • Appropriate elements achieved to a high degree
  • Many ideas and expressions original
  • Some evidence of research (where appropriate)
  • Text interesting and shows promise

8

Very good

  • Topic coverage mainly complete
  • Most elements completed well

7

Good

  • Topic coverage nearly complete—minor omissions only
  • Analysis weak in places

6

Satisfactory

  • Topic coverage basic
  • Evidence of some analysis

5

Sufficient—improvement needed

  • Topic coverage just adequate
  • Other elements present at a basic level
  • Minor omissions in some elements

4

Insufficient—remediation suggested

  • Topic coverage inadequate
  • Analysis lacking
  • Text uninteresting
  • Omissions in several elements

3

Unsatisfactory—remedial work needed

  • Intent of the writing difficult to understand
  • Omissions in most elements

2

  • Text unfocussed and confusing
  • Major omissions in all elements

1

  • Off-topic
  • Complete lack of audience awareness
  • Text unfocussed and confusing

Top ^

Organization—refers to the following elements:

  • A clear thesis statement
  • A variety of effective transitions to make the writing ‘flow’
  • Appropriate and logical structure both within the assignment as a whole and within the paragraph
  • Good main ideas at the paragraph level
  • Maintenance of ‘purpose’ of the writing
  • An introduction, development and conclusion (paragraphs at the essay level; sentences at the paragraph level
  • Effective sentence variety
  • An awareness of audience

10

Outstanding

  • Arguments thoroughly developed
  • Strong links between sentences and paragraphs making the text logical
  • Appropriate introduction, development and conclusion
  • Mastery of the organizational elements

9

Excellent

  • Appropriate elements achieved to a high degree
  • Structure logical and readily discernible

8

Very good

  • Structure apparent
  • Effective transitions
  • Most elements completed well

7

Good

  • Some minor omissions so that ‘flow’ is not well maintained
  • Structure mainly discernible

6

Satisfactory

  • Structure apparent but at a basic level
  • Omissions in some elements cause ‘flow’ problems

5

Sufficient—improvement needed

  • Structure just adequate
  • Other elements present at a basic level
  • Problems with some elements cause lack of ‘flow’

4

Insufficient—remediation suggested

  • Structure inadequate
  • Lack of logical connection between parts of writing
  • Omissions in several elements

3

Unsatisfactory—remedial work needed

  • Structure and ‘flow’ problems cause confusion
  • No clear purpose to the writing
  • Omissions generalized

2

  • Structure unfocussed and confusing
  • Shift(s) of purpose
  • Major omissions in elements

1

  • Purpose unsupported by structure
  • Complete lack of audience awareness
  • Shift of focus and purpose
  • Major omissions generalized

Top ^

Mechanics—refers to the following elements:

  • Spelling, correct and consistent in usage
  • Punctuation, correct, consistent and with appropriate variety
  • Capitalization
  • Legibility, particularly of handwritten assignments

10

Outstanding

  • Mastery of all elements
  • No errors

9

Excellent

  • All elements achieved to high degree
  • One or two minor errors only

8

Very good

  • Most elements completed well
  • Minor errors only, not affecting meaning

7

Good

  • Minor errors in at least three elements
  • Errors not affecting meaning

6

Satisfactory

  • Errors in all elements
  • Errors distract reader and interfere with understanding

5

Sufficient—improvement needed

  • Errors in all elements
  • Errors affect meaning
  • Use of elements is only basic

4

Insufficient—remediation suggested

  • Major errors in more than one element
  • Inconsistency of usage
  • Errors cause some comprehension problems

3

Unsatisfactory—remedial work needed

  • Major errors in most elements

2

  • Major errors in all elements
  • Errors cause comprehension problems

1

  • Complete, or almost complete lack of elements
  • Errors cause serious comprehension problems

Top ^

Grammar—refers to the following elements:

  • Sentence formation; clauses and phrases appropriately formed and connected
  • Word order and form
  • Verb tense, form, voice (active or passive), and mood (indicative, imperative, subjunctive)
  • Subject-verb agreement
  • Pronoun case forms and pronoun agreement with antecedent
  • Appropriate adjective and adverb form
  • Parallelism
  • Appropriate use of modifiers
  • Direct and indirect speech

10

Outstanding

  • Correction of text not required
  • A variety of complex grammatical structures used
  • Evidence of mastery of advanced and complex structures

9

Excellent

  • Text is almost perfect
  • Evidence of near mastery of advanced and complex structures
  • All appropriate elements achieved at high level of competence

8

Very good

  • Most elements completed well; only a few minor errors
  • High level achievement of most elements

7

Good

  • Minor errors in more than one type of structure
  • Meaning and comprehension not affected by errors
  • Variety of complex structures is used

6

Satisfactory

  • Minor errors in several types of structure
  • Errors distracting but no interference with comprehension

5

Sufficient—improvement needed

  • Some major errors apparent and several minor ones
  • Errors cause some problems with clarity or cause minor confusion

4

Insufficient—remediation suggested

  • Variety of major, global errors
  • Errors distract reader, impeding meaning and comprehension

3

Unsatisfactory—remedial work needed

  • Pervasive and major errors
  • Errors present serious impediment to meaning and comprehension

2

  • Errors basic and pervasive in nature
  • Comprehension difficult

1

  • Numerous errors, even basic ones
  • Text incomprehensible

Top ^

Style—refers to the following elements:

  • Evidence of stylistic control
  • Writing at the appropriate language level (informal, general, formal)
  • Writing appropriate to content, subject, purpose, and audience
  • Demonstration of effective tone and appropriate vocabulary
  • Evidence of creativity
  • Length and complexity of sentences
  • Maintenance of consistent style

Common indicators of stylistic problems include:

  • Shift of focus
  • Monotonous repetition of one or two syntactical patterns
  • Change in level or tone
  • Pretension (attempt at outward show of ability that appears to be false or inaccurate)
  • Use of slang expressions and clichés
  • Choppiness (short, unconnected sentences)

10

Outstanding

  • Evidence of mastery of all appropriate elements
  • Style perceptive and consistent

9

Excellent

  • All appropriate elements achieved to high degree

8

Very good

  • Most elements completed well
  • No significantly detraction from writing from minor omission

7

Good

  • Some omissions in several categories
  • Omissions begin to detract from writing

6

Satisfactory

  • Inconsistent application of style rules
  • Elements present at basic level only

5

Sufficient—improvement needed

  • Most elements present at basic level
  • Inconsistencies and omissions detract from the writing

4

Insufficient—remediation suggested

  • Some basic elements missing
  • Inconsistencies and omissions a serious distraction

3

Unsatisfactory—remedial work needed

  • Most skills insufficient for assignment
  • Omissions generalized

2

  • Text unfocussed and confusing
  • Major omissions in elements

1

  • Text unstructured and incoherent
  • Lack of all required skills

Top ^

Updated September 10 2014 by Student & Academic Services

AU, CANADA'S OPEN UNIVERSITY, is an internationally recognized leader in online and distance learning.