Each essay is holistically scored independently and anonymously by two trained university faculty readers, using the GWE Scoring Rubric, on a scale of 0 to 6. Their individual scores are added together. Thus, the top possible score is 12; the lowest is 0, though a score of 0 is only given if the student’s essay does not address the assigned essay topic. The passing score is 8. For each reading, readers are trained on a set of sample essays written in response to the prompt for said reading selected by the Chief Readers. If the scoring by the two readers differs by more than one point, the essay is read and adjudicated by the Chief Readers.
In holistic scoring, the essay is judged as a whole, and the readers do not separate the response into separate components, awarding a certain number of points for particular aspects of the essay such as focus, organization, language, development, or sentence structure. Rather, all these characteristics are considered as an integrated whole. Readers judge an essay on both rhetoric and syntax. Rhetoric refers to how the content of an essay is communicated. It includes such issues as the writers' understanding of purpose and audience, their addressing all the tasks set by the prompt, their critical understanding of the prompt, their utilizing appropriate organization and development, and their using language effectively. Syntax refers to the arrangement of words in a sentence. It broadly includes such issues as grammar, sentence structure, usage and correctness, word choice (diction), and mechanics (e.g. appropriate capitalization and indentation, correct spelling, and the like). Essays that are individually scored 6, 5, or 4 demonstrate superior, clear, or at least minimal competence respectively in writing on both of these levels. Essays scored 3 or below are deemed not passing.
At each of the score points for on-topic papers, the descriptors of writing performance are lettered. The letters refer to:
NOTE: A passing paper (6, 5, and 4) must demonstrate ability in all six (a-f) areas. A non-passing paper (3, 2, 1) reveals weaknesses in one or more of the six (a-f) areas. Papers that reject the assignment or fail to address the question must be given to the Chief Reader. A score of zero (0) may be assigned for essays written “off- topic.”
A 6 essay demonstrates superior writing, but may have minor flaws. A typical essay in this category:
A 5 essay demonstrates clearly competent writing. It may have some errors, but they are not serious enough to distract or confuse the reader. A typical essay in this category:
A 4 essay demonstrates adequate writing. It may have some errors that distract the reader, but they do not significantly obscure meaning. A typical essay in this category:
A 3 essay demonstrates developing writing competence, but is flawed in some significant way(s). A typical essay in this category reveals one or more of the following weaknesses:
A 2 essay demonstrates seriously flawed writing. An essay in this category reveals one or more of the following weaknesses:
A 1 essay demonstrates fundamental deficiencies in writing skills. A typical essay in this category reveals one or more of the following weaknesses: