Before you write an essay that is to be graded holistically, you must understand the process. Holistic grading is more specific and it puts some control in the hands of the student. With a holistic approach, the student is aware of a scoring rubric, which can differ from assignment to assignment. This example follows the New Jersey Registered Holistic Scoring Rubric, used to score Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment (GEPA) and High School Statewide Assessment (HSPA) essays. Scores are given in four different areas, and can range from 6 (superior command) to 1 (inadequate command).
Organize your ideas to support a well-focused thesis. Make sure you have an opening and closing to your essay. There should be a logical progression of ideas from start to finish. If you are a good student who does a lot of reading, you may want to stretch your capabilities and knowledge and take a compositional risk. If you do this well, you will receive a 6. Even if your attempts are not completely correct, you will get a 5 (strong command) for trying. Another important part of content and organization is the use of detail to support your main idea or thesis statement. You should have enough details, and they should be effective in proving your point. Transitions from one thought to another should be used effectively.
Use words, verb tenses and modifiers correctly. Subject-verb agreement and pronoun usage should have very few errors to achieve a grade of 6. A score of 4 (adequate command) is given to a student who has some errors that do not interfere with the meaning she is trying to convey. You should speak with your teacher to see if you should risk using a word you are not completely sure about. Some teachers will give you credit for trying, if you come close to the meaning, and others will subtract from your score.
Make use of a variety of sentence constructions to achieve a high score in sentence construction. An essay using the same sentence structure throughout becomes monotonous and, even if the sentences are correct, will achieve a score of only 3 (partial command). If your sentences are varied in type, structure and length and contain few errors, you can achieve a 5 or 6.
Proofread your essay to receive a high score in mechanics (spelling, punctuation and capitalization). If the essay is a homework assignment and you have the time, write a first draft straight through to the end and then edit for mechanics. If you have the luxury of time, let it sit for a day and go back to it. You may find that in using this technique, errors jump off the page for your correction.
Read over your essay to be certain you have all the required elements.
If you don't understand what is required, ask. The rubric explains how you will be graded.
Writing an essay to be scored holistically gives you the control you need to achieve a good score by following the rubric.
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