Grading

Copyright 1999, Charles King

Point grading
Percentage grading
Undergraduate paper grades
Graduate student paper grades

Point grading

I take the official Georgetown University grade-point scale and grade definitions seriously. The grade-points and descriptors are: 
 

A

4.0 Superior

A-

3.67

B+

3.33

B

3.00 Good

B-

2.67

C+

2.33

C

2.00 Average

C-

1.67

D+

1.33

D

1.00 Minimum passing

F

Failure

This scale means that A grades are only awarded for truly outstanding performance. Such a grade is the highest possible indication of a student’s excellence in scholarship and writing. In other words, A grades are rare. When they are given, they mean that the student has reached a genuinely superior level of understanding of the subject and has demonstrated that superior knowledge and insight on examinations and other assignments. 

Percentage grading 

My courses and assignments (such as examinations) are sometimes graded on a point scale (usually X points out of 100). The following scale is used to relate percentage or point scores to letter grades: 
 

A

100-96 percent

A-

95-91

B+

90-86

B

85-81

B-

80-76

C+

75-71

C

70-66

C-

65-61

D+

60-56

D

55-51

F

50 and below

Undergraduate paper grades 

For research papers, essays, and other written assignments, letter grades (rather than points) are normally used. Following are the meanings of the available letter grades for undergraduates: 

A superior paper. Well-written with an interesting and insightful argument and a clear central thesis. A serious attempt to use reliable evidence. Use of primary sources to buttress the argument (if the paper is primarily empirical) or thorough consideration of major theoretical approaches (if the paper is more conceptual). 

A-

An excellent paper written in a clear style. The argument is interesting and generally sound, but less insightful than an A paper. Some use of appropriate primary evidence or of conceptual tools of analysis. 

B+

A very good paper with a reasonably clear argument. The ideas are not as original or clearly expressed as in A and A- papers, but there are some interesting points. More actual research and thinking would have been desirable. 

A good paper, but with an argument that is not as well-structured as it should be. A few interesting ideas, but the paper could have been improved with more thought, organization, and imagination. Little actual research. Reliance more on secondary sources than on appropriate primary sources. Minor problems of structure and organization. 

B-

An above-average paper. Based mainly on secondary sources, but with generally clear writing. Some problems of structure and organization. 

C+ 

A marginally above-average paper. Based almost entirely on secondary sources. Writing often unclear. Some problems of structure and organization. Central thesis either absent or unclear. 

An average paper. Based entirely on secondary sources, with sometimes unclear and uninspired writing. No real central thesis. A few major problems of structure and organization. 

C- 

A below-average paper. Based on inadequate reading of secondary sources. Writing style is unclear, with errors of grammar and syntax. No discernible argument. 

D+ 

A poor paper. Based on reading of only a few secondary sources. Serious problems of grammar and expression. No attempt at arguing a central point. Structure is random. 

A very poor paper. Based on only a few secondary sources, perhaps taken only from the required readings for the course. Serious problems of expression, with numerous passages that are simply not understandable. No central argument. 

An unacceptable paper. Based on few or no secondary sources, or parroting of one or more secondary sources bordering on plagiarism. 

Graduate student paper grades 

For research papers, seminar papers, and other major written assignments for graduate students (MA and PhD), the following grade definitions apply: 

An outstanding paper. Well-written with a truly insightful and original argument. Ample evidence of serious thought and analysis, as well as thorough coverage of the literature. 

A- 

A very good paper written in a clear style. The argument is interesting and generally sound, but not as original or insightful as an A paper. Evidence of a very good knowledge of the literature. 

B+ 

A good paper with a reasonably clear argument. The ideas are not particularly original, but there are some interesting points. Coverage of the literature is fair, but more research would have been desirable. 

A competent paper, but with an argument that is not as well-structured as it should be. A few interesting ideas, but the paper could have been improved with more thought, organization, and imagination. Coverage of the literature and analysis of the major ideas are acceptable, but serious improvement on both fronts is needed. 

B- to F 

Papers of poor to wholly unacceptable quality, with problems of both structure and content ranging from serious to catastrophic. 

Copyright 1996, Georgetown University