Structure and Scoring of the Assessment

The Structure of the Assessment

You'll begin by reading a prose passage of 700-1,000 words. This passage will be about as difficult as the readings in first-year courses at UC Berkeley. You'll have up to two hours to read the passage carefully and write an essay in response to a single topic and related questions based on the passage's content. These questions will generally ask you to read thoughtfully and to provide reasoned, concrete, and developed presentations of a specific point of view. Your essay will be evaluated on the basis of your ability to develop your central idea, to express yourself clearly, and to use the conventions of written English. 

Five Qualities of a Well-Written Essay

There is no "correct" response for the topic, but there are some things readers will look for in a strong, well-written essay.

  1. The writer demonstrates that they understood the passage.
  2. The writer maintains focus on the task assigned.
  3. The writer leads readers to understand a point of view, if not to accept it.
  4. The writer develops a central idea and provides specific examples.
  5. The writer evaluates the reading passage in light of personal experience, observations, or by testing the author's assumptions against their own.

Scoring

Scoring is typically completed within three weeks after the assessment date. The readers are UC Berkeley faculty members, primarily from College Writing Programs, though faculty from other related departments, such as English or Comparative Literature might participate as well. 

Your essay will be scored independently by two readers, who will not know your identity. They will measure your essay against a scoring guide. If the two readers have different opinions, then a third reader will assess your essay as well  to help reach a final decision. Each reader will give your essay a score on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 6 (highest). When your two scores are added together, if they are 8 or higher, you satisfy the Entry Level Writing Requirement and may take any 4-unit "R_A" course (first half of the requirement, usually numbered R1A, though sometimes with a different number). If you receive a score less than 8, you should sign up for College Writing R1A, which satisfies both the Entry Level Writing Requirement and the first-semester ("A" part) of the Reading and Composition Requirement.

The Scoring Guide

The Scoring Guide outlines the characteristics typical of essays at six different levels of competence. Readers assign each essa a score according to its main qualities. Readers take into account the fact that the responses are written with two hours of reading and writing, without a longer period of time for drafting and revision.

An essay with a score of 6 may

  • command attention because of its insightful development and mature style.
  • present a cogent response to the text, elaborating that response with well-chosen  examples and persuasive reasoning. 
  • present an organization that reinforces the development of the ideas which are aptly detailed.
  • show that its writer can usually choose words well, use sophisticated sentences effectively, and observe the conventions of written English. 

An essay with a score of 5 may

  • clearly demonstrate competent writing skill. 

  • present a thoughtful response to the text, elaborating  that response with appropriate examples and sensible reasoning.

  • present an organization that supports the writer’s ideas, which are developed with greater detail than is typical of an essay scored '4.' 

  • have a less fluent and complex style than an essay scored '6,' but  shows that the writer can usually choose words accurately, vary sentences effectively, and observe the conventions of written English.  

An essay with a score of 4 may

  • be just 'satisfactory.'

  • present an adequate response to  the text, elaborating that response with sufficient examples and acceptable reasoning.

  • demonstrate an organization that generally supports the writer’s ideas, which are developed with sufficient detail.

  • use examples and reasoning that are less developed than those in '5'  essays. 

  • show that its writer can usually choose words of sufficient precision, control sentences of reasonable  variety, and observe the conventions of written English.  

An essay with a score of 3 may

  • be unsatisfactory in one or more of the following ways:

    • It may respond to the  text illogically

    • it may reflect an incomplete understanding of the text or the topic

    • it may provide insufficient reasoning or lack elaboration with examples, or the examples provided may not be sufficiently detailed to support claims

    • it may be inadequately organized 

  • have prose characterized by at least one of the following:

    • frequently imprecise word choice

    • little sentence variety

    • occasional major errors in grammar and usage, or frequent minor errors  

An essay with a score of 2 may

  • show weaknesses, ordinarily of several kinds.

  • present a  simplistic or inappropriate response to the text, one that may suggest some significant misunderstanding of the text or the topic

  • use organizational strategies that detract from coherence or provide inappropriate or irrelevant detail.

  • have prose characterized by at least one of the following:

    • simplistic or inaccurate word choice

    • monotonous or fragmented sentence structure

    • many repeated errors in grammar and usage   

An essay with a score of 1 may

  • show serious weaknesses.

  • disregard the topic's demands, or it may lack structure or development.

  • Have an organization that fails to support the essay’s ideas. 

  • be inappropriately brief. 

  • have a pattern of errors in word choice, sentence structure, grammar, and usage.