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Gordon Rule


  • What Is Holistic Scoring?

The holistic scoring method is based on the theory that a whole piece of writing is greater than the sum of its parts. With this method, essays are read for the total impression they create, rather than for individual aspects.

  • Integrated criteria

Raters award a single score for the overall quality of essays based on an integrated set of specified criteria. Criteria typically include organization, development of ideas, style, mechanics, diction, and usage. These facets are judged together, not separately.

  • Scoring consistency

Most programs have published scoring criteria that are applied consistently across scoring sessions. While many raters have vast experience in evaluating writing, they should understand that, for essays to be scored fairly and consistently, they must adjust to the overall standards set for the particular test program. 

Gordon Rule Rubric


Demonstrates Exemplary College-Level Writing 4

Demonstrates Proficient College-Level Writing 3

Demonstrates Satisfactory College-Level Writing 2

Demonstrates Emerging College-Level Writing 1

Demonstrates Effective Development:
Thesis Statement, Main points, Supporting information

·      Stated or implied thesis developed logically, coherently and extensively with convincing, specific supporting details.

·      Strong evidence of critical thinking.

·      No factual errors.

·      Thesis, stated or implied, presents a plan of development that is carried out.

·      Effective supporting details.

·      Consistent development.

·      No factual errors.

·      Thesis evident but supported by a mixture of generalizations and specific detail.

·      Some factual errors

·      Thesis evident but support very general and/or inconsistent.

·      Several factual errors

Demonstrates Effective Organization of Content

·      Central idea clear.

·      Paragraph structure consistently and effectively supports content.

·      Clear logic and effective transitions

·      Central idea clear.

·      Paragraph structure uniformly supports content.

·      Consistency, logic and transitions well managed

·      Central idea evident.

·      Paragraph structure sometimes supports content.

·      Consistency, logic and transitions show some weaknesses.

·      Loose focus on central idea, contains some repetition and digression.

·      Paragraph structure weak.

Employs Effective Language

·      Choice of language consistently precise, purposeful.

·      Nearly flawless sentence structure, usage, mechanics contribute to writer’s ability to communicate purpose.

·      Word choice accurate, varied.

·      Occasional errors in sentence structure, usage and mechanics do not hinder writer’s ability to communicate purpose.

·      Word choice correct but simple/ without variety.

·      Errors in mechanics and/ or usage do not obscure content of assignment.

·      Frequent errors in word choice.

·      Sentence structure and mechanics seriously affect clarity.

Addresses Purpose and Audience 

·      Communicates purpose with sophistication.

·      Beyond understanding of issues, shows insight.

·      Style engages audience, establishes writer’s credibility.

·      Communicates purpose clearly.

·      Shows full understanding of issues.

·      Style consistently effective for intended audience.

·      Adheres to purpose, fulfills assignment, shows adequate understanding of key issues.

·      Style generally appropriate to intended audience.

·      Wavers in purpose, incompletely addresses assigned topic or directions, shows need for more study of issues.

·      Style uneven.