Scholarship Essay Evaluation Criteria


  • Direct connections between text and selected prompt
  • Ideas well-developed and supported by relevant references from text, showing clear understanding of both the text and the prompt; direct quotations from text used carefully and extensively
  • Extensive details reflect excellent analysis of author’s themes
  • Well-organized with sophisticated paragraphing and clear and varied transitions
  • Sharp focus maintained throughout the essay
  • Deliberate, sophisticated, and varied use of word choices enhance the writing
  • No errors or very minor errors in grammar, conventions, and usage; minor errors to do not interfere with the analysis and writing is often marked by creative syntax


  • Connections between text and prompt selected clear and accurate
  • Ideas developed with specific references to text, including direct quotations
  • Details well-chosen but not as creatively incorporated into the text of the essay; evidence of understanding of text gained from careful analysis
  • Well-organized with clear transitions; paragraphing done with purpose
  • Focus maintained throughout the essay
  • Displays good and varied word choice and syntax
  • Few errors in grammar, conventions, or usage


  • Connections between text and prompt evident but could be stronger
  • Specifics from the text read used sporadically; fewer direct quotations than expected
  • Clear sequence of information but organization predictable
  • Little commentary that reflects understanding of text and prompt
  • Word choice accurate but not exceptional; syntax of sentences not varied
  • Errors in grammar, conventions, and usage begin to distract the reader


  • Confusing or inaccurate connections between text and prompt
  • Evidence of misreading of assigned text or of “surface” reading rather than analysis
  • Reliance on an organizational pattern (five-paragraph essay) that does not reflect confidence as a writer
  • Limited analysis of author’s themes or inclusion of incidental information
  • Repetition of word choices or phrases, no creative syntax
  • Errors in grammar, conventions, and usage become numerous, including incomplete sentences


  • Thesis of essay flawed or unsupported; little evidence of understanding of prompt
  • Little development with a lack of textual references reflecting only cursory reading of assigned text
  • Very disorganized or a reliance on a “template” organizational structure (five paragraphs or less)
  • Characterized by misspellings, missing words, no variation of sentence structures
  • Errors in grammar, conventions, and usage glaring, distracting the reader

30—No Connection

  • No connection to text or prompt selected
  • Clear misunderstanding of assigned text or clear evidence text was not read fully or carefully
  • No analysis of text
  • Organization illogical or juvenile
  • Errors in grammar, conventions, or usage severely impede meaning and reflect a lack of editing