Grade your abstract
I grade your abstracts with an S/U system. That means a "U" is equivalent
to an "F"; but a "S" can be anything from a "D"
to an "A." I do not provide that differentiation. But you can easily
tell what the meaning of your "S" is. Doing so can be a good idea
as you use your abstracts to prepare for the essay questions on the exams. The
essay questions are a lot like the abstracts, so grading your abstracts can
tell you how well you are doing in preparing for the exams. The following information
should help with that task.
Three levels of learning on exam
I have explained at other places that there are three types of learning that
are being tested on the examinations.
- Know the vocabulary, systems of vocabulary and definitions. This
is memorization of words and definitions. I test them primarily through multiple
choice, fill in the blanks, and short answer.
- Be able to recognize examples of the concepts in text. This level
of learning will be tested through multiple choice, matching, or fill in the
blank. On the second and subsequent exam there may be questions that are modeled
on the exercises. If you achieve these first two levels of learning on the
essay portion of the exam, you will have earned a "C" for the essay.
- Be able to evaluate the strategic dimensions of speeches using the systems
of vocabulary. This most sophisticated knowledge is the level of learning
tested in the essay exam.
Expectations for essay
Given the level of knowledge you need to demonstrate in the essay, there are
some general characteristics of effective answers.
- An evaluative thesis. A good essay exam answer has a thesis that
focuses your arguments. Having studied claims, you know the thesis required
for an evaluative answer is a claim of judgment. Your thesis should take that
- Usually asks for strategic judgment. Usually (but not
always) the question will ask you to analyze and evaluate the speaker's or
discourse's choice of strategy. Does the speaker or discourse accomplish the
purpose for which it is designed? How? Of the 4
standards you learned, this is usually (but not always) an effects judgment.
- Body organized around reasons for judgment. Your essay will be an
argument and will be expected to provide support that warrants your claim
of judgment. This is particularly emphasized once you have studied the unit
on argument. Generally, then, you will want to provide reasons for your judgment.
And, typically, your essay will be best when those reasons for the organizational
structure for your essay.
- Support for claims uses systems of vocabulary you have learned to connect
speech with evaluative thesis. You have also learned the two stock issues
for claims of judgment include a focus on arguments for the criteria for your
judgment. Justifying this criteria and applying it to the discourse or speaker
will be what you use your knowledge of vocabulary and systems of vocabulary
to analyze. So, a good essay includes support of a quality to warrant your
Having graded many essays over the years, there are common errors which result
in lower grades. Do NOT do these things:
- No thesis for essay
- Thesis not evaluative
- You just list observations about the speech rather than forming your observations
into well organized and argued support for a thesis
- You do not invoke the systems of vocabulary you have learned to round out
your arguments. Results in a shallow answer. Better essays use a rich variety
- You do not support your claims about the speech (for example, if your argument
says something about audience; then proper support requires audience analysis)
Grade your abstract
To evaluate your abstract as an essay, and thus like your essay exam, do the
- Underline the thesis of the abstract. Ask if it is evaluative?
- Circle and number the sentences in the abstract that give reasons for the
judgment of the thesis. Ask if these are sufficient support for your thesis?
Do they provide sufficient reasons for your judgment?
- Draw rectangles around the vocabulary from the course you have used in the
course. Have you used the vocabulary in the context of the system of vocabulary
you have learned? Have you used the system thoroughly? Have you used that
vocabulary to identify strategies used in the speech? Have you used them to
connected the particulars of the speech to the reasons that support your thesis?
Assigning your grade
In general, if you have done all three of the things above with depth and sufficient
support, you will have an "A" on the essay.
If you have done only the last two of these things, you will have a "B"
or a "C" depending on how thorough you have been in your analysis.
If you have done only the last, you will have a "C" or a "D"
depending on how thorough you have been.