Sixth College Core Sequence, UCSD
CAT 1 – Grading Criteria

Darrin McGraw, Writing Director, Sixth College

The following list gives a general overview of what we are looking at in grading papers turned for CAT 1. Some assignments will have very specific expectations for what must be covered, which fit under the category of “addressing the prompt” below.


For each of these aspects, this is not a yes/no checklist but a spectrum of accomplishment. A “C”-range paper does most of them passably but leaves a lot of room for growth in clarity and thought. A “B”-range paper does many of them well and the others at least passably, while an “A”-range paper does all of them well. A paper which does not address the prompt, or in which most of these aspects are weak or nonexistent, is a candidate for a D or F. 

It is possible for two papers to get identical or similar grades by having different sets of strengths and weaknesses.

Addressing the prompt -- all of the exhibit catalog assignments (for the four CAT 1 tracks that have them) are asking students to do three core tasks. First, students must analyze individual items in their exhibition. Second, they must relate those examples to each other and show how they are connected, in order to describe the exhibit as a "coherent whole" with some "broader significance". Third, they must correctly cite their sources for the information on which they draw to discuss the exhibit items.

Format -- The individual tracks differ in specifying parts of the catalog/essay, length of each part, number and type of sources required. Check to make sure students have complied, or at least made a good-faith and reasonably successful effort to comply, with these requirements.

Comprehension / Terms / Connections and Insights / Support -- the essay components must show that the student has understood important ideas and terminology from the course, and also that they have not misunderstood anything crucial. We are hoping that the student will go beyond this to offer insights about the connections between objects, and the big picture they add up to, in some way that isn't simply a rote recital of what the instructor has said in lecture. These insights should be clearly supported by evidence, which may include quotations from sources.

Clarity / Organization -- no special adaptation of the rubric here.

In general, I suggest that a paper in each grade range will look something like this:

A range -- Strong analysis of all individual catalog items, backed up with effectively chosen and properly cited references to sources, is tied together in order to present interesting and original thoughts about the overall claims of the exhibit. The essay is well organized to facilitate comprehension, following the specific instructions of the prompt. No format or clarity problems.

B range -- The analysis of individual items is pretty good but the paper doesn't clearly articulate the connections between those and the big picture; the paper may be moving toward a clear picture of the coherent whole without really achieving it; references to sources are present and correctly cited but may be not explained well or there aren't quite enough of them to back up the argument being made about the items or the whole picture. There may be some patches of vagueness or some inadequacies in following specific instructions of the prompt (such as discussing spatial layout, for Algaze's prompt, or giving viewers a sense of Rushdie's book, for Losh's prompt).

C range -- The required number of items is discussed but the essay has little to say (even if they spend a lot of space saying it) about how the items form a coherent whole, relying on stereotyped thinking or a weak understanding of what's been taught in the course; or the coherent whole is discussed but the analysis of individual items is perfunctory and doesn't connect to the claims made about the whole; or the paper is well done but has some basic flaw that knocks it down from a higher grade level, such as not meeting the required number of items or lacking decent support from research sources.

D range -- Paper is repeatedly incomprehensible, much too short, or omits multiple required components.