Holistic Evaluation Scale

Evaluation Procedure

The TBR (Tennessee Board of Regents) uses a modified version of the CUNY Holistic Evaluation Scale (Developed by the City University of New York). Each writing sample is read by at least two readers who have been trained in the methods of holistic evaluation. If the two readers agree on their assessment, then the student's placement is based on those two readings. If the two readers do not agree, a third reader completes the evaluation process. All papers are read "blind," which means that no names are visible to the readers during the evaluation process. No marks are placed on the writing samples during the evaluation, so that readers are not influenced by a previous reader's evaluation.

Scores of 6, 5, and 4 place the student into English 1010. A score of 3 places the student into Developmental Writing. Scores of 2 or 1 place the student into Basic Writing.


The essay provides a well-organized response to the topic and maintains a central focus. The ideas are expressed in appropriate language. A sense of pattern of development is present from beginning to end. The writer supports assertions with explanation or illustration, and the vocabulary is well suited to the content. Sentences reflect a command of syntax within the ordinary range of standard written English. Grammar, punctuation, and spelling are almost always correct.


The essay provides an organized response to the topic. The ideas are expressed in clear language most of the time. The writer develops ideas and generally signals relationships within and between paragraphs. The writer uses vocabulary that is appropriate for the essay topic and avoids oversimplifications or distortions. Sentences generally are correct grammatically, although some errors may be present when sentence structure is particularly complex. With few exceptions, grammar, punctuation, and spelling are correct.


The essay shows a basic understanding of the demands of essay organization, although there might be occasional digressions. The development of ideas is sometimes incomplete or rudimentary, but a basic logical structure can be discerned. Vocabulary generally is appropriate for the essay topic but at times is oversimplified. Sentences reflect a sufficient command of standard written English to ensure reasonable clarity of expressions. Common forms of agreement and grammatical inflection are usually, although not always, correct. The writer generally demonstrates through punctuation an understanding of the boundaries of the sentence. The writer spells common words, except perhaps so-called "demons," with a reasonable degree of accuracy.


The essay provides a response to the topic but generally has no overall pattern of organization. Ideas are often repeated or undeveloped, although occasionally a paragraph within the essay does have some structure. The writer uses informal language occasionally and records conversational speech when appropriate written prose is needed. Vocabulary is often limited. The writer generally does not signal relationships within and between paragraphs. Syntax is often rudimentary and lacking in variety. The essay has recurrent grammatical problems, or because of an extremely narrow range of syntactical choices, only occasional grammatical problems appear. The writer does not demonstrate a firm understanding of the boundaries of the sentence. The writer occasionally misspells common words of the language.


The essay begins with a response to the topic but does not develop that response. Ideas are repeated frequently, or are presented randomly, or both. The writer uses informal language frequently and does little more than record conversational speech. Words are often misused, and vocabulary is limited. Syntax is often tangled and is not sufficiently stable to ensure reasonable clarity of expression. Errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling occur often.


The essay suffers from general incoherence and has no discernible pattern of organization. It displays a high frequency of error in regular features of standard written English. Lapses in punctuation, spelling, and grammar often frustrate the reader; or the essay is so brief that any reasonably accurate judgment of the writer's competency is impossible.


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