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Grading Your Own Essays
Grading your own essay is something that many students don’t do, or they don’t want to do. They feel that they can’t. But I want to tell you that you can grade your own essays, and it’s very helpful to do this. Even if you have somebody else looking at your essay, somebody else grading your essay, it’s still helpful to look at your own essay and grade yourself.
I recommend that every TOEFL student try grading their own essays. Why? Well, there are couple of reasons. First of all, seeing your mistakes is the best way to improve them. This is true in everything. This is true in doing math as well as speaking English, right?
It’s true in learning any skill. If you see your mistakes, you learn to avoid them. Grading yourself gives you a great time, a great place, to look at your responses and think about what should be better. Finding those mistakes means faster improvement. And note here that finding a mistake by yourself is much stronger than if someone else finds the mistake for you.
That is, when you find it, you remember it better, and you learn more from it. So this also helps a lot, not just in math or in general speaking improvement, but in writing for the TOEFL. Because you learn how TOEFL graders think. You learn how to write the essay that the graders expect from you, that they want from you, because you think like the grader.
So the first thing to do is to learn the official scoring, how TOEFL essays are scored. And the official rubrics will help with that. The grades are holistic, in real TOEFL scoring. So that means a grader will read your whole essay, let’s say this is your essay, this is all English writing.
They will read the essay, and they will give a grade for the whole thing. They will not give a grade for, for example, spelling as one grade and grammar as another grade, no, no, no, no. They give a full grade that refers to how much they understood your essay, and that is scored from zero to five. Generally it’s actually one to five.
The zero is for non-English essays. If you write your essay in Japanese, it’s going to get a zero. If you just copy and paste things from the text, then it’s going to get a zero. If you memorize your essay and it’s something from another place, it’s going to get a zero. So you don’t actually need to get a zero on any real essay that you write.
It should be one to five, if you actually write it. The official rubrics I have linked under this video, and go to those links and look at the official rubrics. They’re not that helpful really, but they’re interesting to look at. It’s important to see how the graders see your essay. But like I said, they’re not very practical.
It’s hard to grade your essay after only looking at the official rubric. You need more than this. So here’s an easier rubric, something that will help you grade a little bit more simply, a little bit more practically. First look at the content, and then look at the language. The content is what you say.
Is it organized? Do you have all the main ideas that you need? Do you transition from one main idea to another main idea well? Do you provide details? All this refers to not how you write, but what you write. And here is how you write it.
Now grading the language can be a little bit more difficult. That’s why going through specific points like this can be helpful. And actually, that’s true for the content, too. It’s easier to grade content if you consider individual points. This is not similar to real TOEFL graders, but it will help you in grading yourself. It’s just simpler and easier to go through methodically.
So you can give yourself, for example, maybe a 3, a 4, a 4, a 3. Just examples, 5, 4, 4, 4. And then you look at all this and you think, the average is about a four so maybe my total essays score is a four. So this gives you a little bit more of a process that you can use when you’re grading.
Like I said, grading the language is a bit difficult. I recommend coming back to this after two or three weeks if possible. So if you look at your grammar and vocabulary the same day that you write it, it’s very likely that you won’t notice mistakes. But if you wait a couple weeks, especially if you’re practicing and reading and studying grammar and studying vocabulary, then when you come back, you can give yourself a more accurate grade.
But this is ideal. Sometimes you don’t have two or three weeks. If that’s the case, then just give yourself half the time until your test. So here’s today, and here’s my TOEFL. And let’s say my TOEFL is in two weeks. Well, then I would probably grade the language part of this essay in roughly one week.
If you have four weeks, then you could give yourself two weeks. If you have one week, give yourself three days. So just give yourself half the time until your TOEFL. And that will give you at least some perspective, some time that you can think about other things, maybe study some grammar, study some vocabulary, and return to your essay with that in mind.
Compare your writing to samples. This is the easiest way to really judge what level your essay is at, especially if you compare with samples at different grades. You do have ideal samples in Magoosh, so these are the level five essays, the top score essays, written by me, for the most part. And they are ideal.
If you had a perfect TOEFL essay, they might look like the samples in Magoosh. That’s very helpful for looking at what you want to achieve. It’s also helpful to look at official samples, in the documents that I have under this video, of the different grades. So you can compare your essay to the sample that is a one, to the sample that’s a two, a three, a four and a five, and find which one your essay looks the most like, which one is most similar.
And that can help you score if you’re a three, for example, because you look similar to a three essay, based on not only the rubrics but also these comparisons. Together, that grade can be very accurate. So again, grading yourself. Look at the official rubrics first for some context, but then use those specific aspects, that Magoosh rubric I showed you before with individual parts that you can grade, and average them.
Compare to ideal samples to learn what you should do better, and to the real samples to give yourself a more accurate comparison to your essay. And if you can, it’s very helpful to return later for the grammar and vocabulary, for the language use part of your grade. And again, it’s a one though five all together grade.
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