4 Marking Schemes Used to Judge Essays and Letters


Why do you fail essays and letter writing? Why do you fail composition? Is it not because you don’t have information? These are four tricks you have to know.

1. Content


Content applies where the field knowledge about the topic the writer is writing about will be judged. It is the material/content that the student presents.

The material is expected to be relevant to the points. This question should be answered. Are facts relevant to what he has been asked to present? Consider the questions and illustrations below.

There was a case of a student who was asked to write an essay on the danger of drug abuse among youths in our society and he misinterpreted the words ‘drug abuse. The student misconstrued the ‘drug abuse as a drug (being abusive). The student misinterpreted the question and scored zero under content. Another illustration is that the essay or the letter will be judged or scored according to several relevant points or ideas presented by the student. This means that adequate treatment of the three or two parts is necessary. If you carelessly do one or two out of three parts, you will lose some marks. For example, if you are asked to write an essay on the topic: causes, effects, and solutions to road accidents in Nigeria.

You must work on the three variables: causes, effects, and solutions before credit marks can be awarded here. If you carelessly work on one or two and only leave the last variable, you will lose some marks. The inadequacy shows that you do not understand the question. Furthermore, the examiner may ask you, at least, to write three or four reasons for a question. If it is not more than the required number of ideas, you must give up to the required number.

2. Organisation

Under organization, the points/materials for an essay or a letter are not written anyhow; they have to be well arranged and developed. It involves a logical and systematic presentation of the material. Your essay/letter will be judged under the following facts:

While writing an informal letter, arrange it as follows:

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(a) Write the address of the writer and the date on the right-hand side.

(b) Write salutation on the left-hand side, such as Dear Bola, Uncle, etc.

(c) Create an introductory paragraph. It should be one paragraph.

(d) Discuss your ideas in paragraphs. Develop an idea or a point in a

(e) Create a concluding paragraph. It should be one paragraph.

(f) Write a subscription on the right-hand side, e.g. Yours sincerely, Yours
ever, Your friend, etc.

(g) After this, write the first name only under subscription, such as
Bayo, Deola,

While writing a formal letter, arrange them as follows:

(a) Write the address of the writer and the date on the upper side of the paper.

(b) Write the recipient’s address on the left immediately after the date beneath the writer’s address.

(c)You can leave a line or create a small space and write a salutation, such as Dear Sir or Dear Madam/Sir or Madam.

(d) After salutation, you can write the title or the heading of the letter on the immediate line.

(e) Create an introductory paragraph. It should be one paragraph.

(f) Discuss your ideas in paragraphs.

(g) Create a concluding paragraph. It should be one paragraph.
(h) Write a subscription on the right-hand side, such as ‘Yours faithfully.’

(i) After subscription, write your signature on the immediate line under the subscription

(j) Write your full name on the immediate line under the writer’s signature.

While writing an essay, arrange it as follows:

(a) Write a heading of the question.
(b) Create an introductory paragraph. It should be one paragraph.

(c)You can still have a defining paragraph if necessary.

(d) Discuss your ideas in paragraphs. It should be, at least, three paragraphs.

(e) Create a concluding paragraph. It should be one paragraph.

(f) You can write your full name if necessary, on the right-hand side of the immediate line.

Students will lose marks under organization if the features above are not properly done.

3. Expression

Under expression, the student should understand the rules and the principles of English grammar. How the ideas are passed across to the reader is very important.

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That is why clarity of sentences and expressions is crucial. You should remember that the linguistic competence of the student and command of language and its varieties in sentence structure will be examined here.

Note that clumsy expressions and ambiguous sentences should be avoided. The student’s ability is tested in the following areas:

1. You should choose the right words, idiomatic expressions, phrasal verbs, dictions, etc, and use them appropriately. For example: ‘I want to defecate’ not ‘I want to poopoo; I am going to eat not I am going to chop.’

‘Poopoo’ and ‘chop’ are not the right words for ‘defecation’ and ‘eating’ respectively. ‘I can hear a smell’ instead of ‘I can perceive a smell’ because hear is not the right word to mean a smell. Also, ‘the lady was taken in by the advert’.

‘Birds of the same feather flock together. ’In the following examples: the phrasal verb ‘take in’ is not used appropriately.

It should be ‘was taken in’ not ‘was take in’. In sentence 2, the correct expression is ‘birds of a feather flock together’ not ‘of the same feather.

2. Make sure you use vocabulary that reflects the atmosphere appropriate to the situation. Is the register you use relevant to the question?

Consider the following illustration: if we are talking about road accidents, the vocabulary registers below should reflect in your essay: fatal, high speed, reckless driving, bad road, somersault, etc.

Try as much as possible to use different types of sentences coupled with effective use of punctuation marks for sentence control.

For example: The man, though a womanizer, is generous. The sentence above was controlled by commas, and it changed to: ‘The man is a womanizer and he is generous

The students should note all the aspects discussed in order to score higher marks under expression.

4. Mechanical Accuracy

Every student should know that the ability to exhibit linguistic competence and proficiency in language will be penalized under mechanical accuracy.

The student should be careful of the grammar, spelling and, punctuation they use. The students are penalized under the following categories:

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Grammatical Errors

Wrong use of article (a, an, the), e.g.

• A egg
• An pen
a/an antibiotic drugs
• I eat the egg daily.

Wrong use of tense sequence, e.g.

• I am there yesterday.
• I did it now.
• Before I came in, he has slept.

Wrong use of auxiliaries, e.g.

• He have gone.
• They has come.
• He has being done.
• He is been done.

Wrong use of preposition, e.g.

• I was of Lagos yesterday.
• I am tired for this.
• They have left to Ibadan.

Wrong use of relative and subordinators, e.g.

• This is the boy which stole my pen.
• It was the pen who had been lost.
• Sola was there although I was singing.

Wrong use of conjunctions, e.g.

• I love Sola but Bola.
• I didn’t like Bola and I like Sola.

Confusion of pronouns, e.g.

You and me will be there.
• He cursed you and I.
• It was him that stole my money.

Errors in degree of adjectives, e.g.

• She is more brilliant than us.
• He is handsome than we.
• You perform more excellent than we.

Misuse of active and passive, e.g.

Active: He eats bread.

Passive: Bread was eaten by him

Error of Punctuations

(j) Wrong use of full stops and commas, e.g.

(i) (a) P.M.B 0661.
Ladega Hostel.
25th January. 2011.

(ii) I brought tomatoes. Pepper.Onions.And oil palm.

(k) Omission of colon, semi-colon, exclamation and question mark, e.g.

(i) English sound consonants :
(ii) What have I done ?
(iii) How corporately she dressed !

(l) Omission of apostrophes, e.g.

(i) Teacher s guide ’
(ii) Studentsfailure ’

Spelling Error

The student is penalised if he or she has wrongly misspelled words, e.g.

i. Privile d ge
ii. Com^ission
iii. Continious
iv. Accom^odation
v. Occass ion
vi. Ne cc essary
vii. Mano^uver^
viii. Cementr^y
ix. D e ligent
x. Pro ffesssor


With illustrations, explain the following criteria:
Mechanical accuracy

Author: Deola Adelakun

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