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Basic Skills in Writing Grading Standards

This page explains how the English Department determines placement in ENG 009, ENG 010, and ENG 121.

It includes eight MCC student essays that have been evaluated for placement by faculty.

We call these essays "rangefinders" because they provide an indication of the skills levels appropriate to the three courses mentioned above. Rangefinders are used as guides for evaluation during the placement and exit processes when essays are read holistically by English faculty.

Placement scores assigned by faculty range from 1 to 6. Each essay is read by two instructors, making the range 2 to 12.

* Composite scores of 2-5 qualify for placement into ENG 009;
* Composite scores of 6-7 qualify for placement into ENG 010;
* Higher composite scores qualify for placement into ENG 121.

NOTE: The essays below are preceded by the writing prompt or assignment given to students before they began to write.



Instructions:  You have 75 minutes to read the poem "Richard Cory"
and to write an essay that responds to the assignment that follows it.

Richard Cory
by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.    (like a ruler)

And he was always quietly arrayed,    (dressed)
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:    (educated)
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Assignment: The poem tells us that appearances can be deceiving.  Recount a situation, an event, a person, or a thing by which you or someone you know was deceived or misled.  Explain how you or someone you know eventually discovered the truth.


Composite Score of 12:  Student was placed into ENG 121.

To this day the smell of chlorine still brings me back to the age of seven. My mother never learned to swim, so it was her strongest desire to see her children prevail at a task she never could achieve herself. My mother enrolled all five of her children into a swim club at the local YMCA. My older siblings took to the challenge without any episode, but this wasn't the case for me.

I lliked the water well enough, it was my swim instructor, Mr. Flipper, that made me shudder with fear. My instructor was tall, dark and very charming. Whenever the parents dropped their children off at the YMCA, he made sure he was treating the children with respect and kindness. He was always smiling when parents were around but his temperament changed radically when the parents were gone! His voice shrieked louder than the sound of his whistle. He always stood straight and tall with his arms crossed or his hands waving in the air in a fit of temper. He confused me with his erratic mood changes. I couldn’t understand why he treated many of the students with respect and demonstrated himself as a terrific couch and mentor, but to me he seemed angered and frustrated.

I had difficulty dismounting from the side of pool. Everytime I jumped into the pool I would choke on water. Nothing seemed to work. I would get just so far into my lap when I began to choke on water or get the sensation of water up my nose…so I would stop! My instructor would blow on his whistle for me to start over and over again. He was determined to teach me the correct way and complete the lap. I began to feel very embarrassed and hated going to swim class.

Although I felt discouraged and frustrated I decided to get "on my mark" and at the sound of the whistle I would jump into pool and complete my lap. I jumped into the water and started to take my strokes. It happened again. I began to choke on the water and I had to stop the race. I looked up from the water to see the red face and bulging eyes on my swim instructor. What he said next came as a crushing blow to me. He told me "to get out of the pool and that it was no hope for me." "I was too weak to be a swimmer." He said, "I wouldn’t swim because my front teeth were buck and this prevented me from keeping my mouth closed." He told me "I needed an orthodontist more than swim lessons." "Go home kid…don't waste my time anymore!

I got on my bike and pedaled home. I told myself getting a swimming certificate wasn't important and I didn’t need swim class. I felt defeated. How was I going to explain this to my mother? She adored this man. I walked into the kitchen to find my mother. With one quick glance she knew something was wrong. I began to cry and told her I was sorry I wouldn’t be the swimmer she wanted me to be. She asked me what happened. I told her the details. My mother is Irish and without saying another word I saw her fly out the door in a fiery huff. She came home with only two things to say. Number one, you don't need to worry about Mr. Flipper ever again. Number two, on Monday we are going to the dentist and getting his opinion on whether you need braces!

Many years later I had the opportunity and I returned to the YMCA for a day of swimming. It was in a different town but the pool size was the same. The moment I walked through the door and I smelled the scent of chlorine, I could feel my shoulders begin to sink and I felt like I was seven again. I decided after all these years I needed to prove something to myself. So I stood on the side of the pool and jumped into the pool. I took a deep breath and began to stroke and breathe, stroke and breathe I was doing it and I finished the lap!

I wish that Mr. Flipper was standing at the end of the victory lap. But he wasn’t. Standing up and looking back at the stretch of the lap, I felt proud of my accomplishment. I thought back to the day I allowed Mr. Flipper to humiliate me in front of the class and my friends. A smile then appeared on my face because I realized that he had done me a favor that day. Through the years I have met many people who are deceiving in their appearance and character. Through this experience I learned how to deal with them. I will never let anyone tell me I can't accomplish something. My will is greater than any disappointment.



Composite score 9;  Student was placed into ENG 121.

Deceit often comes about when we least expect it; perhaps this is the thing that makes it so horrible. Of all the times I have been deceived in my life, that of the boy always finds its way into my thoughts on a daily basis. I didn't think I will ever be able to forget him.

From the age of six, I had had a friend whose names was Marcus. We weren't the best of friends, but there was a decent amount of trust between us. This friendship lasted until highschool.

Marcus had been a cheerful, playful, and intelligent boy. In kindergarten we had been partners for the Halloween contest parade; we won. Come first grade we found ourselves partners once again. I remember looking forward to winning this math competition with him. Except, when the day of the competition arrived Marcus never showed.

My classmates and I had come to learn that Marcus was in the hospital. We were told that he had a very bad cold and would return to school in a month. Sure enough, he did.

By eighth grade Marcus had grown to be a handsome, mature, and loving boy. Being I attended a Catholic school whose grades consisted of twenty students, we had become a small family.

Marcus had been a class clown, an "A" student, and a highly religious member of the church. He never let anyone down.Then, one day in January Marcus stopped coming to school. We all got very worried; we then quickly found relief with his return. He had developed a pattern of absences and returns. I never found it suspicious.

In late May, Marcus never came back. We were told that even all that time he had been battling with brain cancer. I could not believe that someone fighting for his life at such a young age could be so cheerful and joyous.

As a class, we took many trips to visit him in the hospital. In August he was released to come home. As far as doctors could tell, Marcus had won the battle. On October 19, 1996, I visited Marcus in his home, accompanied with several former classmates. He looked so healthy and happy; I was so proud. On October 23, 1996 he was rushed to the hospital. He died soon after.

He is proof that you should never judge a book by its cover. The grass isn't always greener on the other side. Appearances do deceive.



Composite score of 8;  Student was placed into ENG 121.

As a young girl I lived a sheltered life. I grew up in a small town in New Jersey called Avenel. I attended a private Christian school from k to 7th grade in Piscataway and went to Church every Sunday in Perth Amboy, NJ. During my pre and early teens, I really didn't have the opportunity to go over my friends houses to just hang out because they all lived in different parts of New Jersey.

I knew my parents were planting a good foundation for me, however, I felt I was mission out on some exciting memories - until I went to the 8th grade. My parents allowed me to go to public school and the word recreation was at the top of my vocabulary. I was able to do the things that I had yearned for. From middle school through high school I had friends that lived in the same town as I and we were able to go over each other's house and do homework, go to the mall, or just plain hang out.
I can remember going to the skating rink on a Saturday night with my friends and meeting a guy named Keith. I thought he was the coolest thing. I couldn't wait until the following Saturdays came so I could see him again. Soon after we became friends he eventually became my first boyfriend. I knew I was in love and we would get married
have children, and live happily ever after.

My whole life started to revolve around Keith. Whatever he told me to do I did. Before long I began to shut my friends out because everything had to be about Keith and of course, he could do no wrong. I can recall one evening at the skating rink meeting his friends by coincidence and through conversation they knew all about me and that I wasn't the only girl Keith was seeing. Nonetheless I didn't believe them because I thought he had loved me and knew he wouldn't cheat on me.

For weeks, those words that his friends told me stayed on my mind yet I had to get to the bottom of the situation to know the truth. A few years earlier my sister had married my brother in law who had lived in the same town as Keith. My brother in law also had a sister named Holly who was the same age as I and by chance had known Keith because they had some classes together at Plainfield High School. I explained the whole situation to Holly and we came up with a game plan to see if in fact Keith was misleading me in our relationship. One evening the High School was hosting a fashion show and Holly had invited me to come because she knew he was going to be there. Once we arrived we stood off to the side where we really couldn't be noticed and waited until he arrived. When he did he waltzed in with another young lady on his arm and he was introducing her as his girlfriend. I was truly crushed but not as much as he was after he saw me walk passed him.



Composite score of 7;  Student was placed into ENG 010 .

I was raised that when you get married, you begin a new and beautiful life with your partner and the family you'll be creating. Love and happiness were the most important ingredients in my family until one day I found out that my father is cheating on my mom. My father was the only one in the family living in the United States for about fourteen years. There he met a Dominican woman who did not care about his marriage. At first, I thought that he was just going out with that lady, then it really hurt me to find out that they were living together. The situation started effecting my whole family and in return added serious problems between my parents.
I was deceived by my father, I think that I was the one who suffered the most pain in the family. My father was the most importan and beautiful person in the word to me. I used to love and trust him more then I ever trust my mom. He was very special to me. Since that day, I could not look at him without thinking of how much he hurt my mother. I found out by my cousing Helda.

He changed the way my family thought of him and also changed my heart. He disappointed me very much. I had never thought he would do something like that to my mother who is a beautiful and patient person. She had respected him all her life and she has never lay eyes on any men. She is a very innocent woman. My mother is the kind of person that instead of going out would rather stay home and take care of the family by working or doing chores. I did not even think that my father would have not cared about what his family thought about him.

I was about fourteen years old when he began to cheat on my mom. As a matter of fact, I remember that at that age, I had a nicely shaped body. I was in the best shape of my life. But as soon as I started to think about how my father dishonored my mother, I began losing weight. Consequently, I lost my figure. I couldn not even eat well. I looked very skinny. I felt very bad because people were asking me why was I losing so much weight. Others asked me that if I was falling in love or something of that sent. It really bothered me because by that time, I didn't really know what falling in love was nor I had the slightest idea.
I am still deceived by my father because even though he is not living with that lady anymore, I knew for sure that he is still enamored by her and also visits her from time to time. I can't stand when I see him getting dressed to go out to see that stupid lady. My mother and I suffer every day because he usually comes home late every night. This is something notorious. It seems like he will always be that way. I feel depressed because he is not the father I spent the first years of my life with. He doesn't seem happy anymore nor he expresses sweet words to his family. He doesn't pay much attention to his family since that incident happened. He made my life confused and my heart empty like the beach without the ocean and the night without the stars.
Know I see a loss of communication between everyone in the family. I feel betrayed from my father's insincerity. He is not being fair with my family or me because of his unreasonable actions. I still love him but not the way I used to because I don't think he would over come the pain he caused to me.



Composite score 6; Student was placed into ENG 010

You felt so hurt, so surprised inside, when you found out that the person you were admired was always admiring you from the deep inside. And the worst thing is, you couldn't even tell it. Betty Boop was one of them.

Betty Boop was 26 years old. She has light blue eyes and long curly blond hair. She was 5'6" tall and weighted 109 punds. Her favourite color was blue. Because every day mostly she was wearing blue. When she walked at the street, she took all the attention. She was talkative but always had distant. And also she was very wealthy. Her father owned nearly half of the town.

I knew Betty since we were kids. As a matter of fact, we were in the same class since the first grade. As I watched her from the outside, I always thought that she was everything that I could dreamed of; the beauty, the money, good family and friends. I always wanted to be like her. And I kept thinking that she was the happiest person in the world.

One rainy morning, while I was getting ready for the school, I heard the bad news. Betty had killed herself I couldn't believe it. I wondered why? She had everything. What was the reason for such a horrible things. Well I found out at the funeral. I was the only one from high school that was saying goodbye to her on her last journey. The rest of the people were her family and relatives I was shocked. I thought she had a lot of friends.

I felt so sorry for her. I understood that she was all alone. Friends were only acting. She did not have anybody to share her pains, sorrows. And I blamed myself. Why was I such a coward. At least I could be a good friend. But it was too late. I kept blaming myself for two moths. And at that time I began to know everybody in school. I began to make good friends.

I promised myself that I will never put a person such on untouchable place. And I would never be a coward. From that day I make a lot of good friends and learn everybody was different from outside Please never judge from outside. Try to get to know them. Most of the admirable persons have their weakness. Try to help them. That's what friends are for.



Composite score of 6; Student was placed into ENG 010

My cousin Juan Colon deceived my family and I. He pretended he was always happy but deep down inside he was this sad man crying for help.

Everytime Juan would come to the house he seemed so happy. Everytime I was upset about something he would be the first person there trying to make me happy. He would make up the funniest jokes that had me laughing until my stomach hurt. He was like a big brother to me, a brother I never had. I would go to him to get advice whenever I had a problem.

On November 3, 2000 Juan came over to my house. He seemed upset about something. I saw it in his eyes, he was trying to act like he was happy but deep down inside he was crying for help, but he didn't know who to turn to. I wish he would of come to me for some advice.

On November 4, 2000 my aunt called my mother crying. She told her Juan passed away. She found him in his bedroom laying in blood. I took the news the hardest out of everyone in my family. We was always together, he was at my house the day before and I knew something was wrong but he pretend everything was just right.

Appearances can be deceiving. I wish people could talk about how they feel and don't hold it inside. Because it could really stress you out. My cousin was a walking time bomb waiting to blow up and he solved his problem the wrong way. Till this day nobody understand why.



Composite score 5;  Student was  placed into ENG 009

Two years ago, I was in high schol and my best friend dressed like a hood rat. But deep inside he was educated and very nice. People used to see him through his appearance. I believe that appearance are deceiving.

For many years people made fun of my best friend. But I stood by him through out high school. Now that he is in college he made new friends that feel the same way he does. His appearance in high school was misled in the students eye. I recall, one day we were walking to class and some kid started to look and point. I understood why people would do such a thing, because of his looks.

I've known my best friend all my life. As a little kid he was always trying new things. When he thought that he would get attention from doing something, he did. When I slept over his house when I was a kid, I noticed that he was different when his parents spoke to him and when my friends and I spoke to him. I think that when he talked to his parents, he was living a lie.

One day he tired to ask out a girl in his math class. When she said no, he turned into a man and told her that he was better then her anyways. Eventually my girlfriend found him a girl. They both got alone very well. He started seeing her all the time and not seeing his friend at all. Untill she told him that they should be friends. Then he came to me and said "Mohamad I will never let you or your girl mess with my life again." I did not why he blamed everything on everyone else.

In conclusion to my situation, I must say that when a person judges a book by its cover, it is not always true. People are misled everyday through looks and how they present themselves If you need to judge a person truthfully, first you must get to know the person for who they really are.



Composite score 3; Student was placed into ENG 009.

I had a friend who was being misled into marriage until she discovered the truth about her boyfriend. Her names is Lisa found out that her boyfriend stole her engment ring and gave it to another person. My sister and I had a big fight she told me that I deceive her by telling her parents what she did and how she act in school. I just found out that my sister Diana is on medication for her depression. Which to me is scary because I wouldn't do anything to hurt her. Especially the time I told Diana that I borrowed her clothes to wear on a Friday and I ruined her skirt by wasting wine on it.

I try my best to help her in many ways and Diana needs time to think about what she said about me deceivceing her. Because she had done that to me several times in a relationship sisters. I feel that people shouldn't be deceivceful toward other people Especially when it comes down to family members.