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Marking Scheme for Essay

Marking scheme for essay: understanding grading criteria.


Marking scheme for an essay is criteria that describe how marks are provided to an essay. An essay has a various aspect, and each aspect is kept under consideration while marking it.

Here is a small distribution of marks in an essay:-

  •    Clarity of your thoughts- 30%
  •    Delivery of the content- 30%
  •    Language- 30%
  •    Accuracy of grammar- 10%

This is the standard way of the distribution of marks for your essay. That means for scoring good marks your essay should be clear, it should be delivered correctly, language should be formal, and grammar should be up to the mark.

What is the marking scheme?

Marking scheme is a criterion that instructs you to plan to mark accordingly. Various subjects have a different marking scheme. A subject like mathematics has to mark scheme in such a way that it provides marks for steps also. Whereas in subjects like science have targets for the diagram and their labelling. While in social science depends on the answer and its presentations.

Need for understanding marking scheme:-

  • By understanding the marking scheme, you can save your time by not wasting time on writing unnecessary material to fulfill the marking criterion.
  • You will get an idea of how to structure your answers according to it.
  • You will be able to score higher grades.

These are the benefits that you can enjoy if you are aware of what is marking scheme for your subject.

What are the types of marking scheme for Essay?

There in terms of marking scheme, every essay has a set pattern of marking scheme. Mainly there are two types of marking scheme for your essay.

Here are two types of marking scheme:-

   Structured Marking Scheme-

In this form of marking, one needs to follow a particular structure of marking. Examiners have to follow a set of rule that is motioned in the scheme itself.

Unstructured Marking scheme-

In such a marking scheme, there is no such rule set to be followed. One can comment according to the performance of the students. But then the responsibility in this section raises a lot. You should have an explanation for your marking.

These are the two marking style as well as their example. Hopefully, you would have an idea about how to plan your essay according to both the style.

Marking Scheme For An Essay By Country

Every country has a different marking scheme according to its education system. Here are some countries and their grading systems:

The universities in India come under a commission known as UGC or University Grand Commission. Each private university should be affiliated from UGC else the degree has no validation.

Here is the marking scheme of Indian Universities:-

Maximum Marks: 100

Minimum Marks: 00

Minimum Marks Required to Pass: 40 or 30 (according to the various universities)

Hence, you need to score accordingly for respective division and result.

England and Wales-

As India, England too has a set of marking scheme for essay writing. They follow ‘honors’ patterns.

Have a look on the marking pattern of England and Wales Universities:-

Therefore, if you want to study in the university of England and Wales, then you have to prepare yourself according to the above mention marking scheme. 

The United States-

At the United States, universities follow GPA (Grade Point Average) system as a marking scheme for essay. They evaluate the marks and then convert them into GPA and then decide the division that students have scored.

Here is the marking scheme of universities of the United States:-

How to covert marks into GPA:-

With the help of above method, you can calculate your GPA and have an idea what and how did you score.

What are the characteristics of a good marking scheme for the essay?

As you have read above, the marking scheme for essay writing various from country to country. But the constant thing is the parameter to analyze the quality of a good marking scheme. 

Here are the characteristics of a good marking scheme for essay:-

Even distribution of Marks:-

Even   distribution of marks is very important for a good marking scheme. Scores should be divided according to the question’s nature. If the question is objective type, you can award one marks each to the questions, and id it is comprehensive then you might award three marks each. If it is an essay, you can grant five to ten targets.


While planning a marking scheme one should keep all types of student in mind. An average student, as well as a below-average student with the topper ones, should be able to score at least passing marks. Marking scheme should not be deliberately designed in such a way that it should promote the skills of a good student.


Students should be made aware of the facts that which objective will contain what marks. This draws transparency in the marking scheme. They can analyze their mistake and will try and improve it.

Marking scheme for essay writing should be practical enough to be relatable in the present time. It should improvise and motivate the student to improve and strive back hard.

These are some characteristics of a good marking scheme. Though various other universities may have a slight difference from the above aspect, most of them do agree on the same ground. 

Marking Scheme for essay

When in terms of marking scheme for essay writing, there is a section which the marks are distributed.

Here are the points in which the marks are allotted:-

This was the marking style for an essay. With the help of above mention description, you will be able to write an essay that will be efficient enough to score a good grade. 

Wrapping up! An essay is an essential part of a curriculum. Essays are very scoring, all you need to know is the right pattern and the marking scheme of the essay. There are several samples of marking scheme for essay, from which you can have an idea about it. 

Hopefully, this would have helped you with your essay writing. All the best!

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Leaving Cert English Masterplan  by Paul McCormack

In this article, Paul McCormack takes a look at the Leaving Cert Higher Level English papers and breaks down exactly what you need to cover with tips on what to focus on and the depth required. 

Download the Masterplan in PowerPoint


If you want to be a good writer, you need to concentrate not just on what you say, but also on how you say it.

Marking Scheme - PCLM

  • Purpose (30%)
  • Coherence of Delivery (30%)
  • Language (30%)
  • Mechanics (10%)

Paper 1 -200 marks

Timing – 2hrs 50mins = 170 mins

  • QA – 60 minutes
  • QB – 30minutes
  • Composition – 70 minutes
  • 10 minutes – ‘wriggle-room’

Comprehension – QA  - 50m = 12.5%

  • 3 texts – Answer on 1
  • 3 Questions: 2x15m + 1x20 marks
  • Expectation – 5 marks = 1 paragraph
  • NO opening or closing paragraph required

Expect Q(i) to be very straightforward – often a simple character analysis task.

Based on your reading of the written element of TEXT 3, explain three insights you gain into the character of Ariadne O’Neill. Support your response with reference to the text.

Expect Q(iii) to be a style question – vital to prepare and be able to identify the key qualities of different styles of writing: a)    Argument -----> Discursive  b)    Persuasion ----> Speech / talk c)    Story / narrative d)    Description / Aesthetic e)    Personal writing

Expect Q(ii) to be the most challenging . In recent years, these questions have required candidates to be imaginative . These questions often do not require direct reference to the attached Reading Comprehension passage.  

Example: In TEXT 1, Jeanette Winterson claims that, “We go to Shakespeare to find out about ourselves now.” With reference to a Shakespearean play you have studied for your 2019 Leaving Certificate course, identify an image, moment or episode that revealed something to you about “yourselfnow”. Explain the insight(s) you gained from engaging with this image, moment or episode.

Comprehension – QB - 50m = 12.5%

  • 3 tasks – Answer on 1
  • Pick QB first
  • Imaginative tasks – often requires candidate to adopt a persona
  • Task usually involves a ‘framework’ instruction, i.e. A speech; a talk; an introduction to a collection of essays; a magazine article / blog post / article for school website; a formal letter; a Diary entry

Questions will also usually contain a list of tasks that must be addressed across the response. The key here is to be:  1)    Accurate 2)    Consistent 3)    Imaginative 4)    Concise  

Example: In TEXT 1, Jeanette Winterson extols the virtues of the arts, arguing that artistic activities are beneficial both for individuals and for society in general. She also gives her views on the relationship between art and money. Write an opinion piece, suitable for publication in a broadsheet newspaper, in which you extol the varied virtues of sport, put forward a reasoned argument to persuade readers that sport benefits both individuals and society, and give your views on the appropriate relationship between sport and money.

Composition – 100m = 25%

  • The most important section of the exam
  • 7 choices – select one
  • Questions always genre-specific
  • A personal essay
  • A short story
  • A discursive essay

There will also likely be an option to write: 

  • A descriptive essay
  • A persuasive essay
  • A magazine / newspaper article

The style of writing is the most important criteria for assessment here. Tasks are genre-specific, so:

  • A short story should contain obvious elements of narrative / aesthetic language
  • A speech should display an understanding of persuasive and argumentative techniques
  • A discursive essay should display a balanced, informed, considered approach
  • A personal essay should be reflective and contain ‘individual observation’

The marking schemes very clearly lay out the expectations related to each style of essay and should be studied closely.

The quality of language and expression  will be closely examined in this task above all others. The expectation is that the candidate will display a strong understanding of the particulars of the selected genre and will write in an articulate and clear style.

Imagination and Originality are key factors in a successful composition.

Paper 2 – 200m – 200 minutes.

Time management: take one hour to write each essay, and then spend 20 minutes on Unseen Poetry at the end.

There is an expectation that all answers on Paper 2 will be:

  • Substantial (anywhere between 1,000 & 1,200 words is a reasonable expectation)
  • Evidence-based. Quotation is vitally important here. There is an absolute expectation of supporting quotation for answers to Single Text and Studied Poetry answers. Quotation also adds to the quality of comparative answers.
  • Analytical – the expectation is that answers will contain thoughtful and considered question-facing commentary. All Paper 2 tasks are exercises in CRITICAL THINKING.
  • Properly structured.  

Note: In responses to Single Text and Studied Poetry tasks, opening and closing paragraphs certainly should be written . However, they should be brief and only need to accomplish one task – state the candidate’s response to the statement proposal in the question. Every answer on Paper 2 must be written in the language of argument  so provide your THESIS and move on. Closing paragraphs should again be brief and simply re-iterate the thesis. Candidates do not need to ‘list’ points on the OP or CP.

Single Text – 60m = 15%

Five texts are prescribed for study:

  • All the Light We Cannot See
  • A Doll’s House
  • Frankenstein
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • There will be 2 questions on each text and candidates must answer one question.
  • The question will contain multiple elements

Examples: #1 Discuss how Shakespeare makes effective use, for a variety of purposes, of the contradictions and inconsistencies evident in Othello’s character. Develop your discussion with reference to Shakespeare’s play, Othello.

#2 Discuss how Shakespeare’s use of language, including imagery, plays an important part in developing our understanding of one of the following aspects of his play, Othello: themes; characterisation; setting and atmosphere. Develop your answer with reference to the text.


  • Answers will be question-facing.
  • Answers will not ‘narrate’ the studied text.
  • Answers will be thoughtful, and points and evidence will be contextualised in the light of the question.
  • Between 4-6 relevant points will be presented in a logical and structured essay.

Othello – Key Topics for Revision:

  • The story-arc of the main characters
  • The modern appeal 
  • Universal themes like corruption and deception are particularly important.

Comparative Three modes are prescribed for study:

  • The cultural context
  • Theme and issue
  • Literary genre


  • Each mode will offer a choice between two questions.
  • One choice will be a stand-alone 70-mark essay. 
  • In 2021, candidates could refer to 2 texts when answering this question WITHOUT FEAR OF PENALTY.
  • The other choice will be divided into Part A (30) marks and Part B (40 marks).
  • Candidates are expected to be able to refer to three texts when answering this question.

Expectations: Answers will

  • Be written in the comparative spirit
  • Display a detailed knowledge of the selected texts
  • Avoid paraphrasing / narrating the selected texts.

When writing a Comparative answer, ensure you clearly identify your selected texts before you begin to write. The list technique is a very effective way to do this.

Try to develop 3-4 points in a thoughtful and analytical style. 

Studied Poetry: Poets Prescribed for Higher Level 2022

  • Expect to see at least one poet from each category on your exam. 
  • 4 poets are usually examined
  • In 2021, 5 poets were examined.
  • Candidates have to answer on one poet.
  • Questions will usually explicitly refer to  a)    The thematic content of a poet’s work b)    Aspects of the poet’s style of writing  
  • Candidates should refer to between 4-6 poems in an answer.
  • Candidates will focus in on 3-4 core poems and then refer to another 1-2 other poems in context.
  • Candidates will not summarise the poems. 
  • Candidates will be selective in choice of evidence. 
  • You do not have to tell the examiner the story of the poem.  
  • The questions will vary in difficulty . Decision-making is a key skill here.
  • A good example if this comes from the 2020 Paper 2:

Emily Dickinson  Discuss how Dickinson’s unique approach to language, and the balance between beauty and horror in her imagery, help to relieve some of the darker aspects of her poetry. Develop your response with reference to the poems by Emily Dickinson on your course. 

Adrienne Rich Discuss how Rich makes effective use of a variety of characters, often in dramatic settings, to probe both personal issues and wider social concerns in her poems. Develop your response with reference to the poetry by Adrienne Rich on your course.

One of these questions was much easier than the other...

Finally, some comments from the Chief Examiner that are worth considering...

The Leaving Certificate English Syllabus states that, “Developing control and power over language is the most essential educational achievement for all students if they are to become confident, thoughtful and discriminating adults and citizens”, (Leaving Certificate Syllabus, English, para. 3.5). The importance of key language skills is emphasised throughout the Marking Schemes for Leaving Certificate English and candidates who exhibit competence and control in the use of language are rewarded. It should be remembered that  candidates’ language skills are continuously assessed in the marking of answers to all questions on both Papers 1 and Paper 2 of the Leaving Certificate English examination. The criteria for assessment are applied in the case of every answer at both Higher and Ordinary Levels. This means that candidates who exhibit fluency appropriate to the task are rewarded in relation to every question answered. It is worth noting that some examiners identified candidates who were able to demonstrate knowledge of a text or texts but were less able to deliver this knowledge in a lucid and coherent fashion. 

An appropriate awareness of grammatical and syntactical conventions contributed to the cohesiveness of better answers in the 2013 examination, as did the use of correct spelling and punctuation. Weaker responses tended to be characterised by an inability to organise answers in a logical and coherent fashion and a lack of clear expression. The syllabus requires that, “all students will be expected to be assiduous in their attention to paragraphing, syntax, spelling and punctuation.” 

Candidates at both Higher and Ordinary Levels benefited when they exhibited an ability to structure their writing, organise paragraphs, spell accurately and correctly employ punctuation. 

The criteria for assessment also make explicit reference to the “use of lively interesting phrasing, energy, style and fluency”. It is essential that candidates are aware of the many purposes for which language is used and the diverse forms it can take, to appropriately serve particular purposes and audiences. Creative and thoughtful users of language were rewarded.

Paul McCormack is a senior English teacher at the Institute of Education, Leeson Street, Dublin. He is the author of Bridge The Gap TY English and Uncovering History.

Copyright © Folens Publishers 2023. All rights reserved

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Leaving Cert Notes and Sample Answers

The Leaving Cert personal essay is a well loved and virtually permanent feature of Paper 1 (here is some evidence ).

It belongs in the 100 marks Composition section, the single biggest chunk of the English exam.

What is the personal essay?

It calls for a confessional, introspective tone.

Do you like the sound of these questions:

  • Remember those times when you did not say what you really thought or felt. Why didn’t you? How do you feel about it now?
  • How would you feel about a terrible event of your past if it happened today?
  • What did you learn about building family relationships based on the experience of your parents and grandparents?

You get the message – this is serious life stuff! The Leaving Cert personal essay may be one of the only times you truly get to be yourself in a standardised exam.

The marking scheme allows us to interpret the term “personal essay”’ liberally, potentially even entirely or partly as personal (first person) narratives.

How to do well in the personal essay?

Reading such an essay, you should get the feeling that you are learning someone’s deeper thoughts and reflections. It shouldn’t feel like an opinion piece in a newspaper.

Even though a certain stream of consciousness quality is usually acceptable with these essays, remember that clarity (the P of PCLM) always gets priority .

By reading the correct and H1 sample essays below, you will learn how much to write, what kind of themes come up again and again and how you may be able to differentiate yourself from the crowd.

‘To live is the rarest thing in the world, most people just exist.’ – Oscar Wilde

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Institute of Education

English Study Resources

What does it take to get a h1 in higher level english.

Ciara Georgina Walker & Kathy McGrath, past students from The Institute of Education who achieved a H1 in their Leaving Cert higher level English exam, share their top revision tips.

Ciara Georgina Walker | How I Achieved My H1

Be concise!

I think the single, most important thing I’ve learnt when writing is to be concise. I never seemed to write as much as everybody else in essays. While that initially worried me, I came to realise that shorter, to-the-point essays were probably much appreciated by the people marking them!

Practice all sorts of essays

I found that a good way to do this is to compile a list of essay titles from past papers and get someone to randomly choose one for you to write. Try and do this at least one a week and don’t avoid essay titles that you don’t like.

Know your text inside out and back to front!

I found that my best tool for Paper 2 was to read the set works until I knew them backwards. I started by familiarising myself with the plots and poems, then wrote notes in the margins and made links within and between works. For poetry, I learnt off the shorter poems so that I had a larger repertoire of quotes. Make sure you learn enough poets to have at least one, but preferably two on the day of the exam. When it comes to Shakespeare, I found that translating the text into modern English was a really good way of understanding it.

Read the questions carefully

In the exam, read through the paper with a highlighter in hand and pick out important words in the questions. Choose the ones which you have an opinion on. Remember that you do not have agree, especially if you are asked to discuss a statement. If you think that the author or director in question does a poor job of exploring a certain issue, you can say so as long as you can back up your argument.

Kathy McGrath | How I Achieved My H1

Timing is crucial

Timing was always an issue for me, so I trained until I got better at it. As the year went on, I would give myself less and less time to get essays done. In the run up to the exam, I would practice under exam conditions.

Be active and write!

Have an hour to do some English study? Do a reading comprehension. Most of your study should involve actively writing – it’s the only way you’ll improve.

Feed your mind and develop ideas

In Paper 1, I would sometimes struggle to think of what to write. To help with this I collected ideas about different topics throughout the year. I read the newspaper whenever I got the chance, particularly the opinion pieces. Watching TED talks was a revelation – inspiration condensed into video format!

Know your texts

Steer clear of falling into the panicked trap of learning off pre-prepared answers. The chances of you being able to slot one of those into a question asked in the exam are slim to none. Understand your texts, know your quotes and you’ll be able to deal with anything.

Answer the question asked

Focus on key phrases in the question and structure your response in a way that answers every element of the question. You won’t get marks for waffle, no matter how eloquent it might be!

Be yourself and have opinions

Let your personality permeate what you write. Be different. Have an unorthodox opinion about a character? As long as you can back it up, include it! If you can show that you can form your own original thoughts and ideas about something, you’re on to a winner.

Reaction to 2023 English Exam Paper 2

Each year, our exceptional teachers give their take on the Leaving Certificate higher level exam papers.

See what Clodagh Havel, English teacher at The Institute of Education, had to say about the 2023 Paper 2  in this short video.

To view reactions to previous year’s English exam papers check out the videos below or visit our YouTube channel .

Sample Notes

Students who attend The Institute of Education are provided with exclusive, exam-focussed study notes to support their home study and revision. Below are a sample of the high-quality English notes they receive.

“If I was to give students one piece of advice before the English Leaving Cert it would be to understand the marking scheme.”

A clear understanding of the PCLM marking scheme (Purpose; Cohesiveness; Language; Mechanics) is crucial if students want to get top marks in the higher level English exam.

In this short video, Cian Hogan, English teacher at The Institute of Education explains why it is so important.

Looking for some help with Paper 2?

In these two short videos, Martin Kelly and Cian Hogan, English teachers at The Institute of Education, step through the marking scheme of Seen Poetry and Comparative and explain how to get top marks in each section.

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1 Composition (Personal Writing)

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The marks awarded to assignments such as essay, research paper or presentation is certainly a matter of assessment and judgment. Though it isn’t all subjective but holds a subjective component. Judging students through marks is inter-subjective as made by professor by dividing the task level into particular criteria. Marking schemes depends on how particular essay is created within its range. Either it is an essay or research paper, students face challenges to compose one.  From understanding essay question to drafting well-structured one, they stuck at simple and easy steps. What’s could be the reason behind it? Is it due to poor subject knowledge or lack of interest in writing? Well, all these Marking Schemes problems are sorted out with reliable online assignment expert .

As essays are used by professor to measure students’ progress and understanding of a course, the writers on our platform offer a 100% custom written essay that helps them score well and stand out in class.  The writers follow assignment help requirements and instructions, and draft an answer which is well-sourced, flawlessly structured and free from grammatical errors. In Australia, almost every university holds different marking schemes, so in order to know how your essay will be marked, it is better to refer to own institution’s guidance and check with their requirements. Below is just an example of marking schemes which may direct on elements that must be included to score the expected grades.

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What does below-mentioned words refers to in Marking Schemes? A Brief by Online Assignment Expert

Content; It direct to these elements:

  • Complete analysis and clear understanding of the topic
  • Awareness of purpose and familiarity with audience
  • Where relevant, make use of appropriate quotations
  • Originality of expression and ideas
  • Where relevant, provide accurate evidence of research and reading

Organization; It direct to these elements:

  • Well-defined thesis statement
  • Use of effective transitions to generate a flow in writing
  • Logical structure within the paragraph and overall content
  • Main ideas in the body paragraphs
  • An introduction, main body paragraphs and conclusion

Mechanics; It direct to these elements:

  • Correct spelling, consistent in usage
  • Capitalization, punctuation, grammar
  • Proper sentence formation; phrases and clauses appropriately connected
  • Verb tense, voice, mood and form
  • Subject-verb agreement
  • Pronoun, adverb form and appropriate adjective
  • Direct and indirect speech
  • Apt use of modifiers

Style; It direct to these elements:

  • Use of appropriate language level (formal, informal, general)
  • Appropriate writing by considering subject, content, audience and purpose
  • Demonstration of appropriate vocabulary
  • Complexity and length of sentences
  • Maintenance of consistent style

Example of Marking Scheme

The 1st Class Standard

This standard demonstrates the elements an outstanding essay should hold.

  • Provide concise but clear presentation
  • Argument originality and clarity on all aspects
  • Demonstrates comprehensive subject knowledge
  • Shows outstanding understanding of issues and debates
  • Confident on use of authentic sources and accurate interpretation of sources/materials
  • Present logical and convincing argument
  • Writing style reflects appropriate level of work
  • Articulate appropriate expression
  • Citation in proper format
  • Provide adequate evidence of judgment in answering the essay question

The 2:1 Standard

This 2:1 essay piece holds the following characteristics;

  • Well-developed, clear and richer argument as compare to 2:2, with well-argued conclusion. Shows the knack to range over appropriate areas of the discipline with proper analysis and intelligent challenges to question set
  • Provide thorough subject knowledge with few minor factual errors
  • Display good understanding of issues and debates
  • Ability to choose and interpret appropriate sources/material
  • Indicate solid creation of an argument
  • Right use of academic citations
  • Demonstrate clear expression
  • The answer to question is well considered and balanced

The 2:2 Standard

This 2:2 essay piece holds the following characteristics;

  • Argument showing few advantages and disadvantages, where suitable, with evidence
  • Demonstrate adequacy, though incomplete subject knowledge with few factual errors
  • Present understanding of issues and debates which are satisfactory
  • Ability to choose and interpret appropriate sources/material, even though flawed
  • Gaps in argument construction
  • Writing style reflects not entirely appropriate level of work
  • Unclear or poor expression
  • Inappropriate understanding of citation in proper format
  • Demonstrates incomplete or partial answer to the question

The 3rd Standard

This 3 rd standard essay piece shows the following characteristics;

  • Display some signs of utilizing relevant and appropriate evidence to tackle the essay question, although the treatment might be scant
  • Demonstrate incomplete subject knowledge with few factual errors
  • Shows little understanding of issues and debates
  • Unable or show difficulty in choosing and interpreting appropriate sources/material,
  • Wider knowledge gap in the argument construction
  • Writing style reflects inappropriate level of work
  • Demonstrates unclear expression
  • Incorrect use of citation
  • Incomplete answer to the question

Fail ; It is usually below 39%

This essay piece shows the following characteristics;

  • Demonstrate vagueness, errors, irrelevant content, lack of understanding
  • Display limited subject knowledge
  • Noteworthy factual errors are present
  • Actual misunderstanding of issues and debates
  • Fail to choose and interpret accurate sources and material
  • Illogical creation of arguments
  • Writing style is unsuitable for the level of work
  • Use of confusing, muddled, misleading and incoherent expression
  • Incorrect or no use of citation
  • Concise but inappropriate answer to the question

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    SPECIMEN MARK SCHEME 1 hour 30 minutes MAXIMUM MARK: 60. 1123/01 Cambridge O Level - Mark Scheme For Examination ... • Given information organised to support personal opinion. • Tone and register appropriate. ... whole essay. Band 1 1 Scripts almost entirely or entirely impossible to recognise as pieces of

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    make the meaning barely comprehensible. 0 5 Almost unrecognizable as English. Almost no sense can be made at all. Marking Scheme Essay - Free download as Word Doc (.doc / .docx), PDF File (.pdf), Text File (.txt) or read online for free. marking scheme to help English teachers.