Generally speaking, an essay that answers the question asked but in a broad general way emphasizing only some specifics, does not answer all parts of the question and/or is perhaps in need of better writing and/or organization will probably earn a “C”. A “B” essay is a very good essay but one that could perhaps use more specifics and/or more analysis and/or tighter writing and organization. An “A” essay is one that is well written and organized, answers the question in full, and uses many specific examples. You will get a “D” if your essay has inaccurate information, and/or is poorly written and organized, and/or if it omits parts of the question asked. You will get an “F” if you fail to answer the question asked or if your writing is extremely poor or if you write very little.
Students often wonder how much they should write to get an “A.” Keep in mind that this is intended to be a long essay where you are given three hours to write, and is not a short answer exam. These essays are not intended to be short answer exams like the other assignments, but rather are full essays and should take the majority of the period to complete. It is by default an open book and open note exam, so you need to be specific in your examples and avoid general or vague statements. While you will be graded more on content then on length, generally speaking (and from my experience) an “A” exam tends to be at least five double spaced pages (12pt Times New Roman, 1” margins). In other words, don’t expect to get a very good grade if you write only a couple pages or if you are not using the time allowed for the exam wisely. In short, an “A” means outstanding, a “B” means very good, a “C” means satisfactory, a “D” means unsatisfactory, and an “F” means you failed to answer the question. All essays will be graded in 5% increments with 100% being an A+, 95% an A, 90% a B+/A-, and so on. Even though this is an open book exam by default, I suggest that you study the questions and discussion forums, and make notes beforehand on what you would write about if you received that question on the exam. Three hours can go by very quickly if you are unprepared.
Midterm Essay Topics
1. War of 1812.
2. Reasons for economic growth during the first half of the nineteenth century.
3. Factors that contributed to sectionalism 1815-1860.
4. Westward expansion 1815-1850 and the Mexican War of 1846.
5. Reform movements through the Civil War.
Write 4 to 5 pages for each topic. Don’t cite any source. Use your own knowledge and write in your own words.