Many essays in previous contests would have received higher grades if only the writers had carefully read over the essays before submitting them.

Every year, we must disregard hundreds of essays because of simple spelling, punctuation, grammar, and factual errors (such as misquoting people in the video).

We hope these tips will help you put your best essay forward:
  • Proofread your essay.
  • Have someone else proofread your essay (no, that's not cheating).
  • Ensure that all names are spelled correctly.
  • Check grammar rules if you're unsure.
  • Check your facts.
  • Double-check quotes.
  • Additional research, while not required, will earn you extra points.
  • Broadening discussion to areas not discussed in the video is crucial to winning a top prize.
We want students to know that their essays are carefully judged, with a standard of fairness and respect for the students' hard work. Our judging process applies a battery of set standards for levels of quality. All essays are graded in these areas:
  • Originality (is the essay based on original arguments, going beyond points made by John and information included in the video, building a case that is logical and persuasive?)
  • Conceptual Understanding
  • Factual Accuracy
  • How Interesting Is It?
  • Structure (including vocabulary and writing style)
  • Grammar/Spelling/Punctuation
  • Addresses the Topic and Reference the Video?
The judging process goes through four separate rounds:
Round 1
Judges weed out the bottom essays and move the top essays (approximately three times the number that will actually receive any award) on to Round 2.
Round 2
Each essay receives the benefit of fresh eyes and different points of view when they are read and re-graded by two new judges to decide which essays will continue to Round 3.
Round 3
Each essay is read and re-graded by SEVEN graders. In addition to grades, each judge gives a rank order to their top 10 and identifies the essays they see as the bottom 10.
Round 4
The top essays move on to the final round, where our top SEVEN judges (including John Stossel) will read, grade, and rank the top essays to determine Finalist awards and the Top 5 prizes. The top essays will be read and graded at least SEVENTEEN times by numerous judges.

We hope this ensures that no good essay will fall victim to the mood or whim of one judge, who may be negatively predisposed or prejudiced against a reference, hook, or tone. Judging is very hard work, and we take it very seriously! Good luck!