Need Help Interpreting the New Review Scores?


Implementation of many of the Enhancements to Peer Review began with the May 2009 review meetings, and some applicants are already receiving summary statements with scores determined under the new system. If you need help understanding your grant application’s review scores, read on…

Reviewers have been instructed to provide scores for each individual review criterion, and an overall impact/ priority score for each application. These scores are given in whole numbers on a 9-point rating scale according to the following descriptions and additional guidance:

Strengths and Weaknesses Table
Score Descriptor Additional Guidance on Strengths/Weaknesses
1 Exceptional Exceptionally strong with essentially no weaknesses
2 Outstanding Extremely strong with negligible weaknesses
3 Excellent Very strong with only some minor weaknesses
4 Very Good Strong but with numerous minor weaknesses
5 Good Strong but with at least one moderate weakness
6 Satisfactory Some strengths but also some moderate weaknesses
7 Fair Some strengths but with at least one major weakness
8 Marginal A few strengths and a few major weaknesses
9 Poor Very few strengths and numerous major weaknesses
Minor Weakness:An easily addressable weakness that does not substantially lessen impact
Moderate Weakness: A weakness that lessens impact
Major Weakness: A weakness that severely limits impact

The final overall impact/priority score for each application is calculated by determining the average of the overall impact/priority scores given by all eligible review panel members to one decimal point and multiplying by ten. Thus, the new scores range from 10-90 in whole numbers.

For example, if we consider a final overall impact/priority score of 55, we can see that the score should reflect a “good” to “satisfactory” application that the reviewers judged to be of moderate impact, and that it has some strengths, but also one or more moderate weaknesses.

For more information about the guidance given to reviewers, download the Reviewer Orientation at or visit the Enhancing Peer Review Web site at