- ★★★★★: This story stands on its own as a work of literature, never mind as a pony fanfic. If copyright laws weren't a thing, it could be commercially published. I'd buy a copy, anyway.
- ★★★★☆: This story was well-written, interesting, and engaging. It is an undeniably impressive bit of writing.
- ★★★☆☆: There are some minor problems with this story, but it is still unquestionably a high-quality work. Although it's not the first example I'd turn to, I'd feel comfortable using it as an example of top-tier fanfiction.
- ★★☆☆☆: Although this story still falls among the 10% of ponyfics which reside outside of Sturgeon's Law, there are significant and noticeable issues with the story or writing. A good read, but not something I'd consider truly exceptional.
- ★☆☆☆☆: There are significant, systemic problems with this story. I would not assign it a place of prominence in any discussion of "great fanfics."
Based on this rating system, I expect to award a lot of middling and low ratings. Again, please bear in mind what these star ratings denote. A three-star from me is still a very good fic, and a one-star encompasses everything from "typical fanfiction" on down.