The paper seeks to present a practical use of reference chains analysis in the grading process of EFL university students’ final practical English examination. The process of grading writing is always perceived as both tedious and subjective not only by the students but also by the examiners. The criteria listed by Cambridge English Language Assessment Department are very general, which makes examiners often adopt an impressionistic perspective while marking the content of the written assignment. At the same time, students often feel dissatisfied with the teacher’s comments on their performance, they cannot clearly see the mistakes in the text structure they have made and often feel unfairly graded. Using reference chains and collocations as one of the steps in the process of written work evaluation makes it possible to put forward clear, straightforward criteria for text organization. It gives immediate insight into the text structure, paragraph organization, superstructure layout and the level of correspondence between the original task and the actual student’s output. By being conducted as a series of precisely defined steps, according to a fixed checklist, it makes it possible for the examiner to draw objective criteria for grading writing. The empirical part of the paper focuses on the analysis of reference chains and collocations identified in the written examination of 15 first year students of English philology.