EVEN THE SAT HAS SWITCHED TO HOLISTIC ESSAY QUESTIONS
Date sent: Wed, 18 Mar 1998 18:39:22 -0800
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Subject: Testing Writing Skills
My understanding of the TSWE (Test of Standard Written English) is that
it has been replaced by the SAT II Writing Test. (If anyone knows
differently, let the ECC and me know!) This SAT II subject test
(formerly called Achievement Test) is a one hour test that requires
students to write a simple essay in 20 minutes on a topic that is given,
and then work for 40 min. on a multiple choice grammar test: correct
usage, errors, sentance structure, etc. One can spend more time on the
written portion, but they will be rushed on the multiple choice section
if they do. Here is what the Princeton Review people have to say about
it in one of their study guides:
"ETS says the essay is graded holistically. That means they look at the
total impression that the essay the essay gives. In about two minutes,
what kind of impression can you make?
The multiple-choice part of the test is worth 600 points; the essay is
worth 200. Your essay is read by two people. Each will give the essay
a score on a scale of 1 to 6, 6 being the highest. The two scores are
added together and translate into the following contributions to your
total score. (Chart follows with a raw score and the point values for
each.) ETS publications tell you that graders are encouraged to look at
what has been done well, rather than what hasn't been done. Obviously,
careful scrutiny is just not possible.
What you're creating is a good impression. Although we're not
advocating carelessness, little mistakes are not a big deal in the
graders' eyes. What apparently impresses graders is length. In fact,
if you checked out what ETS considers to be the paradigms of a great
essay and a bad essay, it becomes overwhelmingly clear that one thing is
valued more than any other." The section goes on to say that
handwriting is very important."
Typical subjects for the essays are:
"Neither a borrower nor a lender be."
"History repeats itself."
"It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."
Instructions are: "Choose a specific example from personal experience,
current events, or from your reading in history, literature, or other
subjects and use this example as the basis for an esssay in which you
agree or disagree with the statement above. Be sure to be specific."
I don't know how this SAT II Writing test compares to the old TSWE. If
anyone can be more specific, please let us know.
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