Test Information Guide

Field 01: Communication and Literacy Skills
Writing Subtest
Sample Open-Response Items

The following materials contain:

Sample Test Directions for the Summary Exercise

This section of the Writing subtest presents a passage for you to summarize in your own words. The passage can be found on the next screen. Prepare a summary of approximately 100 to 150 words.

Your summary should effectively communicate the main idea and significant supporting details of the passage in your own words. You are expected to identify the relevant information and communicate it clearly and concisely without introducing your own ideas.

Your summary will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

The final version of your summary should conform to standard English conventions and should be your own original work.

You may use the erasable note board provided to make notes, write an outline, or otherwise prepare your summary. However, your score will be based solely on the version of your summary that is typed in the answer box.

Sample Summary Exercise

Objective 0011
Demonstrate the ability to prepare an effective summary.

Use the passage below to prepare a summary of 100–150 words.

Since 1999, the number of private companies running public schools has increased dramatically, especially in underperforming urban districts. This trend has generated considerable debate among people with a stake in education. Proponents of privatization argue that when public schools consistently fail to meet expectations, a radical new approach is necessary. Opponents worry that private companies will focus more on making money than on educating children. Although neither side has clearly won the argument, privately run schools do face two major problems: they are not very profitable and they do not necessarily outperform traditional schools.

One of the major claims made by private companies when they entered the education market was that they could manage schools more efficiently than public municipalities. Yet, as private firms attempted to juggle the conflicting priorities of streamlining operations while offering state-of-the-art education, profits have eluded many of these ventures. There are all too many cases like that of the Florida-based company that turned a "problem" elementary school into an educational showcase, but after a decade in business could not afford to mail report cards to parents. Another large private-education firm has not performed much better. As student enrollment increased, the company failed to control administrative costs, resulting in the loss of key contracts with school districts. Although the company continues to run more than one hundred schools, rising costs and fewer clients have meant reduced profits.

Nor have studies of these experiments demonstrated that privatization has dramatically transformed the educational experience of children. Many companies abandoned early efforts to develop their own innovative curricula after discovering the difficulties of the task, leaving them open to criticism. Even more disturbing were the results of a 2002 audit of six locales by the federal government, which revealed that students at privately operated schools in three cities fared worse on standardized tests than those attending publicly run institutions; in a fourth city, the audit found that students at privately run schools performed no better than their public school counterparts. In defense of their record, private-education companies point to gains in student achievement and note that critics overlook the fact that they are working with some of the nation's worst-performing schools. They further contend that change is just beginning, and that conditions will improve over time. Their opponents assert that the results are not good enough. All that can be said for certain at this point is that private management is no automatic guarantee of academic progress.

The privatization experiment is still under way. No one yet knows if private companies will be able to improve children's education while managing to satisfy investors. It is clear, however, that these firms have serious hurdles to overcome if they are to achieve their stated economic and educational objectives.

Sample Strong Response to the Summary Exercise

The sample below is an example of a strong response to the writing summary exercise.

A growing trend in American public education is allowing private companies to run public schools, especially where public schools have been unsuccessful. Radical change in such districts is seen as needed, but critics worry that a profit motive is not best for education. The jury is still out, but so far privately run schools are neither profitable nor particularly successful.

Like public schools, private companies have found it hard to control operational costs while providing high-quality education or new curricula. Where these schools have seen increased enrollment, they have also struggled to control administrative costs, which has led to canceled contracts.

A federal audit showed that in many cases student performance at for-profit schools was lower than that at public schools. Private companies argue they are working with the most challenged population, and that their results will improve in time, but the experiment faces serious obstacles.

Scoring Rubric for the Summary Exercise

Performance Characteristics

The following characteristics guide the scoring of responses to the summary exercise.

Table outlining performance characteristics.
Fidelity The extent to which the response accurately and clearly conveys the main ideas and significant supporting details of the original passage.
Conciseness The extent to which the response is of appropriate length, containing enough specificity to convey the main ideas and significant supporting details, while omitting insignificant content.
Expression The extent to which the candidate uses his or her own words to clearly and coherently convey the main ideas and significant supporting details.
Grammar and Conventions The extent to which the response shows control in the use of standard English conventions.

Scoring Scale

The scoring scale below, which is related to the performance characteristics for the test, is used by scorers in assigning scores to responses to the summary exercise.

Score Scale with description for each score point.
Score Point Score Point Description
4 A well-formed written response.
  • The response accurately and clearly conveys all of the main ideas and significant details of the original passage. It does not introduce information, opinion, or analysis not found in the original. Relationships among ideas are preserved.
  • The response is concise while providing enough statements of appropriate specificity to convey the main ideas and significant details of the original passage.
  • The response is written in the candidate's own words, clearly and coherently conveying main ideas and significant details.
  • The response shows excellent control of grammar and conventions. Sentence structure, word choice, and usage are precise and effective. Mechanics (i.e., spelling, punctuation, and capitalization) conform to standard English conventions.
3 An adequately formed written response.
  • The response conveys most of the main ideas and significant details of the original passage, and is generally accurate and clear. It introduces very little or no information, opinion, or analysis not found in the original. Relationships among ideas are generally maintained.
  • The response may be too long or too short, but generally provides enough statements of appropriate specificity to convey most of the main ideas and significant details of the original passage.
  • The response is generally written in the candidate's own words, conveying main ideas and significant details in a generally clear and coherent manner.
  • The response shows general control of grammar and conventions. Some minor errors in sentence structure, word choice, usage and mechanics (i.e., spelling, punctuation, and capitalization) may be present.
2 A partially formed written response.
  • The response conveys only some of the main ideas and significant details of the original passage. Information, opinion, or analysis not found in the original passage may substitute for some of the original ideas. Relationships among ideas may be unclear.
  • The response either includes or excludes too much of the content of the original passage. It is too long or too short. It may take the form of a list or an outline.
  • The response may be written only partially in the candidate's own words while conveying main ideas and significant details. Language not from the passage may be unclear and/or disjointed.
  • The response shows limited control of grammar and conventions. Errors in sentence structure, word choice, usage, and/or mechanics (i.e., spelling, punctuation, and capitalization) are distracting.
1 An inadequately formed written response.
  • The response fails to convey the main ideas and details of the original passage. It may consist mostly of information, opinion, or analysis not found in the original.
  • The response is not concise. It either includes or excludes almost all the content of the original passage.
  • The response is written almost entirely of language from the original passage or is written in the candidate's own words and is confused and/or incoherent.
  • The response fails to show control of grammar and conventions. Serious errors in sentence structure, word choice, usage, and/or mechanics (i.e., spelling, punctuation, and capitalization) impede communication.
U The response is unrelated to the assigned topic, illegible, primarily in a language other than English, not of sufficient length to score, or merely a repetition of the assignment.
B There is no response to the assignment.

Sample Test Directions for the Composition Exercise

This section of the Writing subtest consists of one writing assignment. The assignment can be found on the next screen. You are asked to prepare a multiple-paragraph composition of approximately 300 to 600 words on an assigned topic.

You may use the erasable note board provided to make notes, write an outline, or otherwise prepare your composition. However, your score will be based solely on the version of the composition that is typed in the answer box.

Your composition should effectively communicate a whole message to the specified audience for the stated purpose. You will be assessed on your ability to express, organize, and support opinions and ideas. You will not be assessed on the position you express.

Your composition will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

The final version of your composition should conform to standard English conventions and should be your own original work.

Sample Composition Exercise

Objective 0012
Demonstrate the ability to prepare a well-organized and focused piece of writing for a given purpose and audience, using standard English conventions.

Read the passages below about prohibiting vending machines that sell soda and processed snack foods in public schools; then follow the instructions for writing your composition.

Schools Should Prohibit Machines That Sell Soda and Processed Snack Foods Schools Should Not Prohibit Machines That Sell Soda and Processed Snack Foods
Banning machines that sell soda and processed snack foods like candy and potato chips is necessary to protect students' health. Numerous studies have shown that growing numbers of young people are seriously overweight. Moreover, teaching students about proper nutrition in health courses and then surrounding them with junk foods sends a confusing, even hypocritical, message. Prohibiting machines that sell soda and processed snack foods like candy and potato chips would deprive school districts of an important source of revenue. Such a ban would also place unnecessary restrictions on students' rights to make their own decisions about what they eat. In the end, students who want sodas and snack foods will find a way to get them, regardless of whether they are sold in schools.

Your purpose is to write a persuasive composition, to be read by a classroom instructor, in which you take a position on whether or not vending machines that sell soda and processed snack foods should be prohibited in public schools. Be sure to defend your position with logical arguments and appropriate examples.

Sample Strong Response to the Composition Exercise

The sample below is an example of a strong response to the composition exercise.

The question of whether or not schools should have vending machines on their property that sell soda and processed snack foods has created some debate. The effective points against allowing such machines are that schools have a responsibility to promote student health, these foods are unhealthy, and it is hypocritical to teach students to avoid these foods while placing them right in the school corridors. These arguments are all valid and consistent with a desire to nurture students and their physical and mental health.

Schools are a very powerful force in shaping young people's minds. The experiences students have both inside and outside the classroom will remain with them forever. The behavior of role models and peers are both very influential. For this reason school policies should be very carefully considered, especially where student health is concerned. If the presence of vending machines selling potato chips and candy is likely to lead to poorer student health, then the school has a responsibility not to host these machines.

The fact is that a new and disturbing trend exists in America: instead of being in good health, many young people are overweight or obese. This problem is only growing worse, and it needs to be seriously addressed. If people are young and overweight, imagine what they will be like when they are older. People who are overweight or obese are more susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and even death. They have mobility issues and are often very unhappy with their appearance; they also incur higher medical costs throughout their lives. This is a problem that needs to be addressed when people are young and it is easy to correct negative behavior. Schools should help out in this step by not acting as an enabler. If students do not have access to soda and processed snack foods (which consist mainly of empty calories, saturated fats, and chemicals) while in school, where they spend a considerable amount of their day, they could form better eating habits and live healthier lives.

In support of the vending machines, some say that whether or not schools sell sodas and snack food, students who want them will get them one way or another. There may be some validity to this argument. However, the school should still make use of its educational opportunity. If schools did not offer an unhealthy option, but instead stocked the machines with fresh fruit or whole-grain crackers, students would eat those because they were there.

In addition, the school could reach out to parents to reinforce healthy eating at home. With support from educators and parents, a nurturing and supportive environment could be created where healthy eating is the norm. It does not make sense to say that students should have the freedom to choose what they eat when all that is available to them is junk food. Whatever revenue the school is getting from the vending machines, it cannot be worth more than the health of the students.

The final argument is that permitting the sale of unhealthy foods at school is hypocritical. Schools generally try to promote good health decisions and an active lifestyle by making students take health and physical education classes. However, the positive messages and good decisions students might take away from these classes are automatically undermined if schools do not practice what they preach. How can students put into practice what they learn in these classes if afterwards they are tempted by a vending machine full of sodas and candy bars? The answer is that they cannot. So if schools really want to support healthy choices, they cannot allow these machines on their property.

This is an issue that has importance for our whole society, and not just the individuals whose health may be problematic. The costs of insuring and treating the overweight and the obese are shouldered by everyone. Public schools, as public institutions, have a responsibility to their students and to us all. In the buildings where our children go to be educated, vending machines selling soda and processed snack foods have no place.

Scoring Rubric for the Composition Exercise

Performance Characteristics

The following characteristics guide the scoring of responses to the composition exercise.

Table outlining performance characteristics.
Appropriateness The extent to which the response addresses the topic and uses language and style appropriate to the given audience, purpose, and occasion.
Mechanical Conventions The extent to which words are spelled correctly and the candidate follows the conventions of punctuation and capitalization.
Usage The extent to which the candidate's writing shows care and precision in word choice and is free of usage errors.
Sentence Structure The effectiveness of the sentence structure and the extent to which the sentences are free of structural errors.
Focus and Unity The clarity with which the candidate states and maintains focus on the main idea or point of view.
Organization The clarity of the writing and the logical sequence of the candidate's ideas.
Development The extent to which the candidate provides statements of appropriate depth, specificity, and/or accuracy.

Scoring Scale

The scoring scale below, which is related to the performance characteristics for the test, is used by scorers in assigning scores to responses to the composition exercise.

Score Scale with description for each score point.
Score Point Score Point Description
4 A well-formed written response.
  • The candidate addresses the assignment fully and uses appropriate language and style for the given audience, purpose, and/or occasion.
  • The candidate shows mastery of mechanical conventions (e.g., spelling, punctuation, and capitalization).
  • Usage and choice of words are careful and precise.
  • Sentence structure is effective and free of errors.
  • The candidate clearly states a main idea and/or point of view, and maintains focus and unity throughout the response.
  • The candidate exhibits control in the organization of ideas.
  • The candidate develops the response fully by providing ample statements of appropriate depth, specificity, and accuracy.
3 An adequately formed written response.
  • The candidate addresses the assignment adequately and generally uses appropriate language and/or style for the given audience, purpose, and/or occasion.
  • There may be some errors in the use of mechanical conventions (e.g., spelling, punctuation, and capitalization).
  • Minor errors in usage and word choice are evident.
  • Sentence structure is adequate, although minor errors may be present.
  • The main idea and/or point of view of the response is generally clear, and focus and unity are generally maintained.
  • The organization of ideas is generally clear.
  • The candidate provides a sufficient quantity of statements of appropriate depth, specificity, and accuracy to adequately develop the response.
2 A partially formed written response.
  • The candidate partially addresses the assignment and may use inappropriate language and/or style for the given audience, purpose, and/or occasion.
  • The candidate makes frequent errors in the use of mechanical conventions (e.g., spelling, punctuation, and capitalization).
  • Imprecision in usage and word choice is distracting.
  • Sentence structure is poor, with noticeable and distracting errors.
  • The main idea and/or point of view is inconsistent and/or the focus and unity of the discussion are not sustained.
  • The candidate may make an effort to organize and sequence ideas, but organization is largely unclear.
  • The response includes very few statements that contribute effectively to the development of the response.
1 An inadequately formed written response.
  • The candidate attempts to address the assignment, but language and style are generally inappropriate for the given audience, purpose, and/or occasion.
  • The candidate makes serious and numerous errors in the use of mechanical conventions (e.g., spelling, punctuation, and capitalization).
  • Imprecision in usage and word choice interferes with meaning.
  • Sentence structure is ineffective, and few sentences are free of errors.
  • The main idea and/or point of view of the response is not identified.
  • Any organization that is present fails to present an effective sequence of ideas.
  • The candidate fails to include statements that contribute effectively to the development of the response.
U The response is unrelated to the assigned topic, illegible, primarily in a language other than English, not of sufficient length to score, or merely a repetition of the assignment.
B There is no response to the assignment.