Test Information Guide

Field 178: General Curriculum
Subtest 1: Language Arts and History/Social Science
Sample Open-Response Item

The following materials contain:

Sample Test Directions for Open-Response Items

This section of the test consists of one open-response item assignment. You will be asked to prepare a written response of approximately 150to300 words. You should use your time to plan, write, review, and edit your response.

Read the topic and directions carefully before you begin to work. Think about how you will organize your response. You may use the erasable notebooklet to make notes, write an outline, or otherwise prepare your response. However, your score will be based solely on the version of your response that is typed in the on-screen response box.

As a whole, your response to the assignment must demonstrate an understanding of the knowledge of the field. In your response, you are expected to demonstrate the depth of your understanding of the subject area by applying your knowledge rather than by merely reciting factual information.

Your response to the assignment will be evaluated based on the following criteria.

The open-response item assignment is intended to assess subject knowledge. Your response must be communicated clearly enough to permit valid judgment of the evaluation criteria by scorers. Your response should be written for an audience of educators in this field. The final version of each response should conform to the conventions of edited American English. Your response should be your original work, written in your own words, and not copied or paraphrased from some other work.

Be sure to write about the assigned topic. You may not use any reference materials during the test. Remember to review your work and make any changes you think will improve your response.

Sample Open-Response Item

Objective 0010
Prepare an organized, developed written analysis comparing the treatment of a specific history/social science topic in given primary and secondary sources.

Use the information provided in the exhibits to complete the assignment that follows.

Compare the way the two sources approach the significance of the Magna Carta. Write a response of approximately 150–300 words in which you:

Be sure to cite specific evidence from the sources in your response.

Exhibit: Source 1

Magna Carta, 12 15

Context: Magna Carta Libertatum, commonly entitled Magna Carta, was a royal charter of rights agreed to by King John of England in June 12 15. The excerpt is from a translation of the original 12 15 edition of the Magna Carta from Latin into modern English.

(1) In the first place we have granted to God, and by this our present charter confirmed for us and our heirs for ever that the English church shall be free, and shall have her rights entire, and her liberties inviolate; and we will that it be thus observed; which is apparent from this that the freedom of elections, which is reckoned most important and very essential to the English church, we, of our pure and unconstrained will, did grant, and did by our charter confirm and did obtain the ratification of the same from our lord, Pope Innocent III., before the quarrel arose between us and our barons: and this we will observe, and our will is that it be observed in good faith by our heirs for ever.

(39) No freeman shall be taken or [and] imprisoned or disseised1 or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or [and] by the law of the land.

1disseised: dispossessed of property

Exhibit: Source 2

William Sharp McKechnie, Magna Carta: A Commentary on the Great Charter of King John, with an Historical Introduction, 19 14

Context: McKechnie was a historian at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

It is thus necessary briefly to narrate how the scattered Anglo-Saxon and Danish tribes and territories, originally unconnected, were slowly welded together and grew into England; how this fusion was made permanent by the growth of a strong centralized government which crushed out local independence, and threatened to become the most absolute despotism1 in Europe; how, finally, the Crown, because of the very plenitude of its power, called into play opposing forces, which set limits to royal prerogatives and laid the foundations of the reign of law. Such a survey of the early history of England reveals two leading movements; the establishment of a strong Monarchy able to bring order out of anarchy, and the establishment of safeguards to prevent this source of order from degenerating into an unrestrained tyranny, and so crushing out not merely anarchy but legitimate freedom as well. The later movement, in favour of liberty and the Great Charter, was the natural complement, and, in part, the consequence of the earlier movement in the direction of a strong government able to enforce peace. In historical sequence, order precedes freedom.

1despotism: the exercise of absolute power, especially in a cruel and oppressive way (Oxford dictionary)

Sample Strong Response to the Open-Response Item

The sample response below reflects a strong knowledge and understanding of the subject matter.

The Magna Carta was a series of concessions that the English barons extracted from King John to curtail what they saw as his tyrannical behavior--crippling taxes, imprisonment of free men, and interference with church authority. In clause (1), John grants autonomy to the church, proclaiming that the church "shall be free, and shall have her rights entire, and her liberties inviolate." Furthermore, the church will enjoy "freedom of elections" (presumably of clergy) without interference by the monarch. John’s purpose in making this gesture was to ease the friction between church and state. Clause (39) guarantees that the barons cannot be imprisoned or have their land seized, but rather that they have the right to justice under the law and a trial by a jury of their peers.

While the barons saw the Magna Carta as providing protection from and replacement for King John's harmful, despotic form of government, William McKechnie appears to justify the necessity of a forceful ruler who can "bring order out of anarchy" as a natural step on the path to more representative government and individual rights. For England to eventually evolve into a constitutional monarchy (like the modern-day United Kingdom), it needed a tyrannical ruler to unite diverse tribes and territories into "a strong centralized government which crushed out local independence." In McKechnie's view, the rebellion of the barons as shown in the Magna Carta was thus the “natural complement” to John's despotic reign, as it prevented it from "degenerating into an unrestrained tyranny."

As both sources recognize, the Magna Carta enshrined into English law the concepts of limits on government, the rule of law, and a justice system that treats everyone fairly and equally. The Magna Carta led to the development of Parliament and even influenced the U.S. Constitution, which incorporated provisions for freedom of religion and a trial by a jury of one's peers.

Scoring Rubric

Performance Characteristics

The following characteristics guide the scoring of responses to the open-response item(s).

Performance Characteristics
Purpose The extent to which the response achieves the purpose of the assignment.
Subject Matter Knowledge Accuracy and appropriateness in the application of subject matter knowledge.
Support Quality and relevance of supporting details.
Rationale Soundness of argument and degree of understanding of the subject matter.

Scoring Scale

The scoring scale below, which is related to the performance characteristics for the tests, is used by scorers in assigning scores to responses to the open-response item(s).

Score Scale with description for each score point.
Score Point Score Point Description
4 The "4" response reflects a thorough knowledge and understanding of the subject matter.
  • The purpose of the assignment is fully achieved.
  • There is substantial, accurate, and appropriate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence is sound; there are high-quality, relevant examples.
  • The response reflects an ably reasoned, comprehensive understanding of the topic.
3 The "3" response reflects an adequate knowledge and understanding of the subject matter.
  • The purpose of the assignment is largely achieved.
  • There is a generally accurate and appropriate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence is adequate; there are some acceptable, relevant examples.
  • The response reflects an adequately reasoned understanding of the topic.
2 The "2" response reflects a limited knowledge and understanding of the subject matter.
  • The purpose of the assignment is partially achieved.
  • There is a limited, possibly inaccurate or inappropriate, application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence is limited; there are few relevant examples.
  • The response reflects a limited, poorly reasoned understanding of the topic.
1 The "1" response reflects a weak knowledge and understanding of the subject matter.
  • The purpose of the assignment is not achieved.
  • There is little or no appropriate or accurate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence, if present, is weak; there are few or no relevant examples.
  • The response reflects little or no reasoning about or understanding of the topic.
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.