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Analytical Writing Placement Examination Process
EACH YEAR new UC Analytical Writing Placement Examinations are developed. Every summer four faculty members from the university's writing and ESL programs find several passages that seem promising as stimuli for writing, and draft essay topics. After considerable review, the four faculty members decide which new exercises are sufficiently promising to be pretested. Usually seven or eight out of about 20 are selected.
This Test Development Team sends these new exercises to the chair of the Universitywide AWPE Committee, who arranges for the new exercises to be pretested early in fall term writing classes on several UC campuses. Students in these classes in ESL courses, courses satisfying the Entry Level Writing requirement, and courses with Entry Level Writing requirement as a prerequisite write essays to the new exercises, and fill in a brief questionnaire about their responses to the passage and the topic.
The team reviews a sample of these essays at a fall meeting and recommends to the Universitywide AWPE Committee exercises that resulted in well-written responses, and which most students in the pretest understood and liked. The Universitywide AWPE Committee then meets to review a large number of the pretest essays. They consider how well the student writers understood the passage, what they had to say in response to the topic, and that the essays written by students who had not yet satisfied the Entry Level Writing requirement were clearly distinguishable from the essays of students who had satisfied the requirement. As a result of their independent review of the writing exercises, the Universitywide AWPE Committee recommends to the University Committee on Preparatory Education (UCOPE) the exercises which they believe are ready to be administered — usually three or four.
At its winter meeting, UCOPE, the Academic Senate body responsible for the Entry Level Writing requirement, makes the final choice of the examination to be administered the following May.
IN 1986, UCOPE set the general standard for passing by approving the AWPE Scoring Guide. There also is a regular annual procedure for applying these general standards to each new examination. From the pretest essays, the Universitywide Analytical Writing Placement Examination Committee assembles a set of papers representing the weakest to the strongest performance. Members reach their own consensus about the scores these papers should receive. They then provide this set of papers to UCOPE. At its March meeting UCOPE reviews these essays and decides independently on the scores. (In almost all cases both committees assign the same scores to the papers.) These essays and their UCOPE scores set the standard by which the chief reader and the room leaders choose essays from the May administration to exemplify the standards for all the readers who score papers in June.
IN HOLISTIC READING , raters assign each essay to a scoring category according to its dominant characteristics. The categories below describe the characteristics typical of papers at six different levels of competence. All the descriptions take into account that the papers they categorize represent two hours of reading and writing, not a more extended period of drafting and revision.
A 6 paper commands attention because of its insightful development and mature style. It presents a cogent response to the text, elaborating that response with well-chosen examples and persuasive reasoning. The 6 paper shows that its writer can usually choose words aptly, use sophisticated sentences effectively, and observe the conventions of written English.
A 5 paper is clearly competent. It presents a thoughtful response to the text, elaborating that response with appropriate examples and sensible reasoning. A 5 paper typically has a less fluent and complex style than a 6, but does show that its writer can usually choose words accurately, vary sentences effectively, and observe the conventions of written English.
A 4 paper is satisfactory, sometimes marginally so. It presents an adequate response to the text, elaborating that response with sufficient examples and acceptable reasoning. Just as these examples and this reasoning will ordinarily be less developed than those in 5 papers, so will the 4 paper's style be less effective. Nevertheless, a 4 paper shows that its writer can usually choose words of sufficient precision, control sentences of reasonable variety, and observe the conventions of written English.
A 3 paper is unsatisfactory in one or more of the following ways. It may respond to the text illogically; it may lack coherent structure or elaboration with examples; it may reflect an incomplete understanding of the text or the topic. Its prose is usually characterized by at least one of the following: frequently imprecise word choice; little sentence variety; occasional major errors in grammar and usage, or frequent minor errors.
A 2 paper shows serious weaknesses, ordinarily of several kinds. It frequently presents a simplistic, inappropriate, or incoherent response to the text, one that may suggest some significant misunderstanding of the text or the topic. Its prose is usually characterized by at least one of the following: simplistic or inaccurate word choice; monotonous or fragmented sentence structure; many repeated errors in grammar and usage.
A 1 paper suggests severe difficulties in reading and writing conventional English. It may disregard the topic's demands, or it may lack any appropriate pattern of structure or development. It may be inappropriately brief. It often has a pervasive pattern of errors in word choice, sentence structure, grammar, and usage.