Study Guide

Test of Academic Proficiency
Sample Constructed-Response Writing Assignment

Field 404: Writing

Sample Directions for the Constructed-Response Writing Assignment

This subtest consists of one constructed-response writing assignment. You are to prepare a written response on the assigned topic. You should use your time to plan, write, review, and edit your response to the assignment.

Read the assignment carefully before you begin to write. Think about how you will organize your response.

Your response will be scored on the extent to which you 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, not on the position you take. Your response to the assignment will be evaluated on the basis of the following criteria:

Your written response may be up to 1,000 words. Be sure to write about the assigned topic and use multiple paragraphs. You may not use any reference materials. Your response must be your original work, written in your own words, and not copied or paraphrased from some other work. Remember to review what you have written and make any changes you think will improve your written response. The final version of your response should conform to the conventions of edited English as used in the United States.

Sample Constructed-Response Writing Assignment

Standard 0013
Prepare an organized, developed composition in edited English as used in the United States in response to instructions regarding content, purpose, and audience.

Read the passage below on mandatory national service, and then follow the instructions for writing your essay.

Should all young men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 be required to perform one year of military or civilian service? Proponents assert that such a requirement would provide young people with socially useful roles, while the larger society would benefit from their skills and energy and from the encouragement of social responsibility among all citizens. Opponents of mandatory national service, on the other hand, argue that such a program would constitute an unacceptable infringement on personal freedom, that it would be just as likely to breed resentment as idealism, and that it would require creation of a cumbersome and expensive federal bureaucracy.

Your purpose is to write an essay, to be read by a classroom instructor, in which you discuss whether or not young men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 should be required to perform one year of military or civilian service. Be sure to defend your position with logical arguments and appropriate examples.

Sample Strong Response to the Constructed-Response Writing Assignment

While there are good arguments both for and against mandatory national service, I believe there are at least three important benefits of requiring young men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 to perform one year of military or civilian service: restoring the idea of citizenship, providing young people with valuable work and life experience, and helping young Americans learn to live in a democratic society.

Before and during World War II, the idea of citizenship was an important part of American life. Along with that idea came the responsibility to vote and to participate in the process of making our communities better places to live. John Kennedy revived the idea of citizenship in the 1960s when he called upon Americans to "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." In recent years, however, the idea of citizenship seems to have faded away. Requiring young people to devote a year of their lives to their country or their community would restore the concept that our society depends upon the contributions of all of its citizens.

Also, young people participating in a national service program would gain valuable work experience. They would learn the discipline necessary to come to work on time, every day. They would learn to work with others as part of a team. They would learn new skills and develop the ability to solve real world problems. And they would gain the satisfaction of accomplishing something significant for the benefit of others.

Perhaps most important, mandatory national service would help young people better understand the true meaning of democracy. Whether they served their country in the armed forces, in an environmental conservation project, or at a community shelter for the homeless, young men and women would meet people from all different social, economic, and cultural backgrounds. As a result, participation in national service could help break down geographic, gender, and racial barriers.

Requiring every young American to devote a year to national service would not be without its problems. Starting up such a program would be expensive. For some people, national service would disrupt education or career plans.

But the advantages of mandatory national service—reviving the idea of citizenship, providing valuable life experiences, and helping young people learn to work positively in a democratic society—would outweigh any disadvantages. For the young people of America, for the communities they would serve, and for our country as a whole, national service would be a valuable investment in our future.

TAP Performance Characteristics

The performance characteristics for each score point for the Test of Academic Proficiency constructed-response writing assignment are organized according to four major writing performance features: (1) focus, (2) support/elaboration, (3) organization, and (4) grammar and conventions. Each of these performance characteristics is described in more detail below. Detailed characterizations of the score point features are described in the scoring scale.

Focus
The clarity with which the response presents and maintains the main idea.
Focus involves whether the writing is appropriate, logical, and unified throughout the response. Evidence of a unified response includes an introduction, a clearly presented purpose or main idea, and a conclusion that relates to the opening.
Support/Elaboration
The extent to which the main idea is supported and explained by details and reasons.
Quality of support and elaboration depends on specificity, depth, relevance, and amount. Support should be evenly balanced across subtopics. Supporting details should be more specific than the generalizations they develop. Strategies for building support include use of description, explanation, evidence, example, and/or reasons.
Organization
The explicitness of the text structure or plan and the clarity of the logical flow of ideas.
Organization is the plan-beginning, middle, end-with which the response is constructed and the logic with which the points are related to one another. Organization has a "vertical" dimension (coherence) indicated by the use of paragraphing and transitions to signal the logical flow from paragraph to paragraph and the relationship of subtopics to the main idea. Organization also has a "horizontal" dimension (cohesion) evidenced by the connection of one sentence to the next. Coherence and cohesion may be achieved through the use of logical sequencing, transitions, pronouns, synonyms, demonstratives, conjunctions, parallel constructions, and connectives.
Grammar and Conventions
The extent to which the response shows control of the use of standard written English and the extent to which errors interfere with communication of the main idea.
Grammar conveys the inherent structure of a language, while conventions help organize meaning, control emphasis, and create rhythm. Errors are weighted according to the level of their interference with communication and the number of errors in proportion to the amount written. Major errors make the message difficult to understand. Minor errors do not seriously interfere with communication unless there is an abundance of them. Categories include sentence structure, usage, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and paragraph format.

TAP Scoring Scale

Scores will be assigned to each response to the constructed-response assignment according to the following scoring scale.

Score Point Score Point Description
6 The 6 response is very well formed.
  1. Focus is effectively stated and clearly maintained.
    • The introduction is effective.
    • The thesis is very appropriate to the topic; logical connections to the thesis are clearly maintained throughout.
    • An effective closing relates to the thesis without simply restating it.
  2. Support is extensive.
    • Major points are supported and elaborated fully and evenly.
    • Ideas are supported using multiple strategies.
  3. The organizational plan is effective and clear.
    • Coherence is maintained by an effective vertical plan; paragraphs present a purposeful, logical structure.
    • Cohesion is maintained by effective horizontal connections.
    • Transitions are effectively used to signal vertical and horizontal relationships.
  4. The writing shows mastery of grammar and conventions.
    • Very few minor errors occur in proportion to the amount written.
    • Sentence structure is varied and effective.
    • Usage is precise throughout the essay.
5 The 5 response is well formed.
  1. Focus is clearly stated and maintained.
    • The introduction is presented well.
    • The thesis is appropriate to the topic; logical connections to the thesis are substantially maintained throughout.
    • The closing relates to the thesis without simply restating it.
  2. Support is substantial.
    • Most major points are supported fully, but elaboration may be uneven.
    • Ideas may be supported using multiple strategies.
  3. The organizational plan is clear.
    • Coherence is maintained by a vertical plan; paragraphs present a logical structure.
    • Cohesion is maintained by horizontal sequencing.
    • Transitions are logically used to signal vertical and horizontal connections.
  4. The writing shows good control of grammar and conventions.
    • A few minor errors occur in proportion to the amount written.
    • Sentence structure shows variation.
    • Usage is often precise.
4 The 4 response is adequately formed.
  1. Focus is stated and generally maintained.
    • The purpose is adequately stated.
    • The thesis is generally appropriate to the topic; logical connections are adequately maintained.
    • The closing may simply restate the thesis.
  2. Support is adequate.
    • Most major points are adequately supported; elaboration may be uneven.
    • Ideas may be supported using a single strategy; support may be general.
  3. The organizational plan is adequate.
    • Coherence is generally maintained by a vertical plan.
    • Cohesion is generally maintained by horizontal sequencing.
    • Transitions are sometimes used to signal vertical and horizontal connections.
  4. The writing shows adequate control of grammar and conventions.
    • Minor and perhaps a few major errors occur, but they do not interfere with meaning.
    • Sentence structure is adequate but may not be varied.
    • Usage is adequate.
3 The 3 response is partially formed, but all performance characteristics are present.
  1. Focus may be clear, but it is not adequately maintained.
    • The purpose may need to be inferred.
    • Although the thesis may be appropriate to the topic, minor drifts in focus or lapses in logic may be present.
    • The closing may be absent or only a repetition of the introduction.
  2. Support may be limited.
    • Some points are partially supported.
    • Elaboration that is present may lack depth.
  3. An organizational plan may be inferred.
    • Coherence is partial; only some major points are appropriately paragraphed.
    • Cohesion is partial because sequencing may be disrupted.
    • Transitions may be inappropriate, intrusive, or absent.
  4. The writing shows partial control of grammar and conventions.
    • Some minor and major errors occur and may be distracting.
    • Some control of basic sentence structure is evident.
    • Usage may be imprecise.
2 The 2 response displays only the rudiments of techniques for forming an essay.
  1. Focus may be vague and poorly maintained.
    • The purpose is vague or prompt-dependent.
    • The thesis may be inappropriate to the topic and contain unrelated, illogical, or redundant ideas.
    • The closing, if present, may be unrelated to the opening.
  2. Support is rudimentary.
    • Few points are supported by specific or relevant detail.
    • Elaboration may be redundant or simply a list of specifics.
  3. An organizational plan is attempted.
    • Coherence is rudimentary, showing little evidence of a vertical plan.
    • There is often disjointedness in the writer's efforts to transition from one idea to another and relate ideas to selected examples. Cohesion is rudimentary.
  4. The writing shows rudimentary control of grammar and conventions.
    • Many minor and major errors interfere with communication.
    • Sentence structure may be rambling or fragmentary.
    • Usage is imprecise.
1 The 1 response fails to form an essay.
  1. Focus is unclear.
    • The purpose is unclear and/or inappropriate to the topic.
    • Any discussion present is confused.
    • There may be no discernable conclusion.
  2. Support is insufficient.
    • Support and elaboration, if present, are irrelevant, insufficient, and/or confused.
  3. An organizational plan is not evident.
    • There is so little control of paragraphing that the response lacks coherence.
    • Cohesion is not evident. Sequencing is confused. Almost no points are logically related.
  4. The writing shows little control of grammar and conventions.
    • Minor and major errors are so various and numerous that meaning is seriously impeded.
U The response is unscorable because it is unrelated to the assigned topic, illegible, primarily in a language other than English, or lacking a sufficient amount of original work to score.
B The written response form is blank.