Testing Writing

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Date Submitted: 07/30/2012 06:00 PM

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Testing Writing

S. Kathleen Kitao : Doshisha Women's College : Kyoto, Japan 

Kenji Kitao : Doshisha University : Kyoto, Japan

Testing each skill is uniquely difficult, but testing writing presents two particular problems. The first is making decisions about the matter of control, objectivity of the evaluation, and naturalness in the writing test. If you decide to test writing in a controlled way and in a way that can be graded objectively, you must do so in a way that does not necessarily reflect how the writing is used by the students in the real world. If, on the other hand, you test writing in a way that would reflect how the students use writing in the real world, it is difficult to have control over the writing and to evaluate the student's work objectively.

The second major problem with testing writing is, if the test is done in a way that it cannot be graded objectively, it is necessary to develop a scale that allows it to be graded as objectively as possible. How this is done is one of the great difficulties of testing writing.

Components of Writing

The ability to write involves at least six component skills. They are:

* grammatical ability. This is the ability to write English in grammatically correct sentences. 

*lexical ability. The ability to choose words that are correct and used appropriately. 

*mechanical ability. The ability to correctly use punctuation, spelling, capitalizaton, etc. 

*stylistic skills. The ability to use sentences and paragraphs appropriately. 

*organizational skills. The ability to organize written work according to the conventions of English, including the order and selection of material. 

*judgements of appropriacy. The ability to make judgements about what appropriate depending on the task, the purpose of the writing, and the audience.

Perhaps the most difficult--and most important--of these skills is the last. Native English speakers develop a sense of what is appropriate in different writing situations (though they may be...