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9 Key Patterns Of Questions To Test The Writing Skills

testing the writing skills

Here are the main nine patterns of questions to test writing skills and tips to excel in writing each pattern.

1. Fill in the missing vocabulary items in sentences:

  • The first sentence should have no gaps.
  • Provide sufficient textual clues for students to answer.
  • Each sentence should contain only one blank.
  • There should be only one possible answer for each item.
  • Provide the first letter of the missing word.
  • Missing words should be new content words (n. / adj.).
  • The missing words should not test grammar.
  • The spaces should be of the same length.
  • Select those vocabulary items which are frequently found in the book.
  • Vocabulary selection can be based on students’ errors in previous exercises.
  • Use items that have been used actively in the syllabus and introduced with definitions and examples.

2. Fill in the missing structural items in sentences:

  • Enough information should be given.
  • Include different structures studied in the textbook.
  • Each sentence should contain only one blank.
  • There should only be one possible answer for the blank.
  • The spaces should be of the same length.

3. Finish the text with the items in the list:

  • The first sentence should have no gaps.
  • The text should have 5 spaces/ blanks.
  • The list shouldn’t be in the same order as the spaces.
  • The spaces should be of the same length.
  • The list should be newly introduced content words.
  • Use 6 sentences at least in the text.
  • Use up to 8 words in each sentence.
  • Provide extra words as distractors (wrong answers).
  • Each sentence should contain only one blank.
  • There must be only one possible answer for each blank.

4. Look at the pictures and write four Sentences:

The picture provided should:

  • Prompt students to write.
  • Be clear.
  • Be relevant to real-life situations.
  • Express specific actions.
  • Not be crowded.

5. Rearrange the words to make sentences:

  • No more than 15 words should be in a sentence.
  • Write a correct sentence, and then jumble the words.
  • Avoid sentences with more than one possible answer.
  • Provide the first word for each sentence.
  • The first letter of the 1st word should be capitalized.
  • Articles and prepositions are counted as full words.
  • Different kinds of sentences should be included.
  • Provide necessary punctuation.

6. Write sentences using the information from a table/chart:

  • The table /chart should contain enough information.
  • The information shouldn’t be too complex. If the prompt material is too difficult to cope with, it will obstruct students’ writing performance.
  • It is important to know what kind of writing we want.
  • Select the information to provide according to the language functions we want.
  • Depending on the information provided, a number of different language functions can be tested, i.e., composition, sequence, for and against, etc.

7. Rewrite the sentences using a new word(s):

  • Try to include a variety of grammar structures or phrases studied in different units.
  • Agree in advance with colleagues what answers will be acceptable.
  • Try to avoid questions with too many possible answers.
  • First, decide on structures, and then sentences can be adapted from the textbook.
  • Where possible, use the important structures or the new ones in the textbook.

8. Read a letter and reply to it:

  • Textbooks should be surveyed to make sure students are familiar with the type of letter.
  • Be careful about how many sentences or words students have to write, i.e. not less than 6, 7 or 8 sentences, according to the grade.
  • Clear instructions should be given on who they have to write to in the reply.
  • The reason for writing a reply should be clear.
  • Students should know if they have to answer some questions or reply to prompts.
  • The letter the students have to reply to should not be too complex. If the stimulus is too difficult to cope with, it will obstruct students’ writing performance. Keep the task simple.
  • Examiners need to agree on the amount of guidance provided in the rubric, i.e., the prompts the students are given, the ideas they have to write about, and the extent of writing required (including the layout if not provided).
  • Make clear that students have to answer the questions asked in the letter they are replying to.
  • The prompts/questions given should encourage students to write a variety of tenses.
  • Questions/prompts should be phrased to help students to write a range of answers.

9. Write a paragraph/story using the information provided:

  • Decide on the amount of help to give to students (ideas, words, points to respond to).
  • The prompts should elicit different verbs as far as possible, form a coherent story/paragraph, be as short as possible, and give clues for the sequence of the story/paragraph.
  • Avoid including verbs in the prompts as much as possible.
  • It is important to provide a clear context of the story in the rubric.
  • Make sure there is enough information for writing the required number of sentences.
  • The information should not be too complex to understand. If the stimulus is too difficult to cope with, it will obstruct students’ writing performance.
  • It is important to know what kind of writing we want. Select the information to provide according to the language functions we want. Depending on the information provided, a number of different language functions can be tested, i.e., comparison, sequence, for and against, etc.
  • Examiners need to agree on the range of possible acceptable responses and the extent of writing required, including the layout.
  • The number of points provided should be clear so that the marking scheme can indicate how many of these must be required in an answer. In this way, scoring for relevance and adequacy can be made more reliable.

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