Writing Essay Test

The CAAP Writing Essay Test is predicated on the assumption that the skills most commonly taught in college-level writing courses and required in upper-division college courses across the curriculum include:

  • Formulating an assertion about a given issue
  • Supporting that assertion with evidence appropriate to the issue, position taken, and a given audience
  • Organizing and connecting major ideas
  • Expressing those ideas in clear, effective language

The model developed by ACT for the Writing Essay Test is designed to elicit responses that demonstrate a student's ability to perform these skills. Two 20-minute writing tasks are defined by a short prompt that identifies a specific hypothetical situation and audience. The hypothetical situation involves an issue on which the examinee must take a stand. An examinee is instructed to take a position on the issue and to explain to the audience why the position taken is the better (or best) alternative.

In order to more clearly define the audience and provide a focus for responses, each prompt specifies the basis upon which the audience will make its decision. Situations and audiences defined in the writing prompts are constructed so that the required background knowledge and experience are within the command of college sophomores.

For the CAAP Writing Essay Test, ACT developed a six-point, modified holistic scoring system. Each essay is read by two trained raters who independently score the essay on a scale from 1 to 6 (1 being the lowest score, 6 the highest). The scores from the two raters for each of the two essays (four scores) are averaged for the reported score, which ranges from 1 to 6 in increments of .5. The two raters' scores for each essay must either agree or be adjacent to be averaged. If the raters' scores differ by two or more points, a chief scorer adjudicates and determines the reported score.

Each score point reflects a student's ability to perform the skills identified above. Essays are evaluated according to how well a student formulates a clear assertion on the issue defined in the prompt, supports that assertion with reasons and evidence appropriate to the position taken and the specified concerns of the audience, and develops the argument in a coherent and logical manner. A student obtains lower scores for not taking a position on the specified issue, for not developing the argument, or for not expressing those ideas in clear, effective language. A student who does not respond to the prompt is assigned a "not rateable" indicator rather than a score on the 1 to 6 scale.