Guidelines for a Test Writer/Recorder
The following guidelines will assist in providing the testing accommodation of a writer for a test taker with disabilities. If you have any questions, please contact your program representative. Note: Only test administration staff may be assigned to serve as a writer for a test taker.
Sometimes a test taker, because of his or her disability, has trouble speaking clearly or distinctly. The writer/recorder should confirm the test taker's response. If the writer/recorder cannot understand a test taker's speech pattern, or it is barely audible, large cards, each indicating one of the four or five test options, can be used. The test taker can then choose the appropriate card.
Test takers with disabilities must be given the same opportunity as other test takers to plan, draft, and revise their essays or constructed responses. This means that the writer/recorder may write down an outline or other plan as directed by the test taker. The writer/recorder must write down the words of the test taker exactly as dictated. When the essay or constructed response is finished, if time permits, the test taker may read the essay or response and dictate revisions. If the test taker's disability prevents him or her from reading the essay or constructed response, the writer/recorder may read it aloud and allow the test taker to dictate revisions.
The writer's/recorder's responsibility is to be both accurate and fair, neither diminishing the fluency of the test taker nor helping to improve or alter what the test taker asks to be recorded.
The writer's/recorder's role includes the following considerations:
- At all times, the writer/recorder must write only what the test taker dictates.
- The writer/recorder may not prompt the test taker in a way that would result in a better essay or response. For example, prompts such as, "Let's list reasons to support your position" or "Do you want to give more examples?" give the test taker an unfair advantage and are inappropriate.
- However, the writer/recorder may respond to questions such as, "Where are we on my outline?" by pointing to and reading the outline.
- The writer/recorder should ask for the spelling of commonly misspelled words and homonyms such as "to, two, and too," or "there, their, and they're." If the test taker uses a word that is unfamiliar to the writer/recorder or a word that the writer/recorder does not know how to spell, the writer/recorder should ask the test taker to spell it.
Because good essay and constructed response writing demands fluency, the writer's/recorder's job is to record the test taker's production accurately without making the task even more complicated. Clearly, a well-educated writer/recorder could improve the mechanics (spelling, capitalization, and punctuation) of a weak essay or response. On the other hand, even a capable writer/recorder who had to spell out every word would begin to sound stilted. The writer's/recorder's responsibility, therefore, is to strike a balance.
Test takers must:
- indicate the beginning and end of each sentence and paragraph
- indicate all punctuation marks
- unless the use of a dictionary has been approved by ETS, spell all commonly misspelled words and all words associated with a topic such as geographic places and people's names, without reference to a dictionary
Test takers, after indicating that they know to start a sentence with a capital letter and end with a period, or to capitalize the letter "I" when referring to themselves, do not have to continue to specify these conventions throughout. The writer/recorder should apply these automatically.
The essay or response must be written in long hand or typed, as approved by the testing program. The test taker should have an opportunity to review and revise the essay or response providing the time allotted has not expired. Cross-outs and insertions are allowed and are not penalized, as for all test takers. Persons who score the essays or constructed responses will not be informed that any testing accommodations were allowed.
The writer/recorder will have to make many decisions about how to proceed in situations that are not described above. The guiding principle in making these decisions should be that the process should neither help nor penalize the test taker.
- An approved writer/recorder should be admitted to the test center with the test taker; the writer's/recorder's photo bearing identification should be checked.
- Prior to the start of the exam, the test center administrator/supervisor will review the Guidelines with the test taker and the writer/recorder, and will set the ground rules for the conduct of the examination.
- The test administrator must remain in attendance at all times during the test administration.
- An approved writer/recorder is not present to function as an aide to the test center staff. It is inappropriate to ask the writer/recorder to perform clerical duties of any kind. The writer/recorder should not be asked to assume any responsibilities belonging to the center staff or the test taker.
- Test center staff must ensure that proper test security is maintained. It is important that the test administrator ask questions and avoid any hasty interpretations of what may be communication of test content or exchange of information between the test taker and the writer/recorder that might give the test taker an unfair advantage. The task requested by the test taker might be acceptable once understood. Discussion or communication concerning interpretation of test content is not permitted. If such discussion occurs and cannot be controlled, or if test center staff observe anything they deem unusual, the situation should be reported on the Supervisor's Irregularity Report (SIR) or the Electronic Irregularity Report (EIR) and the test taker advised of your action.
The test center administrator may also stop the test and dismiss the test taker if he or she believes that the writer/recorder has provided the test taker with any unfair advantage. In such instances, ETS reserves the right to cancel the test taker's score.