The Personal Statement as an Indicator of Writing Skill: A Cautionary Note

Powers, Donald E.; Fowles, Mary E.
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Admissions criteria essays graduate study writing evaluation writing skills


The objective of this study was to evaluate the personal statement as an indicator of writing skill. The evaluation was based on a comparison of specially evaluated personal statements with a standardized measure of writing ability requiring examinees to write timed expository essays. A sample of prospective graduate students wrote essays and provided copies of personal statements they had submitted for application to graduate school. A majority of the sample acknowledged receiving help in either drafting or revising their statements. Correlations of the two indicators (test essay and personal statement) with each of several non-test indicators of writing skill revealed that the traditional expository essay was significantly more highly related to nearly all of the indicators. It is suggested that, while the personal statement may provide certain unique and important information about applicants, its validity as an indicator of writing skill is suspect.

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