Essay or constructed-response questions
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 scribe may write down an outline or other plan as directed by the test taker. The scribe 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 them from reading the essay or constructed response, the scribe may read it aloud and allow the test taker to dictate revisions.
The scribe'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 scribe's role includes the following considerations:
- At all times, the scribe must write only what the test taker dictates.
- The scribe 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 scribe may respond to questions such as, "Where are we on my outline?" by pointing to and reading the outline.
- The scribe 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 scribe or a word that the scribe does not know how to spell, the scribe should ask the test taker to spell it.
Because good essay and constructed-response writing demands fluency, the scribe's job is to record the test taker's production accurately without making the task even more complicated. Clearly, a well-educated scribe could improve the mechanics (spelling, capitalization and punctuation) of a weak essay or response. On the other hand, even a capable scribe who had to spell out every word would begin to sound stilted. The scribe'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 scribe should apply these automatically.
The essay or response must be written in longhand 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 scribe 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.