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Reliability and Validity of an Interlinear Test of Writing Ability

Olsen, Marjorie A.; Swineford, Frances
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
English Composition Tests, Interlinear Tests, Interrater Reliability, Predictive Validity, Writing Evaluation


During recent years the English Composition Test of the College Entrance Examination Board has included an "interlinear" test of writing ability. This test was designed to meet the demand of English teachers that the candidate be required to do some writing and at the same time that the test reach satisfactory levels of objectivity, reliability, and validity. The interlinear test is a passage containing a number of errors and examples of awkward construction which the examinee is expected to detect and to correct on the test copy. A staff of thoroughly trained readers rate the corrections as acceptable, partially acceptable, or unacceptable in accordance with a set of detailed instructions. Twenty-four candidates' papers of the March, 1952, form were planographed, and each was read by about thirty-four of the readers. Extremely high agreement between readers was found. The reliability of the reading, and indication of objectivity, is .95. The test reliability is .81, an acceptable figure for a thirty- minute, forty-five-item test. Studies of the validity of the interlinear test as a predictor of freshman English grades were carried out at eight College Board colleges, including more than 2400 freshman students. The average correlation of first-term English grades with the interlinear section of the English Composition Test is .39. By comparison, the average validity of total scores on the English Composition Test is .41, and that of the Scholastic Aptitude Test Verbal score is .42. The small advantage of SAT-Verbal over the total English score or the interlinear score is worthy of note, since SAT- Verbal has typically shown a more substantial advantage over the English test in a large number of studies from 1926 to the present.

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