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Giving a Choice of Topics on a Test of Basic Writing Skills: Does It Make Any Difference?

Farnum, Marisa; Fowles, Mary E.; Gerritz, Kalle; Powers, Donald E.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Essay Tests, Praxis Series, Teacher Examinations, Test Format, Writing Evaluation, Writing Skills


As part of the development of the academic skills portion of The Praxis Series: Professional Assessments for Beginning Teachers (the successor to the NTE examinations), a sample of undergraduate students each wrote at lest two 50-minute essays. For each essay, the topic was selected by the examinee from a pair of topics. Before writing, all students indicated their preferences for each of 20 possible topics from which their topics would be drawn. Subsequently, comparisons were made between performance on examinees' high and low preferred topics. The relationship of selected variables (e.g., undergraduate grades and admissions test scores) to performance on each kind of topic was also compared. Student preferences for different topics varied considerably across topics, and topics that were most preferred by some examinees were often least preferred by others. Preferences, however, exhibited little if any relationship to essay scores. Finally, scores based on high and low preferred topics had similar patterns of correlations with other variables. (21pp.)

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