Having an essay scored for a standardized test used to be a privilege reserved for college-bound students.  Now, however, in many states, even elementary and middle school students are receiving writing assessments in specific grades.

The California Achievement Test, for instance, provides writing assessments for fourth and seventh graders.  Other exams, such as the FCAT, assess student writing proficiency in Grades 4, 8, and 10.  Some states have their own writing assessment tests which they administer to specific grade levels.

Most of the writing assessments follow a similar outline.  The students are provided with a writing “prompt,” and asked to write in response to that prompt.  Sometimes, it can be a response to a particular short piece of literature.  The students are given time to read the piece, then prepare a first draft and final draft of their essay.  They are usually able to refer back to the literature at any point during the writing process.

Other times, students are asked to create a persuasive writing on a given topic.  They will choose to argue either for or against a position in writing.  Sometimes students have a choice of two or more writing prompts to choose from.

In order to help your students prepare for a writing assessment, it is important to have them practice several different types of writing.  Vary the audience they are writing to, for instance, or the subject or theme they are writing about.  Give them opportunities to practice narrative, persuasive, biographical, observational, and informational writing.

You will also want to give them practice in writing “under pressure.”  Students need to learn how to organize their ideas quickly and efficiently so they can complete a writing assignment in a given amount of time.  Teaching them how to create an outline with main points and sub points will go a long way toward increasing their organization in writing.  And helping them understand the importance of a rough draft will ensure that they do not overemphasize perfection as they jot down their main ideas.

An important aspect of writing exams is also commonly overlooked – following the directions.  Students can lose points – and sometimes be given a zero altogether — for failing to follow the directions properly.  These standardized writing exams are designed to test writing ability as well as comprehension of the prompt itself.  On the FCAT, for example, students who fail to address the prompt are given a zero or ‘unscorable.’

If you are concerned about your child’s readiness for an upcoming writing assessment, you might consider signing them up for Time4Writing’s Essay Writing for Standardized Tests course.  This course is designed to provide students with tips and strategies from a qualified and caring teacher, as well as many practice essays with feedback. To find out more about this or any other writing course offered at Time4Writing, click here.