Cbest Writing

Discussion in 'Basic Skills Tests' started by Yadz, Oct 31, 2020.

  1. Yadz

    Yadz New Member

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    Oct 31, 2020

    Hello everyone. I am new to this forum and I need your advice badly. I took the Cbest writing test multiple times already, and my diagnostics consistently indicated usage and convention needs improvement. It is frustrating on my part and I don't know what to do now.
    Please help.
     
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  3. GoaltoSuccess

    GoaltoSuccess Rookie

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    Nov 1, 2020

    Those two areas (usage and structure and conventions) are also my weaknesses for both of the essays I've written for the CBEST writing exam. What I will be doing is the following:
    1. re-reading essays that are scored "3" or "4," at least three times, and later on read essays that are scored "1" and "2," and write down what was added in essay graded 3/4 that essays 1/2 lacked. (Notes about my observation will be written down)
    2. I will practice writing my essays for both types of prompts (Persuasive and Narrative essay) By the way, a forum member in a prior thread posted this link to see practice writing prompts for both types: https://www.wyzant.com/resources/blogs/233406/the_cbest_essay_passing_the_essay_the_first_time
    3. I will read these essays that I composed. I will then give myself constructive criticism as though I am a teacher grading a student's essay. We all love to the use the red pens, especially when we feel we're grading another person's essay. Pretend that those two sample essays are not written by you. Grade it harshly. Become the strictest teacher ever known to man. I feel partly from myself grading a future essay I will be writing will help me know what to look out for in my actual test exam date.
    Let us both try these additional methods as an experiment and we'll see what may happen for us the next time we re-attempt the CBEST writing exam.
     
  4. Yadz

    Yadz New Member

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    Thank you for your recommendations. It is greatly appreciated.
     
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  5. GoaltoSuccess

    GoaltoSuccess Rookie

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    Nov 1, 2020

    A forum member, teachergroupie, once posted the following:
    "Usage" refers to vocabulary. Scorers expect to see words that are suited to the subject matter, the tone and viewpoint of the essay, and the audience. (Bear in mind that, where the essay prompt doesn't specify an audience, the audience is assumed to be educated readers.) Scorers also hope to see some variation in vocabulary. Yolande, in your first post on this thread you use the verbs "need" several times in just a few sentences; in informal writing on a discussion board or FaceBook there's nothing wrong with that repetition, but in formal writing it is less accepted. Let me recommend looking over your own writing for words that you overuse, then using a thesaurus to find a few substitutes for the most common ones. (Try "should improve", "must improve", or "it is necessary that I improve").

    "structure" in "structure and conventions" is focusing on sentence structure - that is, formal English grammar: whether the writer can use simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences correctly, whether sequence of tense is correct throughout, whether pronoun reference is always clear, whether the writer avoids dangling participles, and the like. "Conventions" has to do primarily with spelling and punctuation.


    "Usage" focuses on vocabulary: whether the writer can select words that are both accurate and precise ("strolling" and "striding" are both types of walking, and neither should be confused with "shuffling" or "limping"), and whether the writer can deploy words idiomatically (your "after a careful thought" above is unidiomatic - "thought" in the phrase "after __" is a mass noun, not a count noun, and so can't take an indefinite article; "after a little thought" works because, here, "a little" is functionally a quantitative adjective like "some").

    CBEST essays are scored by two scorers on a scale from 1 to 4. The scorers are looking for evidence that you can


    - state a clear thesis and stick to it throughout the essay


    - organize your thoughts logically and coherently


    - give evidence to support your argument


    - use vocabulary that is appropriate to your topic and to your audience, and use it correctly


    - spell and punctuate correctly and use correct Standard English grammar

    "Structure and conventions" is a single category that includes grammar (correct and idiomatic phrases, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs) and mechanics (correct spelling, capitalization, and punctuation). I'll add - in light of you using "maths" rather than "math" and a couple of unidiomatic bits in your first post above - that the the standard here is American English. You might find LearningExpress's book Writing Skills Success in 20 Minutes a Day a useful and affordable resource; if money is tight, look for a used copy or borrow it from a public library.


    "Organization" has to do with how an essay is put together: how an expository essay flows from the introduction of its thesis through its supporting points to its conclusion, or how a narrative (a story) makes its point as it flows from introduction through rising action and climax to resolution. A somewhat boring but practical format for the expository essay is taught in US schools as "the five-paragraph essay" (or "the five-paragraph essay, plus or minus one"), in which the first paragraph introduces the thesis and briefly notes the supporting topics; each of the supporting topics is developed in its own paragraph, in the order in which the introduction listed it; and the last paragraph sums up the argument and may suggest other applications.




    Each paragraph - Have at least five sentences. Topic sentence, three supporting sentences, and conclusion.


    Paragraph 1 - Introduction: Make sure you end with your thesis that will set up for three topic sentences, each topic will become a paragraph.


    Paragraph 2 - Topic sentence 1, at least three supporting sentences, conclusion.


    Paragraph 3 - Topic sentence 2, at least three supporting sentences, conclusion.


    Paragraph 4 - Topic sentence 3, at least three supporting sentences, conclusion.


    Paragraph 5 - Conclusion. Summarize using different words, not the exact same words


    Hints:

    Use connecting words and phrases:

    -first, second, third or firstly, secondly, thirdly

    -in conclusion or in summary (not in sum as you have it in your essay)


    Make sure everything you write is related to the given essay topic.

    "Structure and conventions" is the diagnostic indicator that CBEST uses for errors in sentence grammar (and to a lesser extent paragraph grammar), spelling, and punctuation. Because that's the recurring issue for you, I'm going to take the liberty of pointing out some things I see in your post.

    To pass the CBEST, a candidate must receive a "scaled"

    score of 123. Accordingly, a candidate passes by averaging 41

    points on each of the three sections (out of a score range of

    20 to 80). A scaled score of 41 on the reading section trans-

    lates into a raw score of 28 out of 40 questions correct; on the

    mathematics section, a scaled score of 41 equates to a raw

    score of 26 out of 40 correct. Each of the two essays is graded

    by two readers, who give raw scores of between one and four

    points per essay. Thus, the range of possible scores for the writing section is between four and 16 points. A raw score of

    12 points translates into a scaled score of 41 points. The

    CBEST employs a "compensatory scoring" model, under

    which a candidate passes the test with a scaled score lower

    than 41 on a particular section, so long as his or her total

    scaled score is at least 123.


    "Usage" has to do with vocabulary: your word choice should be precise and suited to an audience of college-level readers: rather than "got", use words like "received" (of a gift) or "obtained" (of a purchase) or "contracted" (of a cold) to express the exact meaning you intend.

    "Structure and conventions" deals with grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Each sentence must be correct grammatically in and of itself: verbs must agree with nouns, pronouns must have antecedents, and so on. In addition, sentence structure must be varied: if all the sentences in a paragraph begin with "When" or "I" or contain relative clauses, the paragraph falls into a rhythm that can make it boring.


    For structure and conventions, try Writing Skills Success in 20 Minutes a Day, published by LearningExpress; Barnes & Noble should carry it, probably in the study-aids section. If possible, spend some time with the book before you buy it, and have a look at the other options in the bookstore (or library) as well. This book is part of LearningExpress's Skill Builders series, which does also include a book for vocabulary building.

    It's more important to use words and sentence structures that you can handle comfortably and correctly than to try to deploy more advanced vocabulary and structure and fail.


    "Structure and conventions" doesn't refer to how your essay is structured - that's covered under the rubrics "Organization" and "Support and development". CBEST scorers are not looking for one specific way to organize an essay so much as they're looking for it to be organized. You seem to have satisfied the scorers on that account.

    What "structure" in "structure and conventions" refers to is what you probably think of as grammar: whether verb tenses are correct for the meaning that the sentence intends, whether coordination and subordination are handled correctly, whether articles and determiners ("the", "a/an", "these", "those") are used correctly, whether the referent of a pronoun ("he", "it") is clear from one clause to another, whether prepositions are used correctly - that sort of thing - and, in addition, whether there's variation in sentence structure (such as breaking up a series of complex clauses with a simple sentence). "Conventions" covers spelling and punctuation.

    "Usage" is what you probably know as vocabulary or word choice: whether a word or phrase is used idiomatically, whether the word is precise or vivid ("screamed", "shouted", "whimpered", and "proclaimed", where each is true, are both more precise and more vivid than "said"), and whether there's variation in words (in what you quoted, both "need" and "show" are overused; you were quoting, and quoting from a post on a fairly conversational forum, so you're not to blame, but formal writing demands more precise usage).


    "Usage" has to do with vocabulary: your word choice should be precise and suited to an audience of college-level readers: rather than "got", use words like "received" (of a gift) or "obtained" (of a purchase) or "contracted" (of a cold) to express the exact meaning you intend.

    "Structure and conventions" deals with grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Each sentence must be correct grammatically in and of itself: verbs must agree with nouns, pronouns must have antecedents, and so on. In addition, sentence structure must be varied: if all the sentences in a paragraph begin with "When" or "I" or contain relative clauses, the paragraph falls into a rhythm that can make it boring.


    So sorry I missed this when you posted; in late February, life was being life.

    Seven-page essays are definitely not the way to go, true. The scorers are looking for evidence that, under time pressure, one can produce a bare-bones quickie essay that indicates that, with time to polish and do research, one could do better. There's all the difference in the world between "outstanding" and "good enough" - and what the scorers want to see is "good enough".

    Active voice is the verb mode in which a sentence subject is the agent or doer and the object (the noun phrase after the verb) is the patient or undergoer of the verb: The teacher wrote the sentence on the blackboard is in active voice, with the teacher as the star of the story, the action flowing from the subject, and the sentence - the undergoer of the writing - serving as supporting cast.

    About passive voice, you're quite right that some form of the auxiliary verb be is involved and that the preposition by can be present. Passive voice changes the verb form, from simple present or past tense (writes, wrote) to an inflected form of be plus past participle (is/was/will be/has been written) - and it shifts the patient or undergoer to the subject position in the sentence: in The sentence was written on the blackboard, the sentence is now in the spotlight. If the original subject still appears in the passive sentence, it has been demoted from center stage to a prepositional phrase (The sentence was written on the blackboard by the teacher); a writer can use this structure to allow the reader a glimpse of the doer while keeping attention focused firmly on the result. More often, however, the original subject or doer is simply left out. In scholarly articles reporting psychological or medical research, passive voice is standard partly because what matters is the procedure (Experimental subjects were randomly assigned to one of three groups: ...) and partly because the doers CAN be recovered from information in the report, though I think I've seen increasing use of the authorial We as an alternative. Passive voice without the doer can also be used, of course, when the identity of the doer is either unknown or unknowable (Trees had been flattened for miles around) or, worse, as a way to dodge responsibility (the infamous "Mistakes have been made").


    Helpful hint for spelling: Basic words in English are Germanic; some of the nouns have irregular plurals (man/men, child/children, and so on), and many of the verbs (be, get, bring, buy, become, etc.) have irregular past tenses and past participles (was/been, get/gotten, brought, bought). Some of them are indispensable, and it's simply necessary to learn the darned things: there is no avoiding be or become, though at least become has the decency to pattern just like come. But more educated vocabulary is derived from French, Latin, or Greek, and is much likelier to be regular: you could use student instead of child, purchased instead of bought, became ill or developed an illness instead of got sick, acquired a position instead of got a job, and the like.


    Relationship

    Signal Words

    A word, phrase, sentence adds to the content of the preceding one.

    also, and, besides, again

    A word, phrase, sentence clarifies the content of the preceding one.

    in fact, in other words, obviously, of course, too, evidently

    A phrase/sentence indicates a comparison to the preceding one.

    Also, likewise, similar, by the same token

    A phrase/sentence indicates contrast to the preceding one.

    although, but, however, in contrast, nevertheless, yet, on the contrary, on the other hand

    A phrase/sentence provides an example of a preceding generalization.

    for example, to illustrate, for instance, thus, that is

    A phrase/sentence shows location or spatial order.

    below, above, near, next to, opposite, elsewhere, within

    A phrase/sentence shows cause and effect.

    because, as a result of

    A phrase/sentence summarizes.

    to conclude, in short to summarize

    A phrase/sentence shows time order.

    after, at that time, before, during, while, at last, now, first, second, immediately

    You also came up short on usage - that's vocabulary and how you deploy it - and on structure and conventions, which is to say grammar (correct and idiomatic writing, including good subject-verb agreement) and mechanics (spelling, punctuation, capitalization, etc.)

    "Usage" is a very common problem area for writers of CBEST persuasive essays. It can mean that a writer has misused one or more words, but more often the writer has either overused some words or has used quite informal language where somewhat more formal diction is called for (using "get sick" rather than the more formal "become ill".


    · The introduction indicates the general purpose of the reading and hints at the main ideas to be covered.

    · The summary recaps the main points and reiterates the author's conclusions.
     

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