Need advice on CBEST Writing Section

Discussion in 'Basic Skills Tests' started by jennk2212, Feb 23, 2016.

  1. jennk2212

    jennk2212 Rookie

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    Feb 23, 2016

    Hello

    I was wondering for the writing section, should I use the template that the practice books or the practice tests answers has on the ctc website when I have to take my test. They start out with The issues of_________. Other believe________.

    I got my result back and got a 26. It said I needed to improve on usages and structure and convention. I've just been discouraged and I have low confidence in writing. I practiced the writing tests for 1 month twice a week and it is just frustrating for me. Does anyone know websites where i can improve? I have used grammarly which I think sort of helped.

    Thank you so much for reading.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2016
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  3. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Feb 23, 2016

    "Usage" and "structure and conventions" might be the two most common problem areas for CBEST writers.

    The rubrics that cover how your argument is laid out are organization and support. Structure and conventions covers matters of syntax/grammar (sentence structure, that is, not paragraph structure) and mechanics (spelling, punctuation). It's possible that your sentences all follow nearly the same order - maybe they all begin with "I", or maybe you're overusing passive voice, or maybe all your sentences begin with an adverbial phrase. It's also possible that your writing shows comma splices or run-on sentences or failures of subject-verb agreement, or perhaps persistent misspellings, or perhaps underuse of quotation marks.

    Usage has to do with vocabulary. The most common issues: overuse of some words, vocabulary that doesn't sound quite educated enough (for instance, "get" instead of "obtain" or "become", and less specific or vivid words when more vivid ones are called for (for instance, "go to" instead of "visit (a place)", "approach (a person)", "attend (a school)".

    What might most benefit you now is to write for someone who writes well, understands what the CBEST standards are driving at (NOT, I promise you, 600- to 900-word essays), and knows how to offer specific but compassionate feedback.
     
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  4. jennk2212

    jennk2212 Rookie

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    Feb 24, 2016

    Thank you so much for your explanation. I really appreciate how you took your time to just explain everything. I do agree I think for the essay, I used a lot of "I". Is it better to used it once to get my point across such as "I believe that". I was reading up on examples of what a 4 was and they used a lot of "I" I'm sure I wrote in a passive voice.

    Once again thank you so much!!! I do have a clear understanding of what I need to focus on such as grammar and stronger vocabulary.
     
  5. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Feb 24, 2016

    Personal narratives/reflections do well with first person ("I" statements). Analytical or persuasive writing is generally better with little to no "I believe": the analysis or opinion is yours, after all.

    Tell me what you think passive voice means, and I'll tell you what it's good for.
     
  6. jennk2212

    jennk2212 Rookie

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    Feb 25, 2016

    I was overthinking and overanalyzing throughout my essay. I'm used to writing 7 page essays where I just overdo sentences. I think passive voice is when you normally have " by the, am, was, were".
     
  7. Kwanx

    Kwanx Rookie

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    Mar 19, 2016

    hi jennk.. did you take second Cbest test?? i am planning to take one soon.. i am from indonesia and looking for any necessary information i can find to help with my study.. thank you..
     
  8. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Mar 19, 2016

    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").
     
  9. jennk2212

    jennk2212 Rookie

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    Mar 29, 2016

    Thank you so much for the explanation. I apologize for the late reply. You explained it in a way that it sort of all clicked. So far I've just been reading the essays that did well and hopefully I can get the format and standard that they are looking for. Sorry in advance, if I start to ask more questions in couple weeks.
     
  10. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Mar 29, 2016

    "Sorry in advance"? Don't be, please. Ask, ask.
     
  11. jennk2212

    jennk2212 Rookie

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    Apr 22, 2016

    Delete
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2016
  12. jennk2212

    jennk2212 Rookie

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    May 10, 2016

    Hey TeacherGroupie

    I didn't know how to private message ya but yaaay I passed~~~~~
    Thank you so much for your help because you explain things to me where I couldn't easily find on the internet and for your assistance. Now onto studying for the CSET :eek::eek::eek:
     
  13. Kwanx

    Kwanx Rookie

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    May 11, 2016

    happy for you too Jennk. i haven't take my second writting Cbest yet.. i failed my writing part with 26 points.. Problem on on usages and structure and convention.. but i passed my math and reading.. i might gonna wait to retake the writing test.. going to focus on Cset.. btw.. there will be a workshop for Cset and Rica from Pasific oak, california.. you can come to the campus or do the workshop online..
     
  14. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Congratulations! The writing style for CSET is rather different.
     
  15. LaurenwillpassCBEST

    LaurenwillpassCBEST Rookie

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    May 19, 2016

    Hi, Teacher Groupie~~
    I have

    Hi, Teacher Groupie.
    I am a Chinese, I have failed my cbest writing three times, and I am shooting for my fourth try. It has become a stumbling block for me to get into this year's teaching credential program. I am seeking for some tips and help on Usage, Sentence Structure and convention. I really want to pass!!!I have practiced many essays, and received corrections from an English professor, but what she corrected me the most are grammar and sentence structure. If anyone who have passed the writing could give me any suggestions, please.
     
  16. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    May 20, 2016

    Hi, Lauren. Do me a favor, please, and don't post the same post in different places. A to Z forum policy strongly discourages multiple posts on the same topic at the same time by the same member: the site owner's rationale is that a discussion that's in several places at the same time is harder for everyone to follow, and I think the site owner is right.

    "Usage" has to do with vocabulary that's college-level and idiomatic. Many writers overuse everyday words like get, but the word choices in your post here suggest that your issue is likelier to be idiomaticity. (For instance, in current English we can look for or we can seek, but seek for sounds archaic.) If memory serves, the Web site Using English (www.usingenglish.com) includes a tool that will evaluate a phrase or sentence for idiomaticity. Using English is based on British English, but its explanations tend to be very good.

    "Structure and conventions" combines grammar and mechanics - spelling and punctuation - so if that professor is correcting your grammar (or correcting you on grammar), that makes sense.

    About how long is a typical essay of yours? (If you're using a word processor, it should be able to give you a word count. If you're writing essays by hand, an estimate will suffice: count the number of words in the second and third lines, divide by two to get an average number of words per line, and multiply by the number of lines.)
     
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  17. LaurenwillpassCBEST

    LaurenwillpassCBEST Rookie

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    May 21, 2016

    Hi, Teacher Groupie,

    I am sorry for not realizing the posting rules. And thank you so much for pointing out my error, I am very appreciate! Indeed, I have come to America for about six years. Since I have no problem communicating with others, I never realize that I have lots of grammar issues until I couldn't pass this writing test. I usually wrote around 500 words, with five paragraph essay. I have practiced several essays for my English professor to correct, and she said my structure of the essay is very well written, ideas are good, but she kept correcting my grammar errors on my paper. Sometimes she needs my explanation on some meanings of my sentences, and later on she would revise those. Like what you said, I don't have the sense of hearing if the sentence structure is idiomatically correct. I only have two more month to give my last try to get into this years teaching credential, I am vey worried!
     
  18. hanan

    hanan Guest

    May 22, 2016

    Hi, i have the same problem, i passed the reading with 46 and math with48 but not the writing. I have my BS degree and i'm a college studant for another subject. I finished my English courses with B, yet my score in cbest writing was 26 due to errors in usage and structure. Can anyone help me? Does anyone recommend the teachers test prep courses for writing? Or it's a west of money? Please help.
     
  19. LaurenwillpassCBEST

    LaurenwillpassCBEST Rookie

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    May 22, 2016

    Me too! I am a science major student. I had my first two writing test test sored 26, but after a month practice and got the correction from my English professor I scored 29. I also searched if there is any kind of cbest writing prep class, teachers test prep jumped out from my research. After I called them, they told me it is not a program for second language learner, but teaching people who knows their language, but need help on how to improve the essay structure. I am a non native speaker, but I don't think I am still in esl level, so I was thinking to give a try, any feedback for me? Please~ thanks!
     
  20. Kwanx

    Kwanx Rookie

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    May 22, 2016

    http://www.essayforum.com I use this website to get feedback from other writers. But, i can't tell how much it helps. I also failed Cbest writing test with 26 points with the issues on the usage, structure and convention issues. I have not registered for my second test yet
     
  21. Kwanx

    Kwanx Rookie

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    May 22, 2016

    ohh.. and btw, if you live in Los Angeles area, there is a workshop at Pacific oak university tomorrow at 7pm - 10 pm regarding Cbest.. i think they are going to talk about Reading and writing section tomorrow night.. This is the information https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1KvfmZz6-Ce-bOn4CZwY0YdLbaQ0oQ879Foz4neuLCIk/viewform?c=0&w=1
    I don't know how much this help, but at least there is extra something we can hope for..
    Note: If you are interested, just come to the campus, don't do it online.. the quality is bad on online
     
  22. LaurenwillpassCBEST

    LaurenwillpassCBEST Rookie

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    Oh thank you for the info. But I live Ike two hours away from LA, I wish if there is any online source that would work.
     
  23. Kwanx

    Kwanx Rookie

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    May 23, 2016

    yeah...unfortunately, that's all i have for now.. try this website http://www.essayforum.com ..
    it might help little bit.. i have to take Cbest writing, Cset, praxis 5001 before august.. i am overwhelming too
     
  24. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    May 23, 2016

    I know I recommended college-level vocabulary, but the scorers will be happier with tenth-grade academic language vocabulary used occasionally but correctly and idiomatically than with a larger number of more sophisticated words of which some are misused.

    ("Academic language" or "Tier II language" is the language of business letters and editorials, as opposed to basic conversational words or tier I language on the one hand and subject-matter-specific words or tier III language on the other. Tier III words are not necessarily "long words": Lauren, if you followed cricket while you were in school learning science, you'll have learned base as a science word with one meaning in chemistry and a different meaning in biology - and if you now follow the Dodgers or Angels or Giants (or even, heaven forbid, the Padres) you have had to acquire base in its meaning in sports.)

    Try this exercise, Lauren: from the essays you wrote for that English professor, choose at most 20 words that look like Tier II words and that you like using. For each word, look it up on the website of one or more of the major US newspapers or newsmagazines, or even the New Yorker. You're seeking sentences in which the word is used correctly. Copy out a sentence you like in which the word appears, then rewrite it to be true of you. For instance, suppose I decide to add the word detest to my vocabulary. (I would recommend not choosing detest for CBEST purposes, in fact: it means 'hate very strongly', and that's a bit strong.) If my research turned up this sentence,

    I detested brussels sprouts until a friend suggested that I roast them in hot oil. ​

    I might rewrite it as

    I detested my workplace after the boss demanded that I wear high heels for him. ​

    The structure is exactly the same. Write several new sentences this way and test them on Using English or by asking your more literate friends if a sentence works.
     
  25. Lou

    Lou Rookie

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    Mar 2, 2018

    What is the CBEST minimum words to write for an essay is 270 too few or I can get away with it?
     

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