CBEST writing

Discussion in 'Basic Skills Tests' started by sally0902, Feb 20, 2018.

  1. sally0902

    sally0902 Rookie

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    Feb 20, 2018

    I have taken CBEST writing two times already but both failed with score of 26. On the second attempt, I found out that the prompt for essay1 was not the same as what I had prepared because it also asked you to write about experience. Both of the prompts asked me to write about personal experiences, so I was confusing. I knew that the first one should be expository essay, but can I write persuasive statements since it asked me to write down something about personal experiences?
    Also, I am a non-native speaker. I am thinking that my problem is word choices. However, there is a huge amount of vocabulary that takes years to memorize, so would you please give me some suggestions or materials that can help me improve my word choices in a shorter time? Thank you so much!
    Also, please help me to point out my above paragraphs problems. I appreciate that so much! I wrote many complex and compound sentences like above during the test, but I am not sure if I used them correctly. Please point out all the mistakes that I wrote. Thank you!
     
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  3. sally0902

    sally0902 Rookie

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    except word choice, what else do you think I need to focus?
     
  4. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Feb 21, 2018

    Welcome to A to Z, sally0902.

    Do you have the official score reports that were emailed to you a few weeks after you took CBEST?The page that tells you whether you passed has performance indicators or diagnostics to indicate how you did. CBEST uses these categories:

    - Rhetorical force (writing an essay that reflects the prompt and staying on topic)
    - Organization (ensuring that the essay flows logically and that transitions are clear)
    - Support and Development (backing up one's thesis or narrative with evidence)
    - Usage (using words that express one's meaning clearly and correctly)
    - Structure and Conventions (being accurate with grammar, spelling, punctuation, and the like)
    - Appropriateness (writing for the audience that the prompt specifies, or for an audience of generally educated readers
     
  5. sally0902

    sally0902 Rookie

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    yes, it is the same as other non-native speakers:
    Usage and Structure and Conventions
     
  6. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Feb 21, 2018

    For the record, usage and structure and conventions are the diagnostic categories that appear most consistently on ALL CBEST takers' score reports, not just the non-native speakers'.

    CBEST essays are a kind of writing on demand: the expectation is that each test taker is encountering each prompt for the very first time.

    Persuasive prompts are issues on which an adult can reasonably be expected to have (or invent) an opinion; scorers don't care what the opinion (= thesis statement) is as long as it is clearly stated in the introduction, it clearly reflects the prompt, and the essay clearly sticks to it throughout; scorers don't care what the supporting arguments are as long as each is relevant to the prompt and to the thesis statement, supported by examples, in its own paragraph, and presented in the order promised by the introduction. The much-maligned but efficient five-paragraph essay format works well here. If you're not sure what "five-paragraph essay" means, ask, and I'll explain.

    Narrative prompts are deliberately open-ended, and again the scorers aren't concerned with the content as long as the narrative's point clearly reflects the prompt and is properly fleshed out with supporting detail. For a prompt about one's favorite childhood toy, I could use the five-paragraph essay format to write a successful essay on three things I loved about playing with my great-grandfather's 1890s-era Underwood typewriter, at which I'd type on his standing desk while perched on an upended Pride of the Prairie apple crate that he'd borrowed from the neighboring orchard - and nearly all of that is a fib (his typewriters, plural, were newer machines, his was definitely a sitting desk, the apple orchards were up in the mountains, and my heart belonged to the Remington). For a personal narrative, I could use the same faked details and a few more to enliven a story about the trouble I got into for breaking the Underwood by jamming its typebars into a tangle, how infuriated Great-grandfather became, and how this experience taught me to be more careful with other people's belongings (but jamming the keys was merely a common inconvenience, my step-grandpa was the soul of patience, and he taught each of us kids, as we grew big enough to reach the keys, how to resolve a jam by flicking typebars back into their resting positions one at a time).
     
  7. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Feb 21, 2018

    If you're beginning sentences with "Also," please stop. "Also" functions well to modify verbs (as in "My grandfather was kind, but he was also very firm"), but it is not the best choice as a sentential adverb. For the first instance of "also" in your first post, I'd be inclined to go with "Furthermore"; for the second, "In addition".
     
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  8. nila

    nila Rookie

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    hi! I am in the same boat. I took CBEST 3 times but couldn't pass it last one I took is on February 3rd. I passed the other two sections but writing I aam not able. First time I recieved 33 but after that 29. I am nonnative speaker too and I got the same comment all three times. Last test, as you said both topics were personal experience which tend to be easy to write, I guess. I am very frustated and don't know what to do.
     
  9. nila

    nila Rookie

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    Feb 21, 2018

    can somebody give me feedback or corrections please.
    thanks in advance

    At some point in our lives, all of us have faced some sort of rejection or defeat. Write an essay about a time in your life when you experienced such a rejection. How did the rejection affect you?


    a sad recollection from the past


    I had those occasions in my life few times when I felt defeated by rejection. The one that really sticks with me up until now, the painful memories and the joy and pride. It was the time when I decided to be a teacher. I enjoy the company of children so much, that I came to know by raising my own children.

    I every day learn something new from my children. They are being young, have a different perspective on most of the things then grown-ups. Which sometimes make me pause and wonder the newness or uniqueness of the idea. Also, I learned the determination, persistence, motivation, and ability to love unconditionally. I realize what could be more rewarding than being a teacher.

    I started finding out, how to become a teacher. I had my Masters degree so in order to teach, I have to take CBEST exam first and then complete some certifications and licensing exam. But the first step was CBEST. It had three sections Math, Reading, and Writing. I started to update my math and reading abilities, I passed both sections in the first trial. Then I prepared for writing as everyone was saying it can be the hardest portion for non-native speakers. I took everyone's suggestions and prepared. Now, it was the day of examination. I had some apprehensions but my confidence was strong. I took the test and wrote with my best ability on two topics which were given to me.

    Now is the waiting period for the results. I was sure I will pass, therefore I even started looking for jobs and thinking about applying. After two weeks, results were sent through the emails. I opened my email with mixed emotions, and I was stunned to see that I scored 33 marks. I needed 37 to pass the test. I could not believe at first then checked the comments to see why I could not pass, what were mistakes I made. It stated that Usage, Structure, and convention needs improvement. I just could not discuss anything with anyone that day. My emotions were shattered, I felt I would not be able to pass since I mentioned before I gave my 100 percent for the writing. Soon in a day or two, I accepted that it was not 100 percent otherwise results would be different. There is a need for improvement and also in the process, there will be no harm I will even learn more.

    Finally, I registered for next test date which was in three months. This time I took help from those who are in teaching and has experience, in other words, I received professionals guidance. After experiencing the failure my confidence was not that strong like the first time, I was nervous on the day of examination. Again, I wrote in my best ability on both the topics. After the exam, I felt relieved and started hoping again for the future and jobs. This time I passed the exam. I have no words that can describe the joy.

    At the end, I felt that If I would not take the test again I would have the memory of defeat and rejection in my mind for rest of the life. Now I have learned the lesson that one should always try few times before giving up so they can establish their self-esteem again which is shattered by rejection.
     
  10. sally0902

    sally0902 Rookie

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    Feb 21, 2018

    Thank you so much for your detailed explanations.
    "five-paragraph essay" means:
    1st paragraph: introduction with thesis statement, state main 3 points
    2-4: details, examples, and explanations on each point
    5th: conclusion
    is that correct?

    Since last time's two writing prompt both asked me to write about personal experience, I was confusing if I should write both of them as narrative essays because none of them asked me to choose an opinion. Actually during the test, I wrote the first prompt with my opinion, so the first one marked down as "organization" and "usage and structure". However, I am so confused if I should treat both of them as personal essays.
     
  11. sally0902

    sally0902 Rookie

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    Thank you so much. I get it! I will use "in addition" or "furthermore" in front of a sentence instead of "also" next time.
     
  12. sally0902

    sally0902 Rookie

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    Hi! Yes it was weird because it was supposed to be two different types of essays.
    I am thinking that maybe because of word choices and grammar mistakes, but how to improve that huge amount of vocabulary in a short time.
     
  13. sally0902

    sally0902 Rookie

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    Dear Teachergroupie,
    Do you think I need to improve my word choices? Do you think I am okay with complex/compound sentences? I took the entire 4 hours on writing and proofreading my essays. I thought that my complex/compound sentences should be fine. In addition, I checked my grammar, and I thought it should be correct. Thus, in my opinion, the reason which decreased my points might be word choices or vocabulary. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you!
     
  14. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Feb 22, 2018

    I'm going to be blunt: That you are not passing CBEST's essay section doesn't surprise me.

    Usage is not merely word choice, nor merely avoiding overuse of common words (which, I am happy to point out, is not a flaw of your writing). At its core, usage is about choosing the right word - and then using it correctly and idiomatically. I'd noticed a few slippages of idiom in your posts, but there are many more errors, and more glaring errors, in the essay you've posted. Worry a little less about using large numbers of different words and more about ensuring that the words you use are used correctly and idiomatically.

    (The vocabulary of English exceeds 100,000 words; most native speakers content themselves with 10,000 or so. If you have located three to five more specific synonyms for common emotions (happy, sad, angry, surprised, etc.) and common actions (go, come, get, give, take, find, and the like), you're doing well. Go through your pre-CBEST writing, if you've kept samples, to find words that you tend to overuse, and find a handful of synonyms for each of those.)

    Similarly, the structure and conventions metric is not simply about stuffing an essay with complicated sentences. Compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences are fine things, but not at the expense of correct grammar. It's amazingly easy even for native speakers to lose track of, say, pronoun reference or verb number in a complicated sentence. In any case, an unbroken series of convoluted sentences is monotonous. How? In both the literal sense ('sounding the same') and the idiomatic sense ('so boring').

    Punctuation is also an problem area for you; that too is part of structure and conventions.

    My best advice to you is to find a tutor who can help you find and refine your voice in writing. (If the tutor doesn't know what CBEST is and doesn't care about voice, seek someone else.) What you're asking for here is work that people like me are paid to do - and the work, done well, is worth paying for. If you'd rather try to help yourself, let me suggest a combination of the website UsingEnglish.com (which focuses on British English, but not in ways that should create much trouble for you) and the workbook Writing Skills Success in 20 Minutes a Day.
     
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  15. sally0902

    sally0902 Rookie

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    Feb 22, 2018


    Thank you so much for pointing out those problems!
    I can't afford tutors.
    Which part of UsingEnglish.com should I focus?
    Do you know any websites that can help editing essays with no charge?
    I will search more on my voice in writing. When typing a sentence each time, it takes me time. It is difficult for me to come up with a sentence.
    I will download the pdf version of Writing Skills Success in 20 Minutes a Day.
    Thank you again!

     
  16. sally0902

    sally0902 Rookie

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    Feb 23, 2018

    Nila posted an essay, but I didn't. I am wondering if you mixed up with people?
     
  17. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Feb 23, 2018

    You're right, the essay is nila's. My apologies, sally0902.

    That reminds me: let me quickly discuss the verb "confuse". Its syntax is, um, confusing. "Confuse" works like "puzzle" in that its meaning and syntax change depending on whether the mind in which the confusion takes place is the object of the verb (the more common use) or the subject. The following sentences are correct:

    1. (the meaning is 'feel confusion on account of')
    a. The presence of two narrative essay prompts confused sally0902.
    b. The presence of two narrative essay prompts is confusing sally0902.
    c. Sally0902 was confused by the two narrative prompts.
    d. Sally0902 found it confusing to encounter two narrative prompts.​

    2. (the meaning is 'fail to distinguish among two or more things')
    a. TeacherGroupie confused nila's essay with sally0902's posts.
    b. TG is not confusing nila's essay with sally0902's posts any more.​

    So where you've written "I was confusing" in your posts above, you needed "I was confused." If you're not confident that you can use the verb "confuse" without, um, getting confused, use "puzzle" instead.

    With that noted, most of my remarks still apply to you. Word choice is far from all there is to usage, and convoluted sentence structure is far from all there is to structure and conventions. If the choice is between more dazzling verbiage and complex syntax with a higher risk of error on the one hand versus plainer language and sentence structure with a lower risk of error on the other, the wise test taker keeps things simple.
     
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  18. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Feb 23, 2018

    You have the five-paragraph template pretty much correct, sally. An essay with either two or four supporting topics would also be all right, provided that the introduction introduces all the points in the order in which the subsequent paragraphs will discuss them.

    If your first essay was marked down for organization, the reason isn't that you stated an opinion. A five-paragraph-style essay loses points in organization if supporting topics aren't defended in the order that the introduction promised, if evidence that logically supports one topic is scattered among other paragraphs, or if additional topics are raised within paragraphs. A narrative loses points in organization when it doesn't follow good story structure: the story moves back and forth in time unnecessarily, important details of setting and background are missing or mentioned late, and the like. You can think of organization as having to do with whether the essay is orderly.
     
  19. sally0902

    sally0902 Rookie

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    Feb 23, 2018

    Thank you so much for the examples of using confusing versus confused. Now I understand how to use those words.
    In your last paragraph, it means that I should avoid long complex sentences because it's easier to make mistakes. Using simple and short complete sentences has a lower risk to be marked down. Is that correct?
    Thank you so much
     
  20. sally0902

    sally0902 Rookie

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    Feb 23, 2018

    Thank you very much for your explanation. In prompt 1, I wrote my thesis statement, and then stated: this simple assertion holds true both on personal and society levels. I described my personal experience on second paragraph and gave some social examples on third paragraph followed by a conclusion paragraph.
    I also used some connections words like: although, furthermore, because of, for example...
    Before writing each sentence, it was difficult for me to come up with the words that can represent my thought exactly.
     
  21. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Feb 23, 2018

    "Avoid"? No. Reduce to a manageable number. I mean something that sounds a bit more complicated but in practice is easier: Don't force yourself to write complex sentences for the sake of writing complex sentences. Instead, use complex sentences where they make sense. If this means that your essay has only a handful of complex sentences, that's fine: you'll still have demonstrated for the scorers that you know what a complex sentence is and how to deploy it.

    Try this as an exercise: Draft an essay without worrying about complex sentences. Proofread to make sure those sentences are correct. Then look for some pairs or groups of sentences that could naturally be combined, and combine them. For CBEST this is easier to carry out for the computer-based test than for the paper-based test - but if the test taker writes fairly lightly, erasures are easier, and scorers are fairly patient with corrections as long as the result is legible. (Writing lightly, without getting a death grip on the pencil, is also easier on the hand, arm, and neck muscles.)
     

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