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Writing Skills Assessment Online Workshop

This online workshop is designed to help you practice the Writing Skills Assessment (WSA) before actually taking the exam. We offer some tips and strategies to help before you begin to write, and then offer two sample questions—one persuasion task and one position task—that you can respond to.

When you have completed your two sample essays, you will then be guided toward learning how to score them. We have provided numerous examples of other students’ samples that you can practice scoring using our scoring guide. Once you have an understanding how the scores are formed, you should be ready to try scoring your own practice essays. Knowing the scoring guide (see the step 3 tab) will also help you understand how and what to write to earn the highest score possible.

A limited number of spaces are available in live WSA workshops, which are offered for each application period starting about two months before the application deadline.

Step 1: Get StartedStep 2: Review RubricStep 3: Take Practice Assessment

Step 1: Get Started

To practice the Writing Skills Assessment, you will need the following:

  1. Pencil or pen. You will be able to take two pencils or pens to your WSA session.
  2. Paper. When you take the WSA, you will be given 3 sheets of 8.5″ by 11″ lined paper for each of the two tasks—two pages for writing, and a third page for brainstorming and organizing.
  3. Timer. When you take the WSA, you will be given 90 minutes to complete the two tasks. Allow about two hours of time in which to go through this workshop. Download an online stopwatch.
  4. Persuasion Task: You will be asked to persuade a particular reader of your point of view or recommended action. Your writing should be appropriate for the writer, reader and situation. See the step 2 tab for a sample persuasion task.
  5. Position Task: You will be asked to think critically about a given statement and write a unified essay discussing why you accept, reject, or qualify it. For the Position task, you are addressing a general audience. Simple, concise, compelling language usually works best for this audience. See the step 2 tab for a sample position task.
Tips and Strategies
Cracking the WSA: Tips for Students Who Speak English as a Second or Foreign Language
Writing Fluency
Reading
Practice exams
Study Plan 1
Study Plan 2

Step 2: Review Rubric

Below is the WSA Scoring Guide. Refer to this guide when writing your practice assessments in step 3.

6
Outstanding A paper in this category stands out because it demonstrates clear and consistent competence, although it may have occasional errors. Such a paper exhibits most or all of the following strengths:

  • Persuasion: addresses the writing task effectively and insightfully, providing a well-reasoned solution that displays analysis of data (both numerical and verbal)
  • Position: addresses the writing task effectively and insightfully, providing a well-reasoned position that displays critical thinking
  • is well organized, with a clear overall strategy
  • is fully developed, with pertinent support for ideas presented
  • in style and tone is easy to read and appropriate for (Persuasion) the intended writer, reader and situation or for (Position) a general audience
  • displays consistent facility with written English (grammar, syntax, vocabulary, punctuation, spelling)
5
Strong A paper in this category demonstrates reasonably consistent competence, although it will have occasional errors or lapses in quality. Such a paper exhibits most or all of the following strengths:

  • Persuasion: addresses the writing task effectively, providing a
    reasonable solution that may display analysis of data (numerical or
    verbal)
  • Position: addresses the writing task effectively, providing a well-
    reasoned position that may display critical thinking
  • is generally well organized
  • is generally well developed, using appropriate examples to support
    ideas
  • in style and tone is easy to read and appropriate for (Persuasion) the
    intended reader; or for (Position) a general audience
  • in style and tone is easy to read and appropriate for
  • displays facility with written English (grammar, syntax, vocabulary,
    punctuation, spelling)
4
Adequate A paper in this category demonstrates adequate competence, although it will have occasional errors and lapses in quality. Such a paper exhibits most or all of the following characteristics:

  • addresses the writing task
  • is organized and adequately developed
  • in style and tone is generally easy to read and appropriate for
    Persuasion) the intended reader or for (Position) a general audience
  • displays adequate but inconsistent facility with written English
    (grammar, syntax, vocabulary, punctuation, spelling)
3
Limited A paper in this category demonstrates developing competence. Such a paper either does not address the writing task effectively or addresses the writing task but exhibits one or more of the following weaknesses:

  • is inadequately organized
  • is limited in development
  • (Persuasion) is inconsistent or inappropriate in style and tone
    or for (Position) a general audience
  • displays limited facility with written English (grammar, syntax,
    vocabulary, punctuation, spelling)
2
Flawed A paper in this category demonstrates some incompetence. Such a paper:

  • does not address the writing task effectively. In addition, such a
    paper is flawed by one or more of the following weaknesses:

    • has poor organization
    • has thin development
    • (Persuasion) is generally inappropriate in style and tone or for
      (Position) a general audience
    • displays a lack of facility with written English (grammar, syntax,
      vocabulary, punctuation, spelling)
1
Fundamentally Deficient A paper in this category demonstrates incompetence. Such a paper:

  • provides little evidence of the ability to address the writing task
    effectively. In addition, such a paper is flawed by one or more
    of the following weaknesses:

    • has very poor organization
    • has very thin development
    • (Persuasion) is inappropriate in style and tone or for
      (Position) a general audience
    • contains a pervasive pattern of errors in written English
      (grammar, syntax, vocabulary, punctuation, spelling) so
      severe that meaning is obscured
0
Off Topic or Illegible Does not address the topic.

 

Step 3: Take Practice Assessment

When you take the actual assessment, you will be given 90 minutes to complete two tasks—the Persuasion Task and the Position Task. It will be up to you to manage your time; no one will tell you when to stop one task and start the other. Practice writing your answers to the Persuasion Task and the Position Task until you feel you can give your best possible answers to both questions in 90 minutes.

Persuasion Task
Position Task

Finished with the workshop?

Register to take the Writing Skills Assessment.

Looking for more resources?

If, after taking the steps listed in this workshop, you want more help with your writing or more information about the essays, you have several resources. Check the Foster School website for any scheduled WSA workshops (see the table below for dates), ask if a tutor in a departmental writing lab, ask an instructor who is familiar with your writing, read the appropriate sections in a composition textbook, or search the net. For example, Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab offers advice on writing essay exams at:

General Writing Resources
or
ESL Instructors and Students

The University of Washington Foster School of Business gratefully acknowledges precedents set by Educational Testing Services, Princeton, N.J., in scoring standards for tests of writing ability.

OWRC Workshop Dates Time Location
Wednesday, August 23 2:00-3:30 pm Odegaard Library, Rm 220
Wednesday, August 30 2:00-3:30 pm Odegaard Library, Rm 220