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Section 6: Sample Constructed-Response Question
TX PACT: Essential Academic Skills Subtest II: Writing (702)

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Sample Directions for the Constructed-Response Question

This section of the exam consists of one constructed-response question. You are to prepare a written response of approximately 300–400 words on the assigned topic.

Read the question carefully before you begin to write your response. Think about how you will organize what you plan to write. You may use the eraseable notebooklet provided to make notes, write an outline, or otherwise prepare your response. However, your final response to this question must be typed in the response box provided on-screen with the question.

Your response will be scored on the extent to which you effectively communicate a whole message to the specified audience for the stated purpose. You will be assessed on your ability to express, organize, and support opinions and ideas, not on the position you take. Your response to the constructed-response question will be evaluated on the basis of the following criteria:

Be sure to write about the assigned topic. You may not use any reference materials. Your response must be your original work, written in your own words, and not copied or paraphrased from some other work. Remember to review what you have written and make any changes you think will improve your written response. The final version of your response should conform to the conventions of edited English as used in the United States.

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Sample Constructed-Response Question

Competency 004—In response to an assignment, demonstrate the ability to compose a developed composition in Standard Written English on a given topic.

An American poet and essayist once observed that "the less government we have, the better."

Write a composition, to be read by an audience of educated adults, in which you:

  • discuss why you agree or disagree with this observation; and
  • defend your position with logical arguments and specific examples.

Sample Strong Response

It is easy to understand why some people believe having less government is better: no one enjoys paying taxes, and a smaller government costs less to operate. Others object to government interference in the economy, arguing that the freer people are to run their businesses as they see fit the more prosperous all of us are likely to be. And whatever political party someone votes for, no one wants to have government snooping into her or his personal affairs. Although these arguments have validity, we should not reduce government to its bare essentials. There are some needs that we have as a community that cannot be met without the help of government.

We cannot maintain our highways, build and operate parks, protect the environment, or ensure that our food is safe except through government. Such tasks require organization, budgeting, and oversight at a very high level. Moreover, there are many situations in which no responsible person would wish to see government doing as little as it could. For instance, when the nation is under attack, when individual rights are threatened, when there is a public health crisis, or when a natural disaster has destroyed a community, good citizens want government to do whatever is necessary to solve the problem. At such moments, no one wants to hear that "the less government we have, the better."

I think that when people say they want "less government" they usually mean that they want government to do the public's work efficiently, effectively, and without waste or corruption. To cite one recent example, people in Boston weren't unhappy that the government built new highways and tunnels to ease congestion in the downtown area; they were unhappy that some of the construction was poor quality and that the project was exorbitantly over budget. When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, people weren't upset that government tried to help the victims of flooding. They were angry because government did such a poor job.

There are many important tasks in our society that individuals can't do by themselves. For those jobs we need government—that is all of us, collectively—to lend a hand. What we should be asking for is not less government, but better government.

Sample Weak Response

I do think that the less goverment the better. The goverment can get too involved in our lifes if we let them. The goverment likes to watch what we are doing, they even have camaras in streets and on red lights and if you run them they can find you. Also they tax us too much, and they spend the money on worthless projects. If the goverment has less money there will be less pork spending.

Mostly I think smaller goverment is best because it makes too many restrictions on people. There are already rules about business ownership and payrolls, where we can drill oil wells, and also free speech is a thing of the past. When free speech becomes a thing of the past, then truth becomes a thing of the past. A lot of truths are painfull to hear. But if we don't hear them, we can't address the issues.

Finally, big government tend to have a lot of red tape, you can't get anything done without spending alot of time and trouble. Burocracies start expanding so large that nothing gets done because so many workers have to sign off on it. This is good if you work in a goverment burocracy because you will have good benefits and job security. Maybe for years on end. But it is bad for the country.

So the poet and essayist, he was right to say "the less goverment, the better." Obviously we need some goverment, but it should be by the people and for the people. And people have different ideas about how to run their schools, there busineses, and there lifes.

Performance Characteristics

Responses are scored holistically based on the following performance characteristics:

Purpose and Appropriateness The extent to which the composition addresses the assigned topic and uses language and style appropriate to the specified audience
Unity and Focus The extent to which the composition clearly states and maintains a thesis statement
Development The extent to which the composition provides reasoned, relevant, and specific support to develop the thesis statement
Organization The extent to which the composition uses an organizational structure that enhances meaning and is logically sequenced from sentence to sentence and from paragraph to paragraph
Usage and Sentence Structure The extent to which the composition shows precise word choice and employs correct, effective, and varied sentence structure
Grammar and Mechanical Conventions The extent to which the composition demonstrates correct grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation

Score Scale

The four points of the scoring scale correspond to varying degrees of performance.

Score Point Score Point Description
4 The "4" response reflects a thorough understanding of written performance.
  • The composition fully addresses the topic and uses appropriate language and style.
  • The thesis statement is clearly expressed and effectively maintained.
  • Development is specific, ably reasoned, and relevant.
  • Organization enhances meaning: there is a logical sequencing of ideas from sentence to sentence and from paragraph to paragraph.
  • Word choice is precise; sentence structure is correct, effective, and varied.
  • The composition includes very few errors in grammar, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation.
3 The "3" response reflects a general understanding of written performance.
  • The composition addresses the topic and uses generally appropriate language and style.
  • The thesis statement is expressed and generally maintained.
  • Development is general, but mostly reasoned and relevant.
  • Organization conveys meaning: most sentences and paragraphs are logically sequenced.
  • Minor errors in word choice and sentence structure occur, but they do not impede meaning. Sentence structure shows some variety.
  • Minor errors in grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation may occur, but they do not impede meaning.
2 The "2" response reflects a limited understanding of written performance.
  • The composition partially addresses the topic and may use inappropriate language and style.
  • The thesis statement is expressed but may be only partially maintained.
  • Development is incomplete, partially reasoned, redundant, and/or somewhat irrelevant.
  • Weaknesses in organization may interfere with meaning: sentences and paragraphs may lack logical sequencing.
  • Noticeable and distracting errors in word choice and sentence structure may impede meaning. Sentence structure is mostly simple and unvaried.
  • Many errors in grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation occur and may impede meaning.
1 The "1" response reflects little understanding of written performance.
  • The composition addresses little of the topic and uses inappropriate language and style.
  • A thesis statement may be expressed but is not maintained.
  • Development, if present, is deficient, irrelevant, and/or confusing.
  • Meaning is largely obscured by a lack of organizational structure. Sentences and paragraphs demonstrate little or no logical sequencing.
  • Errors in word choice and sentence structure may be so numerous and serious that they impede meaning.
  • Numerous errors in grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation often impede meaning.
U The response is unrelated to the assignment, is unreadable, is primarily in a language other than English, or does not contain a sufficient amount of original work to score.
B There is no response to the assignment.

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