New York, NY -- In writing, as we are all aware, quantity does not necessarily mean quality. In fact, the ability to communicate a complex idea clearly in as few words as possible is, for some, the essence of good writing. Given that, some have wondered why the SAT essay training and practice test samples typically show high correlations between length and score.
There is a simple explanation for this correlation. The College Board's goal in selecting samples for initial training, and for practice tests, is to find essays at each score point that demonstrate all the criteria of that score point. And one important criterion is development. According to our published Scoring Guide, a "typical" 6 essay "effectively and insightfully develops a point of view on the issue... using clearly appropriate examples, reasons, and other evidence to support its position." These essays tend to be robustly developed, and are among the longest essays in our sample sets. But a "typical" 6 essay also "exhibits skillful use of language," "demonstrates meaningful variety in sentence structure," and "is free of most errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics." Training 6s are usually longer than training essays at other score points, but they are also more skillfully written across the entire range of criteria than essays at other score points.
Compare a training 6 to a training 3. An essay selected as a sample 3 will be "limited in its organization or focus, or may demonstrate some lapses in coherence or progression of ideas"; it will have problems in development, which, in practice, almost always means that it is shorter. But sample 3s also "sometimes use weak vocabulary or inappropriate word choice," "lack variety or demonstrate problems in sentence structure," or "contain an accumulation of errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics." Training 3s are often shorter than training 4s, 5s, and 6s, but they are also problematic in other ways that all readers should recognize.
The College Board selects these typical essays for training because we want teachers and students to be clear about the level of quality that we associate with each score point. In live scoring, of course, we see typical and atypical essays; some shorter essays will still "insightfully and effectively develop a point of view on an issue," while some longer essays will "sometimes use weak vocabulary or inappropriate word choice." But that is the reason the College Board only employs experienced classroom teachers (with a minimum of three years' experience) as scorers. We trust that teachers who have years of experience reading student writing will be able, upon grasping the clear distinctions between typical essays, to perform the trickier task of scoring the atypical essays. Results from the March administration suggest that our confidence is justified. As we continue to develop our training and test-preparation materials, we plan to provide a more diverse set of samples in order to further refine teachers' and students' understanding of the scoring criteria.
Source : http://www.collegeboard.com/press/releases/45557.html