Thursday, December 9, 2010

Writing Benchmark 2009 - Question 1 - Rating: B

Original material provided by UMich ELI may be found here.
Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE)
Writing Section
Benchmark Set 2009

The following composition was written by an ECPE examinee and scored using the 5-point ECPE Writing scale.

Some psychologists claim that people inherit most of their personality traits from their parents. Do you think this is true? Give specific examples from your own experience to support your viewpoint.

Rating: B

It is a fact that we all inherit many characteristics from our family and especially our parents. But in spite of the external characteristics that we inherit, there are also many traits of our demeanor which seem to have been inherited from our parents. This psychologists’ view is true, but there are many cases when people’s personality traits are created by other circumstances.
In my view many personality characteristics are inherited from parents. For instance when a person is nimble or has an answer for whatever he is told, this trait is based on his parents’ same trait. A good example is my sister. She is always ready to give an answer for almost everything others tell her and my father has exactly the same trait. So, in this case, many may believe that my sister’s demeanor has been inherited from my father.
Additionally, sensitivity is another personality trait that could be inherited. From my own experience, I am as sensitive as my mother is and this may have been inherited from her. On the other hand, both my father and my sister are not so sensitive.
Of course, there are many other traits that are not supposed to be inherited from parents. For example, being stubborn or audacious doesn’t necessarily mean that it is due to our parents. It may be created by other circumstances such as friends, co-workers and in general other people that we have relationships with.
All things considered, having a certain demeanor may be due to a variety of circumstances, one of which is the inheritance from parents’ personality traits. Of course every one of us may have some special traits that can not be the same for any other person and this is what makes people different.

This essay develops the topic completely, with acknowledgement of its complexity. Like Essay #1 it has a promising introduction; it addresses the question directly and the writer signals his/her point of view, stating that he/she broadly agrees with the psychologists’ point of view (i.e., “inheritance”). Additionally, the viewpoint that “environmental influences” can influence your personality is also introduced in the final sentence of the introduction. This suggests that the essay will present a balanced argument.
The essay is generally well organized using a relatively simple rhetorical structure. For instance, in paragraph 2 the writer describes a characteristic. He/she then attributes feature to his/her sister, saying their father is the same. This provides proof of the claim that we do inherit our personality traits from our parents. This paragraph also shows that the writer can make smooth connections between sentences.  

The essay displays a range of syntactic structures and is generally very accurate. The writer shows that he/she can use subordinate clauses effectively; for example, “All things considered, having a certain demeanor may be due to a variety of circumstances, one of which is the inheritance from parents’ personality traits” (paragraph 5).
The vocabulary use shows flexibility and is usually appropriate but there are limitations. For instance, some connectors between sentences are misused or absent (e.g., “But in spite of” is incorrect and inappropriately used in the introductory paragraph; “From my own experience” is not appropriately used in paragraph 3). These slips do not confuse meaning and on other occasions the connectors used are effective (e.g., “of course” and “all things considered”). Nevertheless they indicate that the writer does not have full control over his/her vocabulary. Another example of this shortcoming is in paragraph 3 where the writer uses “sensitivity”/“sensitive” three times. If the word had been used once and then synonyms been used for the other two mentions this would have helped the reader to better understand the concept being described. Does the writer mean that he/she and his/her mother are more easily hurt? Or does “sensitive” here mean that they are more aware of other people’s feelings?
Overall, even though the essay develops the argument well and has very good grammar and vocabulary, the essay has limitations that make it a good example of a “B” level performance.


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