Thursday, December 9, 2010

Writing Benchmark 2009 - Question 1 - Rating: C

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: C

Some psychologists claim that people inherit most of their personality from their parents and I agree to some extend.
When babies are born, they show their personality. The way they behave, the way they cry or even when they are hungry, the way they ask for food shows or give us an indea of how his/her personality is going to be. From the very beginning you can listen people making comments like “he is sweet”. “she’s got bad temper”, “she wants to control everybody,” etc.
Some of these “sweet”, “bad-tempered”, “controller” babies happened to be different when they grow up. They grow up in an environment and the tend to do what they see.
There are children who have problems at school. They fight, say bad words, don’t have respect for their teacher nor their peers. They show an aggressive personality but sometimes they don’t want to have those kind of reactions. 

Renzo is a very intelligent and sweet boy who has problems at school. If teachers treat him with love, pacience and respect, he produces good work and has no problem with his friends, but if somebody pushes him as an accident he reacts violently.
We have had interviews with his parents and we found out that his mother treats him the same way he treats people at school. Therefore, this boy might have a lovely personality but because of this influence and example of his mother he reacts differently.
On the other hand we have children who have parents that are quite aggressive and the children are sweet, delicate, kind.
Therefore I can conclude saying that we born with our own personality but life might change it, sometimes for better and some for not. As adults we have to be aware of this and as we live in a society we need to know how to control our personality. We need to know how to behave in different situations. If you need to be polite be polite.

The opening paragraph gives a poor first impression; the first half of the introductory sentence of this essay is copied from the prompt and the second half could be rote-learned language. Copying directly from the prompt is an indication of a weak writer who does not have a broad enough vocabulary to use his/her ownwords to rephrase the essay question.

Though the introduction is weak, the topic is developed on both sides (“inheritance” and “environmental influence”). The writer even tries to show how complex the topic is by giving examples of children who are affected by the behavior of their parents and children who are not (see paragraphs 6 and 7). The organization is also generally controlled and the paragraphs are in a logical order. However, connections are sometimes absent or unsuccessful and after paragraph 2 the essay has no clear argument thread. Instead, each paragraph feels like a separate “vignette” rather than part of a cohesive whole.

Both simple and complex syntax are present but most sentences are relatively simple (with “and” or “but” connectors). There are also a number of different grammatical errors such as subject-verb agreement, missing prepositions, and incorrect tense choices. For instance, paragraph 3 has a number of small grammatical errors that the reader has to mentally correct while reading.

The vocabulary is adequate but not always appropriately used. For instance, in paragraph 6 the examinee writes, “We have had interviews….” “Had” is an efficient word choice but not contextually appropriate. “Conducted” would be more appropriate.

Overall this essay shows that the writer can express his/her ideas but lacks the language resources to makepoints effectively. This is very typical of a “C” level essay.


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