HUNTER COLLEGE READING/WRITING CENTER
THE CUNY/ACT BASIC SKILLS TESTS
Scoring and Sample Essays
Scoring the Writing Sample
Because this is a test of writing skills, responses should be written in complete sentences and paragraphs. Your response should be organized and clearly written. Your writing will be evaluated for its focus on the topic, development and organization of ideas, and correct sentence structure, grammar, usage and mechanics. In other words, your writing should conform to the conventions of edited American English.
Evaluators will use a six-point scale to score the writing sample. Each score reflects an evaluator's holistic (overall) judgement of the writer's performance in relation to the skills identified above. Two evaluators who have been trained to score writing using this six-point scale will read each response.
ACT Scoring Scale
Upper-range papers. These papers clearly engage the issue identified in the prompt and demonstrate superior skill in organizing, developing, and conveying in standard written English, the writer's ideas about the topic.
||Exceptional. These papers take a position on the issue defined in the prompt and support that position with extensive elaboration. Organization is unified and coherent. While there may be a few errors in mechanics, usage, or sentence structure, outstanding command of the language is apparent.
||Superior. These papers take a position on the issue defined in the prompt and support that position with moderate elaboration. Organization is unified and coherent. While there may be a few errors in mechanics, usage, or sentence structure, command of the language is apparent.
|Mid-range papers. Papers in the middle range demonstrate engagement with the issue identified in the prompt but do not demonstrate the evidence of writing skill that would mark them as outstanding.
||Competent. These papers take a position on the issue defined in the prompt and support that position with some elaboration or explanation. Organization is generally clear. A competency with language is apparent, even though there may be some errors in mechanics, usage, or sentence structure.
||Adequate. These papers take a position on the issue defined in the prompt and support that position, but with only a little elaboration or explanation. Organization is clear enough to follow without difficulty. A control of the language is apparent, even though there may be numerous errors in mechanics, usage, or sentence structure.
|Lower-range papers. Papers in the lower range fail in some way to demonstrate proficiency in language use, clarity of organization, or engagement of the issue identified in the prompt.
||Weak. While these papers take a position on the issue defined in the prompt, they may show significant problems in one or more of several areas, making the writer's ideas often difficult to follow: support may be extremely minimal; organization may lack clear movement or connectedness; or there may be a pattern of errors in mechanics, usage, or sentence structure that significantly interferes with understanding the writer's ideas.
||Inadequate. These papers show a failed attempt to engage the issue defined in the prompt, lack support, or the problems with organization or language are so sever as to make the writer's ideas very difficult to follow.
Sample Student Papers
This section includes a paper of each score point on the ACT scoring scale, and a brief explanation of each score. Some of these papers may score differently on the CUNY scoring scale.
Dear College Dean:
It is my understanding that this college has received a large donation to be used to enhance
the quality of life for students: expand the bookstore or add computers to the computer lab. It is
the tradition of this school to promote education and to be at the vanguard of new technology.
That is why I strongly argue in favor of the addition of more computers to the computer lab.
Although expanding the campus bookstore to include CD's, gifts, and a snack bar will give a
nicer look to the college, we have to think about a greater goal and a more practical way to
enhance the quality of life for students. What do we want for our students and our college? Do
we want our college to be known as a place with a great bookstore where you can find CD's and
gifts, or as a place where the students can explore and research in their field using the best tools
provided by technology? In addition, there are already several snack bars on campus, and there
are music stores nearby, so students do not depend on the college bookstore for these things.
We live in a highly technological world and computers play an increasingly important role in
how we live. As a learning institution, this college has the responsibility to offer its students the
best technology to help them prepare for their future. Many students will be expected to be
familiar with the latest software and other tools when they go on to work or to graduate school.
While they are in college, students find they are expected to use computers. Many professors
expect students to use computers to do homework or to complete projects. Students are asked to
create PowerPoint presentations and use spreadsheets and database programs, as well as to
research many topics on the Internet. Since students are competing for good grades, those who
have limited access to computers are at a great disadvantage. Furthermore, being able to do
projects using the computer enhances the process of learning, giving students the opportunity to
find information that without a computer would be much more difficult to find.
If there are more computers, students will also be able to complete their work more efficiently.
No more will they have to wait in line, paper and disk in hand, while scanning the room for an
empty chair and computer. No longer will they have to sit and wait while an outdated computer
struggles to follow their commands. Having more new and faster computers available will enable
students to finish their work more quickly.
The more computers are used in society the more colleges will depend on them as a tool of
teaching and learning. Making computers more available to students facilitates their learning
process by making the process easier, more interesting, more engaging, and in the process
enhancing their quality of life
Comments on Essay 6
This paper takes a clear position on the issue described in the prompt and supports that position
with a counterargument and several positive arguments. The counterargument is handled
effectively: the writer acknowledges the value of having a nice bookstore, but then explains why
that is less important than adding computers. The writer's supporting points include some good
detail, particularly in the fourth paragraph. Organization is clear without being overly obvious, and
transitions are used effectively to help the reader understand connections among ideas- The paper
has good sentence variety and the writer handles complex sentence structures extremely well-
Correct grammar, usage, and mechanics not only show the writer's grasp of standard edited English
but also the writer's ability to use sophisticated structures that serve the rhetorical purpose: e.g., the
two rhetorical questions in the second paragraph, the repeated structures in the fifth paragraph ("No
more will they have to wait in line," "No longer will they have to sit and wait").
Dear College Dean:
Two proposals have been presented to you about how to spend the large donation entrusted to
the college. The first plan, entailing cd's, gifts and a snack bar in the bookstore seems enticing to
every student on the campus. The alternative plan, however, truly surpasses the first both in
importance and in necessity. More computers will enhance student life so much more by
improving academic opportunity, allowing more time for experimentation and exploration, and
adding to the existing technology here on campus.
Academics are truly the reason college students attend this university. During the course of
almost every class, a student will most likely have to use a computer to type a paper, make a
graph, or perform research on the web. Additional computers in the computer labs would benefit
the students' lives greatly because those who do not have access to the internet or computers
would be able to use them at labs without waiting or being frustrated by old technology.
Students not only use computers for academic purposes, but also for recreation and personal
reasons. They have ,fun chatting, e-mailing, and surfing the web, and while they do all these
things, they learn about the computers themselves. All this is sort of informal training in the use
of computers. More computers would allow students the luxury of experimenting and exploring
at their leisure, without preventing another student from doing assignments.
The technology on campus would also be improved by adding new computers that would
have faster computation speed and larger storage capacity to accommodate the latest software.
Many students have complained about insufficient hard disk space, RAM sizes, or slow CPU's.
Computers are not just for word processing and internet browsing; the new software used in
many classes needs more powerful computers.
Adding computers will benefit all students, whether by improving their academics, allowing
them access to better technology, or providing an area for fun and learning. These are much
better than hot dogs or cd's in the overall quality of student life.
Comments on Essay 5
This paper includes Several points in support of the writer's position and develops each point
with some specific details. The writer clearly describes how computers are used for assignments
and illuminates some of the problems with current computers. Organization is very clear, if a
little too obvious: the paper includes a good introduction that briefly evaluates the two options,
several paragraphs of development, and a good conclusion. Some detail in the conclusion adds
interest to the writing: "[Computers] are much better that hot dogs or cd's in the overall quality of
student life." Transitions are used effectively to help the reader make connections. The paper
shows superior command of the language. There is good sentence variety and complex sentence
structures are handled well; for example, "Students not only use computers for academic
purposes, but also for recreation and personal reasons." The language is occasionally colloquial
( e.g., "this is sort of informal training"), but in general word choice and phrasing are clear and
Dear College Dean:
As a student at our college, I think I have an obligation write this letter to you to support the
proposal for adding more computers to the computer lab.
If you could take a chance to visit our computer lab, you would see lots of students eager for
a spare computer crowded in the waiting room area of the lab especially during the weeks near
the midtenn and the final exam. Then, you would know why I am pleading you for the proposal.
Yes, there are not enough computers for us. We need computers to write papers for our classes,
to do computer work for class projects, to search academic or non-academic but useful
information, to check and write email, to help to improve ourselves, etc Our life is getting to
depend on computers.
Some of the students own computers from family or other sources of financial support.
These students obviously take advantage over those who do not have money to buy a computer in
persuing their academic goal. With enough computers, each student at our college has an equal
chance to use a computer whenever he or she needs to use it without wasting unnecessary time in
Furthermore, we can purchase less expensive books, music cd's, gifts, and even snacks
through the internet if we have enough computers. Our college already has enough snack-
vending machines and we have lots of grocery stores near our campus. Therefore, our college
should spend the money in adding more computers to the computer lab instead of wasting money
in expanding the bookstore.
School is a place to provide each student with an equal opportunity. Not only could the
proposal meet our computer needs and provide us a fair learning environment, but also it could
serve the similar purpose of the other proposal for expanding the bookstore. I strongly believe it
would enhance the quality of life for students. To serve the purpose of the donation is to use the
proposal for adding more computers.
Looking forward to hearing from you for approving the proposal.
Comments on Essay 4
The writer takes a stand on the issue in the prompt and supports his or her position by presenting
two counter arguments and two positive arguments for the addition of computers. In general,
points are explained with some detail; for example, the writer says, "We need computers to write
papers. ..to do computer work for class projects, to search for useful information, to check and
write e-mail ..." The paper has a brief introduction. several paragraphs of development of the
writer's supporting points, and a paragraph of conclusion. Some transitions are used to show
connections within and among paragraphs (e.g., furthermore, therefore). While there are some
errors in grammar and usage (e.g., "If you could take a chance to visit," "you would know why I
am pleading you"), in general the writer shows a competency with language. The paper includes
several effective complex sentences; for example, the fourth sentence in the second paragraph
correctly uses parallel structure.
Dear College Dean:
I'm writing this letter to give suggestions about the using of the donations. I support with the
proposal of expanding the campus bookstore including music cd, gifts and a snack bar.
The expansion of the campus bookstore can provide the students much more materials for
their different interests. We have got a huge amount of students. Some students are interested in
computers and they spend their time on staying at the computer lab. But we also have students
who loves musics, reading books, etc. If we expand the bookstore, we can also satisfy those part
of students who are not really interested a lot in computers unless they need to do their
The proposal suggests the bookstore to be expanded with music cds; that is so students can
buy them and do some shopping with cds, gifts during the breaks before or after class. This is
good place to go to. And students can also get some snacks at snack bar, it is very convenient to
combine the bookstore and the snack bar. Students can do both kinds of shopping at one place.
Students who love using computer can still go to the computer lab or the library .There is
computers, too. For those interested in music and books they can go to the bookstore, sit there
and enjoy. This would be the best way to satisfy both groups of students.
Comments on Essay 3
This paper takes a position on the issue defined in the prompt and supports it by including
counterarguments (there are adequate computers on campus and not everyone is interested in
using computers extensively), and by describing the benefits of having more amenities available
in the bookstore. Both the argument and counterarguments are presented with a little detail- The
paper includes an introduction, middle, and conclusion, and the writer uses a few transitions to
link ideas. A basic control of English sentence structure is evident, although there is one sentence
error-a comma splice-in the third paragraph. Errors in grammar and mechanics are evident
but do not impede understanding of the writer's meaning.
Dear College Dean:
I am a student studying In the community college. I heard that two proposals were given to
enhance the quality of life for students. I think the proposal which is to add more computers to
the computer lab is a better idea.
For most students they have to work on homework by computer. However not all students
can afford one. Giving students enough access to do their homework is the most important. I had
once been staying outside the computer lab for 20 minutes waiting to use computer. TMs
experience is awful in school life. Besides, the world is going to be more and more computerized.
Without the computer access, we cannot stand in the world. It will be a good experience for
students to use computer access in school life.
Comments on Essay 2
This paper takes a position on the issue defined in the prompt and includes two ideas in support
of the writer's position (the need for greater access to computers and the need for students to be
prepared to use computers in their careers). There is a little development of the writer's first point
when he or she tells about wasting time waiting for a computer, but there is no development of
the writer's second point. The paper includes a brief introduction, but it has no conclusion. The
use of the word "however" reflects an attempt to show connections between ideas, but the paper
would be stronger with more transitions. There are some errors in grammar, usage, and
mechanics. The writer shows control of simple sentence structure in English
Dear College Dean:
I am writing this letter to inforn you on how it would be best for the large donation to be spent. You
have two options, one expand the bookstore or two add more computers to the computer lab. To improve
the quality of students lives you should add more computers. Many students don't have personal
computers, by adding more you are improving students access to a computer.
Sure, you could expand the bookstore but is it really necessary. Does the college have enough
computers available for students? I don't think so
Thank you for your time, students quality of life will improve if you have more computers available.
Comments on Essay lA
This paper takes a position on the issue defined in the prompt, but the first half of the paper is
simply a repetition of the prompt. The writer makes one point supporting his or her position, but
other than one statement and two questions, there is no development of the writer's position. The
reader is left wondering: Why do students need more access to computers? Why is the bookstore
adequate is it is? How will students' quality of life be improved if more computers are available?
In addition, the writing shows poor control of sentence structure, grammar, and mechanics. This
short paper includes three incorrect sentences (comma splices). Some punctuation is missing
(e.g., a question mark in the second paragraph).
Dear College Dean:
Since the college is lack of computers, I think college should increase more computers to the
computer lab. College is the place where students learn for knowledge.
Students always feel angry to use the computers because the lab is lack of computers. On the
other hand, students has to spend long time to wait their turn.
Computers have playa very important part to college students life.
Comments on Essay 1B
In This paper is scored at this level for different reasons than Essay lA. While Essay lA has
several incorrect sentences, a reader can understand the writer's meaning without great difficulty.
The major weakness of Essay lA is that it does very little more than to rewrite the prompt. In
Essay lB, the writer takes a stand and attempts to support his or her position, but the
development is extremely minimal and disconnected, and problems with language are severe.
While the writer appears in the opening paragraph to make a connection between computers and
learning, the writer does not explain that connection. Instead, in the second paragraph, the writer
talks briefly about having to wait to use computers. The middle paragraph appears to use a
transition ("on the other hand"), but the transition is misleading because what follows is not an
alternative. The closing sentence, which serves as a conclusion, does not address any of the ideas
in the paper. Expression is very awkward throughout the paper and shows a developing writer
grasping for vocabulary and the means to put words together in a sentence.