Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Pros and Cons of GRAD Writing - A Writing Journal

In this post, I will explore both the good and the bad of the Graduation-Required Assessments for Diploma (or GRAD writing test). The aforementioned test is a test that I will be taking at the end of this year. Please note that this will mostly be focusing on the test in my area, and that there may be variations depending on what your district/state is.

When I heard that this year in Language Arts we'd be focusing most of our time on writing, I was elated. There is nothing I love to do more. Then my teacher came to explain that the reason for this was a standardized test at the end of the year. 


I've never liked state tests.  It's not that I'm bad at testing, I'm alright. It's the principle of the thing that I don't like. I mean, they just seem like a way for a school to brag about who got better scores than whom. And besides, just giving a kid a test doesn't necessary measure how intelligent they are. 

Continuing on, this year we only have one test: the GRAD writing. No math MCAs (the tests we've been taking since 3rd grade), reading, or even science (which seemed like it was just added on as a bonus test anyway). However, the stakes are higher for the GRAD writing test. GRAD stands for Graduation-Required Assessments for Diploma. To graduate high school, each student must pass this test.

No more "my parents don't care about my grades" or "I just don't test well". We have to pass this. In the test you are given a personal prompt and you must answer this prompt in a basic five paragraph essay: introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. You will be given a score out of six. Anything above a three is considered a 'passing grade'.

So now you see why we've just gotten our first practice prompt, the prompt my older brother had to use for his test: Who is your everyday hero and why? 

The moment I read this prompt, I wanted to bang my head up against my desk. I don't know who my everyday hero is. I don't even know what that means. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit. I was frustrated and I was definitively stuck. This is why I don't like writing about myself: I don't find myself interesting. That's why I write about fictional people.

It seems that still hasn't gone to waste though because my teacher told me we're allowed to make stuff up in order to help your essay. "Because the reader of your test isn't going to know the difference," she said, "as long as it's still realistic." My love for narrative has also helped with the voice aspect of the essay, which is super important. The judge of these essays read hundreds, and you need to make yours stand out.

I chose to write mine on my older brother, and stretched the truth here and there. I arrived to class the next time ready to edit like crazy, because my first draft sucks. Only, we spend most of our time talking about the mechanics of grading and the structure. Why?

Because in order to pass, all you need to do is fit the structure of the essay and answer the question. That's it. Looking at my rough draft, I knew I'd get a three with that. But I don't want a three, I want a six, and to achieve that I need amazing voice, a totally concentrated essay and great word choice.

Did I mention the test only lasts four hours?

That's right. You have four hours to write a first draft, edit that, and then do a final. That's all. Four. Hours. To put this in perspective, it took me three weeks and five drafts to get my first literary essay done. Granted, literary essays are "harder" than a personal one, but still.

I guess I better start on editing my rough draft some more.

See ya, guys!


Recently passed the GRAD Writing test? What was your prompt? Share your score if you're comfortable doing so. Got a question on the test? Anything else to say? Leave a comment below!

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