eWrite is an online assessment that allows teachers to accurately and efficiently measure students’ writing abilities, to diagnose gaps, strengths and weaknesses in student learning, and monitor student progress over time.

The following topics are covered in this article:

The assessment

eWrite provides students from years 4 to 10 with eight appropriate and engaging writing prompts across the narrative, report, descriptive, and persuasive genres. Students' writing is automatically scored against the established rubric and detailed reporting provides immediate diagnostic feedback on individuals and groups.

Topics are designed to be age-appropriate and engaging, allowing students maximum choice to develop their own creative and original responses.

eWrite uses advanced analysis techniques that provide instant scoring, and quickly produces detailed reports that pinpoint individual students' writing strengths and weaknesses.

Students' writing is automatically scored against the established rubric and detailed online reporting provides immediate diagnostic feedback on individuals and groups against the following criteria:

  • Orientation and engagement
  • Register
  • Text structure
  • Ideas
  • Vocabulary
  • Paragraphing
  • Sentences
  • Sentence punctuation
  • Punctuation within sentences
  • Spelling

Overall student performance is reported on the eWrite scale. The use of a common achievement scale allows results to be compared between students and across all eWrite writing tasks.

eWrite should be considered as one tool among many that teachers can use to assess and support students to improve their writing. Humans remain uniquely qualified to interpret and assess writing. eWrite brings efficiency and objectivity to the essay-scoring process. The use of automated scoring to supplement and assist teachers’ own judgements about students’ writing abilities reduces teacher workload and saves time in the collection, analysis and use of data to inform teaching and learning.

When to assess

eWrite can be used to assess students at any time of the year, but repeated use of the same writing prompt with the same students within a single school year is not recommended.

All eWrite prompts have been placed on a common measurement scale. This allows for different ways of using eWrite to investigate students’ growth in writing.

The following are two possible approaches:

  • Pairs of writing prompts of the same genre can be used at the beginning and end of a unit of work focusing on writing, to investigate how students’ writing ability has developed, or
  • an eWrite prompt of any genre could be administered to a class (or cohort), with different prompts administered annually thereafter, allowing for longitudinal monitoring of student development in writing over time.

Choosing the right tasks

eWrite provides writing topics for the following text types:

Narrative Description Report Persuasive
Task B (years 5–8)
Task H (years 4–8)
Task D (years 5–8) Task C (years 5–8) Task A (years 5–6)
Task E (years 7–8)
Task F (years 5–10)
Task G (years 5–9)

Our general recommendations are listed above and can also be found when assigning the tasks to students.

The suggested year levels for the tasks are based on two pieces of information. Firstly, some prompts may not be easily accessible to younger students, while others may limit the ideas that older students are capable of generating. The suggested year levels are guides to the maturity of thought necessary for creating responses to the prompt. Secondly, the trial populations from which the scoring algorithms were developed differed slightly, and the suggested guidelines reflect the majority of students in the trial samples. There is a chance that using the prompts with students outside the suggested year levels may, potentially, affect the accuracy of the scoring, so it is better to be cautious when using the prompts with students older or younger than the suggested guidelines.

Administering the tests

Test administration instructions

Students interact directly with the online assessment. It is designed for students to complete independently under teacher supervision. All instructions are given on screen and students type plain text straight into the online system. Time for planning and editing is built into the assessment, which scaffolds the students’ writing experience.

eWrite is a standardised assessment and the recommended test time is 20–25 minutes, which is an optimal time period for such an assessment and in keeping with many other writing assessments conducted by ACER. It can be easily completed within one lesson.

Time must be managed by the teacher invigilating the assessment. Students will not be automatically timed out by the online system, nor are they prevented from navigating away from the assessment to other web pages.

Students should work independently and without distractions, so that their writing reflects their own best efforts. The teacher invigilating the assessment should monitor students as they work, including checking that students do not have other web pages or browser windows open.

Students’ focus and energy levels are important factors in their capacity to accurately demonstrate their ability on the assessment. For this reason, it is generally best to test students in the morning and not immediately before or after an exciting school event.

Prior to administering the tests to students, teachers should download or print a list of student login details as well as the test administration instructions. It is recommended that the school’s unique account URL is saved as a shortcut or link on students’ devices or on the school intranet for easy access.

Students should not use the following characters:

  • emoticons (☺)
  • equals sign (=)
  • forward slash (/)
  • curly brackets ({})
  • tilde (~)
  • back-slanting apostrophe (`)
  • caret (^)
  • underscore (_)
  • cents sign (¢)

If these characters are included in student responses, you may encounter an error when downloading and opening the eWrite Group Report in Excel.

Using the results

Follow the steps below to generate an eWrite report:

  1. From the Students page of your account, select your students, either individually or by filtering your list by tagged group or year level
  2. Click Generate report
  3. Select eWrite
  4. Select Group report
  5. Click Generate report and View report

Click a student's name to view their individual report with additional score information and their written response:

For each eWrite task, reports provide the following information:

  • a raw score (a total of the individual criteria scores)
  • an eWrite scale score
  • an achievement band
  • a breakdown of scores for each assessment criterion

eWrite scale scores are estimates of student ability, as measured by the assessment. The scale scores from eWrite can be used to make direct comparisons between eWrite tasks, which means they can be used to track student progress in writing over time. When comparing scale scores, it should always be borne in mind that every test score has some degree of measurement error. This means that two scores that are close together may not indicate a significant difference.

The individual criterion scores can be used to gauge specific strengths or weaknesses in sub-skills of writing, such as sentence punctuation. These scores in particular can be used as the basis for teachers to provide detailed feedback to students about what they did well in their writing, and what their next steps ought to be in order to improve.

The eWrite scale is divided into bands that cover the range of student writing achievement from year 5 to year 8, as it relates to this assessment. The eWrite scale is divided into seven bands (Band 3 or below to Band 9 or above). The bands were established using student distribution data from the trial phase and the relative difficulty of the categories on the marking guide. They provide a way to aggregate and summarise the performance of a group of students on eWrite assessments. A class teacher might make decisions about differentiation in future writing activities based on band groupings, for example by assigning modified tasks to groups of students who scored in the same band. For example:

Achievement band 6 | Scale score 430 to 479

Students in this band are able to express ideas with generally accurate use of sentence punctuation and spelling. They provide sufficient elaboration of the main ideas using mostly precise vocabulary. Their text structures reflect the typical structures required of the text type.

Students in a band are typically able to demonstrate all the skills in lower bands. If a particular criterion is not mentioned in a band’s description, teachers should interpret that as the student having demonstrated the ability to the level described in lower bands. For example, sentence punctuation is not described in any band above Band 6, but teachers can safely assume that typical students in Bands 7, 8 and 9 and above will demonstrate accurate sentence punctuation because the Band 6 description includes the ability to ‘express ideas with accurate use of sentence punctuation’.

Unscoreable responses

Occasionally, students’ writing is unable to be scored by the automated marking system. These errors are uncommon, and most often occur when the student is not properly engaged with the task, the response is below the minimum length to be scored, or when the student has not responded directly to the provided prompt.

Errors may be reduced by ensuring that the administration instructions are read aloud and understood by students prior to them starting the test.

There may be instances where a student has made a serious attempt at responding to a task, but their work is still not able to be automatically marked. The eWrite Marking Guide and Response Exemplars may assist you in manually scoring students' work against the eWrite rubric.

The criteria scores for unscoreable responses will appear blank within the online reports, with an explanation of the cause of the error displayed, for example 'No score (syntax)'.

Writing with the following features may not be scoreable:

  • Off-topic: essay does not contain a minimum number of words from the topic-specific lexicon developed by the computer during creation of the scoring model.
    Report error code: No score (relevance)
  • Too short: fewer than 50 words or 3 sentences.
    Report error code: No score (length)
  • Insufficiently developed: 50 to 100 words with insufficient on-topic vocabulary.
    Report error code: No score (length)
  • Major syntax errors: insufficient sentence punctuation, or too many run-on sentences, or syntax errors which prevent understanding.
    Report error code: No score (syntax)
  • Repetitious: text or sentence structure is repeated.
    Report error code: No score (repetition)
  • Too many unknown words: spelling is overwhelmingly poor, or essay is written in a foreign language.
    Report error code: No score (vocabulary)

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