As our primary means of communication in academic, social and professional life, writing is one of the most fundamental skills to practise and master.

Assess school students’ narrative and persuasive writing skills with the ICAS Writing exam

In recognition of the subject’s educational and practical importance, ICAS Writing Assessments are designed to provide an objective ranking of students’ performance based on the curricula for the relevant year. Writing skills such as thoughtful planning, creativity and critical and reflective thinking are not only the keys to success in English — they are critical to communicating your ideas clearly and effectively in all subjects and areas of life.

It’s difficult to think of a field of study or work where good writing wouldn’t boost your performance. Of course, narrative and persuasive writing are crucial in English, and essay writing skills are relevant across many subjects such as History, Geography, Legal Studies and Psychology. But even for more mathematically minded students, the ability to express yourself clearly and concisely is essential to performing well and standing out in all subjects including STEM. The importance of writing skills extends well beyond education too — writing text messages, emails, reports, resumes and cover letters is an everyday part of life.

More than simply a writing competition, ICAS Writing Assessments consist of a task carefully chosen and reviewed for each paper every year by expert educators. Papers are carefully graded to stimulate interest and learning across a wide range of abilities, including gifted and talented students. In turn, students receive a unique academic experience designed to challenge their abilities beyond the classroom, a greater understanding of where their strengths and areas of improvement lie, and recognition and encouragement of academic success.

Year 3 to Year 12 ICAS Writing Assessments

ICAS Writing tests two forms of writing, narrative and persuasive, over time. Examples of persuasive tasks include reviews, advertisements, letters to a council, formal arguments (essays), opinion pieces for a newspaper, or a campaign manifesto. Examples of narrative tasks include the beginning, complication or conclusion of a narrative, or a description of setting or character.

Writing in ICAS competitions is marked on a common, criterion-referenced scale — all scripts, regardless of year level, are marked using the same criteria. The strength of the common scale is increased with the use of common tasks across year levels, making the scores that students achieve comparable with each other. This ability to make such direct comparisons can inform whole-school teaching strategies and programs.

ICAS Writing Assessments are marked against criteria specific to the task and every student’s work is assessed against the same marking scheme. Up to twelve marking criteria may be used. These may be divided into domains or sections, including:

  • Genre: the ways in which the text has been structured and specific stylistic and vocabulary choices that have been made to achieve the writer’s purpose and the engagement of the reader. The best texts will demonstrate a creative and skilful integration of structure and language choices in order to do this.
  • Textual Grammar: correct use of tense and the ways in which tense can be manipulated to strengthen the writing; the correct use of pronouns, conjunctions and connectives to assist the reader in following the text; and the ability to correctly structure a variety of different types of sentences, including complex sentences, for effect.
  • Syntax/Punctuation: correct use of sentence grammar including subject-verb agreement and the correct use of prepositions, articles and plurals, and punctuation.

Each marking criterion has a range of scores. Each score point describes the achievement of a skill level in that criterion. For example, at a score of 3, a student will have satisfied the standards described by scores 1, 2 and 3 but will not have demonstrated the standard described by score 4. In this sense, the scoring can be seen as cumulative. The fact that each score in each criterion describes a specific skill level enables students to assess their achievement and equips parents and teachers with diagnostic information to help develop students’ learning programs.

Please note that the ICAS Writing Assessment requires the installation of the Janison Replay application. Click here for more information.

“The ICAS Assessments provide a challenging medium by which I can practise skills learnt in school from an external assessment, and compare my academic performance with my peers across a broader area.”
William
Year 11, Writing, 2021
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