Overview of the Writing Test

Content
The writing test will contain the following three tasks:
Part 1:            for MFA diplomatic officers and TICA officers
Part 2A:          for TICA officers
Part 2B:          for MFA diplomatic officers
Test takers will be required to write two tasks: Part 1 AND either Part 2A or Part 2B, according to their status. The writing topics in Part 1 will be appropriate for all MFA test takers, while in Part 2 they will be selected to match the test takers’ work situation.

Types and Length of Task
Each task will belong to one of the following task types:

  • article, book introduction, briefing, letter, press release, report, statement, website material

For the task in Part 1, test takers should write a minimum of 250 words. For the task in Part 2, test takers should write a minimum of 350 words.
The following table may help to summarise this information:

 

  Test takers

Task type

  Length of output

  Task 1

  MFA diplomatic officers and TICA   officer

article, book introduction, briefing, letter, press release, report,   statement, website material

  250 words

  Task 2A

  TICA officers

  350 words

  Task 2B

  MFA diplomatic officers

  350 words

 

Types of Writing Behaviour
The test targets the test takers’ ability across a range of proficiency levels and contexts to determine if they are able in general to:

  • write straightforward connected texts on a range of familiar subjects within their field of interest (B1 – see Grading and Results)
  • write clear, detailed descriptions on a variety of subjects related to his/her professional field (B2 – see Grading and Results)
  • write an essay or report which develops an argument (B2 – see Grading and Results)
  • write clear, well-structured texts on complex subjects, underlining the relevant issues, expanding and supporting points of view at some length with subsidiary points, reasons and relevant examples and rounding off with an appropriate conclusion. (C1 – see Grading and Results)

Timing
Test takers will have 90 minutes to complete both tasks.

Criteria of Assessment
A rating scale has been developed based on the CEFR (see Grading and Results) and other established scales.The scale is a set of statements describing writing performance. These statements focus on four aspects of the performance:

  • Task achievement (TA)
  • Organisation and layout (OCC)
  • Lexical range and accuracy (i.e. vocabulary) (LRAA)
  • Grammatical range and accuracy (GRA)

For example, the test taker is assessed on whether s/he can:

  • expand and support a clear position (TA)
  • fully meet text-type requirements (TA)
  • link sentences into clear, coherent text (OCC)
  • use paragraphs effectively (OCC)
  • use a wide range of vocabulary fluently and flexibly (LRAA)
  • can spell accurately (LRAA)
  • successfully use a wide range of grammatical structures (GRA)
  • use punctuation accurately

Link to assessment scale

Grading and Results
The final result will be expressed in terms of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) proficiency scale.
What does this mean? The CEFR describes six levels of language proficiency. However, the current MFA test will only target three of them:

  • B1, or Independent User: Intermediate
  • B2, or Independent User: Upper Intermediate
  • C1, or Proficient User: Advanced

Thus each test taker will receive one of these six possible results:

  • (Below B1)
  • B1
  • B1+
  • B2
  • B2+
  • C1

Why use the CEFR? The CEFR is an internationally recognised framework of language descriptors that makes it easy to understand what level a test taker is at in terms of their reading, listening, writing and speaking abilities.
You can find out more about the CEFR by following these links:
http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/linguistic/CADRE1_EN.asp
http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/education/elp/elp-reg/Source/Key_reference/CEFR_EN.pdf