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Frequently Asked Questions

What is WESTEST 2 Online Writing?

The WESTEST 2 Online Writing is an annual assessment designed to assess the writing skills of students in grades 3-11. This test is to be administered to all students in grades 3-11 who are not required to take the West Virginia Alternate Performance Task Assessment (APTA). On a secure Web site, students use word processing to enter their written responses to assigned passages and accompanying prompts, which were developed by WV teachers in conjunction with CTB/McGraw-Hill’s development department. These passages and prompts, which incorporate 21st century tools and skills, include the genres of Descriptive, Narrative, Informative and Persuasive writing. Compositions are scored electronically based on the appropriate grade-level West Virginia Six-Point Scoring Rubric, which includes the writing traits of Organization, Development, Sentence Structure, Word Choice/Grammar Usage and Mechanics.

What students take Online Writing?

All students enrolled in grades 3-11, with the exception of those students who meet the criteria for participation in APTA, shall participate in WESTEST 2 Online Writing. Even students who have not been enrolled in West Virginia for the full academic school year shall be tested. Students shall be tested at the grade level in which they are enrolled.

How were the passages and prompts used on the assessment created?

A team of West Virginia reading language arts teachers developed the passages and prompts, which were lexiled to appropriate grade-level readability. The passages and prompts were field tested in grades 3-11. Prior to the final administration of the passages and prompts, Dr. Norman Webb, a senior research scientist with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin, conducted an alignment study, and the passages and prompts underwent extensive Content and Bias Reviews.

What characteristics are included in each genre?

Descriptive writing has many details and images that appeal to the five senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Narrative writing focuses on an event or a situation of interest to the writer and includes a clear sequence of events. Informative writing conveys facts, feelings and ideas and is logical, clear, concise and supported by relevant details. Persuasive writing reflects a clear point of view that is well supported with examples and reasoning that can bring about a change in a reader’s perspective.

How were the West Virginia Six-Point Writing Rubrics developed?

The WVDE Office of Assessment, Accountability and Research and the WVDE Office of Instruction led a team of West Virginia content specialists in the development of the West Virginia Writing Rubrics, grades 3-11. These rubrics were developed around grade-level, 21st Century Reading/Language Arts Content Standards and Objectives, and were used to score the field test compositions and to train the scoring engine. In addition to their alignment to the West Virginia CSOs, the rubrics were also aligned to the NAEP, ACT and SAT rubrics.


How is WESTEST 2 Online Writing Administered?

During a statewide nine-week testing window, trained examiners in the participating schools administer the WESTEST 2 Online Writing to students in grades 3-11. Each county is assigned its own testing window, and each county test coordinator develops testing windows for each participating school.

How do students submit their responses?

Students log on to a secured Web site using a unique username. The examiner enters a password. A grade-level appropriate passage and prompt in one of four genres – descriptive, narrative, informative or persuasive – is randomly assigned to each student and appears on the screen. Students use word processing to enter their responses

What if a student is not allowed to use the Internet at school?

Because WESTEST 2 Online Writing is a Web-based assessment, students must have on file an Acceptable Use of the Internet Form, signed by a parent or legal guardian, as directed by West Virginia Board of Education Policy 2460, Safety and Acceptable Use of the Internet by Students and Educators §126-41-3.2.1 (refer to Each county provides its own Acceptable Use of the Internet Form. These forms are available on the following Web site: If a student does not have this form on file, he/she must hand write the composition and a Scribe will enter the composition on the Web site.

Do students know what genre they will get when they log on?

No, the passages and prompts are randomly assigned to each student, and there is no way to predict which genre the student will get.

Is there a time limit for the assessment?

No, there is no time limit for WESTEST 2 Online Writing; however, if students stop working for more than 10 minutes, the examiners may ask them to submit their responses. Additionally, students must complete the assessment during the confines of the testing day to ensure the security of the passages and prompts and the integrity of the assessment.

Can students use the five-step writing process to complete their responses for scoring?

Yes. In fact, students are encouraged to use the five-step writing process (pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, publishing) to prepare their responses for WESTEST 2 Online Writing.

Can students write their responses on paper?

Students may write their rough draft responses by hand on blank paper that is provided by the examiner. However, students must use word processing to type their responses and then submit their essays on the secure Web site.


How are student responses scored?

Student responses are scored by a trained computer scoring engine using artificial intelligence. The engine scores each essay on each of the five writing traits of Organization, Development, Sentence Structure, Word Choice/Grammar Usage and Mechanics on a scale of 1-6 using the appropriate grade-level West Virginia Writing Rubric

How is the computer scoring engine trained?

The computer scoring engine is trained using thousands of student essays obtained from the 2008 Field Test. Field-tested essays were scored by human raters, and sample essays representing each score point for each writing trait were selected to train the scoring engine.

 Do students receive a separate Online Writing score report?

No, students will not receive a separate Online Writing score as they have in the past. Because WESTEST 2 Online Writing is now a part of WESTEST 2, the Online Writing scores are included in the reading/language arts scores on the WESTEST 2 student score report. The Online Writing scores will help determine the proficiency level (i.e. Distinguish, Above Mastery, Mastery, Partial Mastery and Novice) in reading/language arts.

How many points will Online Writing count in the RLA score on WESTEST 2?

Because students are scored on a scale of 1-6 on each of the five analytic writing traits, WESTEST 2 Online Writing is worth a total of 30 points of the students’ RLA WESTEST 2 scores.

If a student receives a low score on WESTEST 2 Online Writing, does that mean the student will not advance to the next grade level?

No, WESTEST 2 Online Writing scores do not determine whether students advance to the next grade level.