DEVELOPMENT OF INSTRUCTIONS TO RATERS AND SELECTION OF ESSAY TOPICS

The Academic Committee on English is responsible for the content of the Regents' Testing Program Essay Test and the development of the procedures used to rate Essay Tests. Each institution has a representative on this committee. The members of the Testing Subcommittee of the Academic Committee on English oversee many routine testing activities and make recommendations on testing issues to the full committee.

Development of Instructions to Raters

The current version of the instructions to raters, which includes the "Description of Essay Scoring Procedures," the model essays and analyses, and the "Questions and Answers on the Rating of Regents' Test Essays," was developed by the Testing Subcommittee. The "Description of Essay Scoring Procedures" and the model essays and analyses were approved by the Academic Committee on English.

Selection of Topics

Proposed topics for the Essay Test are solicited periodically from students, faculty, and administrators at each institution. These topics are reviewed by the members of the Testing Subcommittee and by Scoring Coordinators, who attempt to select topics narrow enough to elicit an essay in 60 minutes but broad enough to reflect common student knowledge and experience rather than specialized knowledge. Proposed topics are rejected or revised when they 1) contain difficult vocabulary, 2) require specialized knowledge, 3) appear to have rural-urban or ethnic bias, 4) are too similar to topics used previously, 5) involve highly controversial or emotional subjects, or 6) seem to encourage students to identify their institutions in essays. To ensure that topics are appropriate for students at all institutions, each topic must then be approved unanimously by the members of the Academic Committee on English.

The topics are then put in groups of four by the Regents' Testing Program staff for use on test forms. In general, each group includes at least one topic students could discuss using general knowledge and at least one topic that could be discussed on the basis of personal experience. The Testing Subcommittee and Scoring Coordinators review and revise the groups of topics to ensure that the four topics on each form are sufficiently different from each other to offer students a reasonable choice of topics.