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ACTFL performance guidelines for Writing

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SUPERIOR Edit

Writers at the Superior level are able to produce most kinds of formal and informal correspondence, complex summaries, precis, reports, and research papers on a variety of practical, social, academic, or professional topics treated both abstractly and concretely. They use a variety of sentence structures, syntax, and vocabulary to direct their writing to specific audiences, and they demonstrate an ability to alter style, tone, and format according to the specific requirements of the discourse. These writers demonstrate a strong awareness of writing for the other and not for the self. Writers at the Superior level demonstrate the ability to explain complex matters, provide detailed narrations in all time frames and aspects, present and support opinions by developing cogent arguments and hypotheses. They can organize and prioritize ideas and maintain the thrust of a topic through convincing structure and lexicon and skillful use of writing protocols, especially those that differ from oral protocols, to convey to the reader what is significant. Their writing is characterized by smooth transitions between subtopics and clear distinctions made between principal and secondary ideas. The relationship among ideas is consistently clear, evidencing organizational and developmental principles such as cause and effect, comparison, chronology, or other orderings appropriate to the target language culture. These writers are capable of extended treatment of a topic which typically requires at least a series of paragraphs but can encompass a number of pages. Writers at the Superior level demonstrate a high degree of control of grammar and syntax, both general and specialized/professional vocabulary, spelling or symbol production, cohesive devices, and punctuation. Their vocabulary is precise and varied with textured use of synonyms, instead of mere repetition of key words and phrases. Their writing expresses subtlety and nuance and is at times provocative. Their fluency eases the reader’s task. Writers at the baseline of the Superior level will not demonstrate the full range of the functional abilities of educated native writers. For example, their writing may not totally reflect target language cultural, organizational, syntactic, or stylistic patterns. At the baseline Superior level, occasional errors may occur, particularly in low-frequency structures, but there is no pattern. Errors do not interfere with comprehension and they rarely distract the native reader.

ADVANCED-HIGH Edit

Writers at the Advanced-High level are able to write about a variety of topics with significant precision and detail. They can handle most social and informal correspondence according to appropriate conventions. They can write summaries, reports, precis, and research papers. They can also write extensively about topics relating to particular interests and special areas of competence, but tend to emphasize the concrete aspects of such topics. Advanced-High writers can describe and narrate in all major time frames, with good control of aspect. In addition, they are able to demonstrate some ability to incorporate the functions and other criteria of the Superior level, showing some ability to develop arguments and construct hypotheses. They cannot, however, sustain those abilities and may have difficulty dealing with a variety of topics in abstract, global, and/or impersonal terms. They often show remarkable ease of expression when writing at the Advanced level, but under the demands of Superior-level writing tasks, patterns of error appear. Although they have good control of a full range of grammatical structures and a fairly wide general vocabulary, they may not use these comfortably and accurately in all cases. Weaknesses in grammar, syntax, vocabulary, spelling or symbol production, cohesive devices, or punctuation may occasionally distract the native reader from the message. Writers at the Advanced-High level do not consistently demonstrate flexibility to vary their style according to different tasks and readers. Their writing production often reads successfully but may fail to convey the subtlety and nuance of the Superior level.

ADVANCED-MID Edit

Writers at the Advanced-Mid level are able to meet a range of work and/or academic writing needs with good organization and cohesiveness that may reflect the principles of their first language. They are able to write straightforward summaries and write about familiar topics relating to interests and events of current, public, and personal relevance by means of narratives and descriptions of a factual nature. Advanced-Mid writers demonstrate the ability to narrate and describe with detail in all major time frames. Their writing is characterized by a range of general vocabulary that expresses thoughts clearly, at times supported by some paraphrasing or elaboration. Writing at the Advanced-Mid level exhibits some variety of cohesive devices in texts of several paragraphs in length. There is good control of the most frequently used target language syntactic structures, e.g., common word order patterns, coordination, subordination. There may be errors in complex sentences, as well as in punctuation, spelling, or the formation of non-alphabetic symbols and character production. While features of the written style of the target language may be present, Advanced-Mid writing may at times resemble oral discourse or the writing style of the first language. Advanced-Mid writing incorporates organizational features both of the target language or the writer=s first language. While Advanced-Mid writers are generally aware of writing for the other, with all the attendant tailoring required to accommodate the reader, they tend to be inconsistent in their aims and focus from time to time on the demands of production of the written text rather than on the needs of reception. When called on to perform functions or to treat topics at the Superior level, Advanced-Mid writers will generally manifest a decline in the quality and/or quantity of their writing, demonstrating a lack of the rhetorical structure, the accuracy, and the fullness of elaboration and detail that would be characteristic of the Superior level. Writing at the Advanced-Mid level is understood readily by natives not used to the writing of non-natives.

ADVANCED-LOW Edit

Writers at the Advanced-Low level are able to meet basic work and/or academic writing needs, produce routine social correspondence, write about familiar topics by means of narratives and descriptions of a factual nature, and write simple summaries. Advanced-Low writers demonstrate the ability to narrate and describe in major time frames with some control of aspect. Advanced-Low writers are able to combine and link sentences into texts of paragraph length and structure. Their writings, while adequate to satisfy the criteria of the Advanced level, may not be substantive. Writers at the Advanced-Low level demonstrate an ability to incorporate a limited number of cohesive devices but may resort to much redundancy, and awkward repetition. Subordination in the expression of ideas is present and structurally coherent, but generally relies on native patterns of oral discourse or the writing style of the writer’s first language. Advanced-Low writers demonstrate sustained control of simple target-language sentence structures and partial control of more complex structures. When attempting to perform functions at the Superior level, their writing will deteriorate significantly. Writing at the Advanced-Low level is understood by natives not used to the writing of non-natives although some additional effort may be required in the reading of the text.

INTERMEDIATE -HIGH Edit

Writers at the Intermediate-High level are able to meet all practical writing needs such as taking notes on familiar topics, writing uncomplicated letters, simple summaries, and compositions related to work, school experiences, and topics of current and general interest. Intermediate-High writers connect sentences into paragraphs using a limited number of cohesive devices that tend to be repeated, and with some breakdown in one or more features of the Advanced level. They can write simple descriptions and narrations of paragraph length on everyday events and situations in different time frames, although with some inaccuracies and inconsistencies. For example, they may be unsuccessful in their use of paraphrase and elaboration and/or inconsistent in the use of appropriate major time markers, resulting in a loss in clarity. In those languages that use verbal markers to indicate tense and aspect, forms are not consistently accurate. The vocabulary, grammar, and style of Intermediate-High writers essentially correspond to those of the spoken language. The writing of an Intermediate-High writer, even with numerous and perhaps significant errors, is generally comprehensible to natives not used to the writing of non-natives, but gaps in comprehension may occur.

INTERMEDIATE-MID Edit

Writers at the Intermediate-Mid level are able to meet a number of practical writing needs. They can write short, simple communications, compositions, descriptions, and requests for information in loosely connected texts that are based on personal preferences, daily routines, common events, and other topics related to personal experiences and immediate surroundings. Most writing is framed in present time, with inconsistent references to other time frames. The writing style closely resembles the grammar and lexicon of oral discourse. Writers at the Intermediate-Mid level show evidence of control of syntax in non-complex sentences and in basic verb forms and they may demonstrate some ability to use grammatical and stylistic cohesive elements. This writing is best defined as a collection of discrete sentences and/or questions loosely strung together; there is little evidence of deliberate organization. Writers at the Intermediate-Mid level pay only sporadic attention to the reader of their texts; they focus their energies on the production of the writing rather than on the reception the text will receive. When Intermediate-Mid writers attempt Advanced-level writing tasks, the quality and/or quantity of their writing declines and the message may be unclear. Intermediate-Mid writers can be understood readily by natives used to the writing of non-natives.

INTERMEDIATE-LOW Edit

Writers at the Intermediate-Low level are able to meet some limited practical writing needs. They can create statements and formulate questions based on familiar material. Most sentences are recombinations of learned vocabulary and structures. These are short and simple conversational-style sentences with basic subject-verb-object word order. They are written mostly in present time with occasional and often incorrect use of past or future time. Writing tends to be a few simple sentences, often with repetitive structure. Vocabulary is limited to common objects and routine activities, adequate to express elementary needs. Writing is somewhat mechanistic and topics are limited to highly predictable content areas and personal information tied to limited language experience. There may be basic errors in grammar, word choice, punctuation, spelling, and in the formation and use of non-alphabetic symbols. When Intermediate-Low writers attempt to perform writing tasks at the Advanced level, their writing will deteriorate significantly and their message may be left incomplete. Their writing is understood by natives used to the writing of non-natives, although additional effort may be required.

NOVICE-HIGH Edit

Writers at the Novice-High level are able to meet limited basic practical writing needs using lists, short messages, postcards, and simple notes, and to express themselves within the context in which the language was learned, relying mainly on practiced material. The writing is generally writer-centered and is focused on common, discrete elements of daily life. Novice-High writers are able to recombine learned vocabulary and structures to create simple sentences on very familiar topics, but the language they produce may only partially communicate what is intended. Control of features of the Intermediate level is not sustained due to inadequate vocabulary and/or grammar. Novice-High writing is often comprehensible to natives used to the writing of non-natives, but gaps in comprehension may occur.

NOVICE-MID Edit

Writers at the Novice-Mid level are able to copy or transcribe familiar words or phrases, and reproduce from memory a modest number of isolated words and phrases in context. They can supply limited information on simple forms and documents, and other basic biographical information, such as names, numbers, and nationality. Novice-Mid writers exhibit a high degree of accuracy when writing on well-practiced, familiar topics using limited formulaic language. With less familiar topics, there is a marked decrease in accuracy. Errors in spelling or in the representation of symbols may be frequent. There is little evidence of functional writing skills. At this level, the writing may be difficult to understand even by those accustomed to reading the texts of non-natives.

NOVICE-LOW Edit

Writers at the Novice-Low level are able to form letters in an alphabetic system and can copy and produce isolated, basic strokes in languages that use syllabaries or characters. Given adequate time and familiar cues, they can reproduce from memory a very limited number of isolated words or familiar phrases, but errors are to

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