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PSSA Writing Test. What will the test be like?. In grade 8 there are : 20 Multiple Choice questions for editing and revision 3 writing prompts. Multiple Choice Section. 5 Short passages with errors Each passage is followed by 4 multiple choice questions (20 MC questions).

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what will the test be like
What will the test be like?

In grade 8 there are:

  • 20 Multiple Choice questions for editing and revision
  • 3 writing prompts
multiple choice section
Multiple Choice Section
  • 5 Short passages with errors
  • Each passage is followed by 4 multiple choice questions (20 MC questions).
  • Questions will focus on revising and editing the passages.
  • Answers are a part of your

conventions score.

  • 8th graders will respond in writing to 2 prompts.
  • These are “on demand” writing tasks; that means you do not read a passage before you write.
  • The only thing you have to rely on for your answer is the knowledge you already have – prior knowledge.
what will i be asked to do
What will I be asked to do?
  • Write in 2 different modes
  • Show that you are proficient in all 5 domains of writing
what is a mode of writing
What is a mode of writing?
  • Mode means type, style, or genre.
  • There are many modes of writing such as narrative, poetic, informational, and persuasive.
  • Only persuasive and informational modes will be tested in grades 8 and 11. No narrative.
what types of writing assignments are in the persuasive mode
What types of writing assignments are in the persuasive mode?
  • Position Paper
  • Evaluation
  • Opinion Essay
  • Editorial
  • Problem-Solution
  • Persuasive Essay
what types of writing assignments are in the informational mode
What types of writing assignments are in the informational mode?
  • Compare/Contrast Essay
  • Descriptive Essay
  • Narrative Procedure (Instructions or “How To”)
  • Expository Essays
  • Report of Information
  • Research Paper
  • News story




let s play guess the mode
Let’s PlayGuess the Mode…


  • An informational prompt will ask for an explanation, clarification, evaluation, comparison, instructions, description, or definition.
  • A persuasive prompt will ask you to take a side, convince, persuade, support an opinion, defend, argue, or refute.
informational or persuasive
Informational or Persuasive?

A new principal is contacting all students about changing or adding to the school rules. Think of a rule you would like to change or add. Write to convince your principal to use your suggestion.



informational or persuasive1
Informational or Persuasive?

You are the class president and have been asked to write an introduction for a person you admire greatly. Write an essay describing the most admirable qualities of the person.



informational or persuasive2
Informational or Persuasive?

Many areas have laws that require motorcycle and bicycle riders to wear helmets. Do these laws conflict with your right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” Take a position for or against these laws and write an essay supporting your view.



informational or persuasive3
Informational or Persuasive?

“Great thoughts speak only to a thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all humankind.”

—Emily P. Bissell

How do “great actions speak to all humankind”? Write an essay that explains your understanding of this quotation.



informational or persuasive4
Informational or Persuasive?

A teacher needs directions from the school to your home. Write a set of instructions that describes the route you take.



informational or persuasive5
Informational or Persuasive?

Think about discoveries or inventions that have affected our lives. Select one. Write to inform someone about this discovery or invention. Tell whether it has been good or bad for society.



Note: The bulk of what you are being asked

to do is to inform someone. You are asked to include

your opinion, but you are NOT asked to persuade the


helpful hints
Helpful Hints

When taking the test, first decide what mode is being asked for.

  • Do they want me to inform?
  • Do they want me to persuade?

If they want you to inform, figure out what type of information they want.

  • Narrative Procedure/Instructive/“How to”
  • Descriptive
  • Compare/Contrast
  • Expository
if it s how to
If It’s “How to”
  • Think:
    • Tell what you’re teaching and why.
    • Materials needed (if any)
    • Steps with good transitions
    • Anticipate problems a reader may have.
if it s descriptive
If It’s Descriptive
  • Think:
    • Imagery or Word Picture
    • Characteristics/Qualities
    • Adjectives
    • Sensory details
if it s expository
If It’s Expository
  • Think:
    • Make a point /Answer the question
    • Back it up with
      • Details
      • Examples
      • Explanation
      • Anecdote – a short, real life example
      • Facts – if you’ve got them
if it s compare contrast
If It’s Compare/Contrast
  • Think:
    • Venn Diagram
    • Organization
      • Point by point,
      • Topic by topic,
      • OR like then different
if it s persuasive
If It’s Persuasive


  • Take a strong position -one position even if you see both sides! No wishy-washies.
  • Back it up with logical reasons and any facts that you may have.
  • Use persuasive techniques like rhetorical questions, repetition, and ideas that will appeal to your audience.
  • Recognize and refute (reasonably) one counter argument that your opposition might have.
you focus your writing when you
You focus your writing when you:
  • answer the prompt and make your point.
  • stick to your point from start to finish.
  • write to your audience in a style and tone that match the mode (persuasive, informational).
how will my test be scored
How Will My Test Be Scored?
  • The PSSA uses a different rubric for each mode of writing.
  • The rubrics identify the most important qualities of the mode.
  • These qualities are broken down into 4 areas or domains: focus, content, organization, and style.
  • The 5th domain, conventions, is scored with a separate rubric.
  • These are similar to the FCA’s only each domain is reviewed, not just a few.
your content is strong when you include
Your content is strong when you include:
  • examples
  • explanations
  • elaboration
  • evidence
  • details
  • reasons
  • facts
  • anecdotes
  • connections

to support your point and help your reader understand what you’re saying.

you show strong organization when you arrange your ideas in a helpful way such as
You show strong organization when you arrange your ideas in a helpful way, such as:
  • most to least important reasons
  • least to most important reasons
  • similarities then differences
  • topic by topic
  • chronological order (first to last)

Use of paragraphing, with topic sentences

and transitional words, is KEY!

you get style points for
You get style points for:
  • using high level, appropriate vocabulary.
  • using a variety of sentence styles (simple, compound, complex).
  • creating a strong tone that suits the mode (persuasive, expert/informational).
  • writing in a way that would reach your target audience.
for a high conventions score you must have
For a high conventions score you must have:
  • correct spelling.
  • complete sentences.
  • correct end punctuation.
  • correct internal punctuation (commas, semicolons).
  • correct capitalization.
  • logical paragraphing with topic sentences.
your score
Your Score

Your test will receive 2 scores:

  • 1 for conventions
    • grammar, etc.
  • 1 for composition
    • how well you write in the modes
scoring your test
Scoring Your Test


  • The multiple choice section is worth 12 points.
  • Also, each of your compositions will get a conventions score of 1-4 for a possible 8 points total.
  • The multiple choice score and 2 writing conventions scores are added together.
  • 12+8= 20 possible
scoring your test1
Scoring Your Test


  • Each of the 2 writing tasks is worth a possible 4 points. Your 2 scores are totaled and multiplied by 10. (One prompt isn’t counted, but you won’t know which one that is, so try your best on all three.)
  • That’s 80 points possible for “composition” – the focus, content, organization and

style domains.

total score
Total Score
  • Conventions = possible 20 points
  • Composition = possible 80 points

Total possible 100 points