Composing strategies reported by high and low achievers in the TOEFL-iBT integrated task
Implications for investigative pedagogy
Keywords:writing strategies, test preparation, TOEFL, integrated test tasks, composing, academic writing
The teaching of composing strategies is acknowledged to be an important area in writing instruction and test preparation. This study presents a small set of data originating from a larger project which investigated the composing strategies reported by 30 international postgraduate students. These students were in their second year of university study and had all volunteered to attempt the TOEFL-iBT writing test. Immediately after completion of each task, they were interviewed about the way they had understood the requirements of the tasks and the processes and strategies they had used in order to complete them. All the students had successfully obtained entry to university and were functioning satisfactorily in their current areas of study, yet the scores they achieved in the TOEFL writing assessment showed considerable variation. Surprisingly, some were well below the benchmark for university entry. In order to investigate this, we revisited and reanalysed the interview data gathered from the three top and three bottom scorers, and examined similarities and differences in the way they approached and undertook the task. The high scorers' goals for task completion focused on the product as well as the process, and in contrast to the low scorers their monitoring strategies involved interaction with the emerging text. While we acknowledge that actual differences in language proficiency may have been partially responsible for the different scores, in this paper we explore the possible role of strategy choice, and we consider implications for test preparation teaching and writing instruction in general.
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