CBEST writing test for non native speaker

Discussion in 'Basic Skills Tests' started by ilazuardi10, Nov 25, 2012.

  1. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Aug 26, 2016

    lanie :p, I'm impressed with your insight into CBEST taking, your performance on the test itself, and your command of English in this post. (I saw two minor mistakes and one mistake that is somewhat more major; if you want to know what they are, ask.) Congratulations on passing!

    Which CSET are you taking?
     
  2. indudak

    indudak Rookie

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    Sep 3, 2016

    I passed CBEST Reading and Math. I am struggling to pass the writing section. I attempted it 2 times and got 26 as scores. I have my masters degree in Computer Science from India. It is frustrating to see the low score. I have few questions about how to write the essays.
    1. How many sentences should I write in each paragraph? Should it be 8-12 sentences or can it be less than 8 sentences? Is there any format for every sentence, like the first sentence should be the topic sentence, second should be the background of the thesis and so on?
    2. Can you please guide me how to write a personal essay? Is there any book I can refer for the formats?
    Thanks in advance.
     
  3. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Sep 4, 2016

    It's certainly acceptable to write fewer than eight sentences in a paragraph: of the sample responses in the Writing Section Practice Test document at http://www.ctcexams.nesinc.com/PM_CBEST.asp that scored 3 or 4 points, all have at least one paragraph with around four sentences. I'll add that it's enough to score 3 on both essays.

    As for the format, it depends on the essay and the paragraph.

    For an expository or persuasive essay, it's customary to begin each supporting paragraph with a topic sentence that states the supporting point that the paragraph is elaborating. A personal essay can be formatted like a persuasive essay ("The website I refer to the most is A to Z..."), in which case it can offer 3 ± 1 supporting points and each of its paragraphs will be structured like those of a persuasive essay. For a narrative essay - an essay that makes its point by telling a story - paragraph breaks are dictated more by shifts in scene or perspective or speaker ("'Get out of that tree right now!' Father demanded" can be a paragraph on its own); as long as the story flows logically and makes the point that the essay prompt specified, it matters little whether there are two paragraphs or ten.

    What resources did you use to prepare for your previous attempts at CBEST Essay, and which of the six aspects of writing did the diagnostics on your score report pick on? (The aspects: rhetorical force; organization; support and development; usage; structure and conventions; appropriateness.)
     
  4. lanie :P

    lanie :P New Member

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    Sep 4, 2016

    Hi Indudak. Based on my opinion, there’s really no specific number of paragraphs or sentences in each essay. I passed the CBEST without counting my sentences and paragraphs. Usually, non-native English speakers like us are having trouble with grammar. So, I advise you to study English grammar. But in any writing, correct grammar isn’t the only factor that contributes to a well-constructed piece. I believe that one of the most important things in writing is a good ROAD MAP. Yep! All you have to do is to build a “road map” so you won’t get lost. I’ll try to give a simple example using a road map and hope you’ll see what I mean.

    Example: Why do you like Philippines?

    Introduction. Tell the reader exactly what you’re going to write about by explaining each of your ideas (these will end up being your paragraphs). Keep it simple – only pick 2 or 3 ideas.

    My introduction paragraph would look like this: There are many things to like about the Philippines, and many tourists visit to enjoy the country. My favorite things about this country are the food, the people, and the countryside once you leave Manila.

    (I call this a roadmap because I just told you everything I’m going to write about.)

    Body. Now expand on the ideas you provided in your roadmap. My first paragraph will be about food, and I will explain that Filipino food is unique, uses lots of fresh ingredients and is inexpensive.

    My second paragraph will be about the people. I will describe them as kind, friendly, family oriented, humble, etc …

    My third paragraph will be about the countryside once you leave Manila. I will explain that the Philippines is made of thousands of islands, giving endless possibilities to explore whether you love mountains, forests, or beaches.

    Conclusion. My conclusion will be simple, for example: The food, people and nature of the Philippines are wonderful. I hope you visit and have a wonderful time!

    This structure works for any essay. If they ask who you admire, pick a person, give a couple reasons, and make each reason your paragraphs. If the ask you to argue a position, pick one side and give a couple reasons for your opinion. Make each reason a paragraph.

    Hope this helps … Good Luck!
     
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  5. indudak

    indudak Rookie

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    Sep 4, 2016

    Thank you very much for your reply, @TeacherGroupie. I got less score because of usage, and structure and conventions. I wrote 5 paragraphs starting with an introduction, followed by 3 body paragraphs each with supporting examples, and a conclusion. For narrative essay also, I wrote 5 paragraphs starting with an introduction, followed by 3 body paragraphs and a conclusion.
    I referred McGraw-Hill CBEST book. Can you please suggest some books for reference?
     
  6. indudak

    indudak Rookie

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    Sep 4, 2016

    Thank you for the detailed explanation, @lanie :P. I will practice writing using the tips you gave.

     
  7. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Sep 5, 2016

    If the arrangement of your essays and their paragraphs had been at fault, your score report would have shown "organization" or possibly "support and development". It didn't.

    "Usage" refers to vocabulary - sufficiently varied, sufficiently precise, sufficiently close to college level - and the ability to write idiomatically in English. "Structure and conventions" refers to correct sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, and the like. "I got less score" in your reply to me would get you flagged for both: "less score" is unidiomatic (use either "a lower score" or "fewer points"), and better choices than "got" would be "earned" or "received".

    Try Writing Skills Success in 20 Minutes a Day and its companion workbook 501 Writing Skills Questions, both published by LearningExpress; you should be able to find both in any Barnes & Noble bookstore, which means you can examine them before committing your hard-earned money to them. If neither suits you, look at other offerings on the same shelf. Painless Grammar, published by Barrons, might also work for you. Alternatively, spend some time with Using English, www.usingenglish.com.
     
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  8. indudak

    indudak Rookie

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    I will focus on improving my vocabulary. Thank you for your help. I will buy the books suggested by you. Should I post my essay as a new thread?
     
  9. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Sep 6, 2016

    A new thread, yes.
     
  10. indudak

    indudak Rookie

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    Nov 3, 2016

  11. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Nov 3, 2016

    Congratulations!
     
  12. indudak

    indudak Rookie

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    Nov 17, 2016

  13. e2sucess

    e2sucess New Member

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    Dec 9, 2016

    Hi Indudak
    Iam a non native english speaker as well. Would like to know the details on how you passed the cbest writing test. Iam getting dinged for the same thing usage and structure and conventions.
    How much did you practice? Thank you!. Iam taking this test tomorrow. Iam hoping that I'am able to pass it. It is so frustrating.
     
  14. nila

    nila New Member

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    Jul 25, 2017

    Hi! Indudak
    Congratulations on your success in CBEST. I Passed CBEST math-52,reading-39 and writing I failed yesterday I got 33 marks. This was my first attempt. I am very sad and sort of feeling low in my confidence now. I am also non native speaker, from India, have my masters in English literature. Is there any advise you would like to give me on how to pass the writing section. I registered again for September 23rd CBEST. This will be my last try since I am feeling quite low. It gives me hope when I saw you passed in your second try.
     
  15. nila

    nila New Member

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    Hi!
    Did you pass the writing section. I failed my yesterday feeling very sad. If you passed is there any advise on how to pass?
     
  16. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jul 26, 2017

    I am so sorry that I missed this post last December.

    "Usage" has to do with choices in vocabulary:
    - whether your language is reasonably idiomatic (for instance, the plural of "food" is "food" - unless one is discussing distinct types of food);
    - whether you use words that fit precisely what it is that you mean to say ("get" can mean 'acquire' ("I got a pet"), 'find, take, or buy' ("I got a cup from the shelf", "I got some coffee at the cafe"), 'move' ("I got down"), 'become' ("I got sick"), 'receive' ("I got a compliment"), 'undergo' ("I got my bike stolen", and please do not ever use this phrase in formal writing), and much more, and the wise test taker will avoid "get" in favor of verbs that are more precise); and
    - whether you can vary your vocabulary (if one uses "I like" seven times in an essay, change two or three to synonyms such as "I appreciate", "I enjoy", "I prefer").

    "Structure and conventions" has to do with English grammar (correct word order) and mechanics (spelling, capitalization, punctuation).
     
  17. Manon

    Manon Rookie

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    Jul 28, 2017


    nila, I used:
    • 501 Grammar & Writing Questions
    • Writing Skills Success in 20 Minutes a Day
    • Write Better Essays in Just 20 Minutes a Day
     
  18. Shie

    Shie New Member

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    Oct 12, 2017

    Hello. I stumbled upon this website three weeks before I took the CBEST writing portion. Similar to most comments here, I had trouble passing the CBEST Writing exam. The reason why I find it hard to passed before was because I have a hard time avoiding the word "that" in most of my sentences. Furthermore, I often digress on my essay. However, the pointers mentioned on the above discussion really helped me. I recently passed the Writing Section following most of the pointers you shared in this discussion and I also used the books Nila suggested which are the following:
    • 501 Grammar & Writing Questions
    • Writing Skills Success in 20 Minutes a Day
    • Write Better Essays in Just 20 Minutes a Day
    These books are available in any local library or you can also buy them online for a cheap price. To those who are still having trouble with the CBEST writing section, just practice the drills in the books and you will improve. Never give up!
     

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