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Sample Questions

What questions are used in the NAEP writing assessment?

Explore tasks from the writing assessment, and see how the NAEP writing tasks relate to student performance.


Explore NAEP Writing Tasks

Students at grades 8 and 12 were given two writing tasks and had 30 minutes to complete each one. While writing tasks can sometimes involve composing and editing processes that continue for days or weeks, on-demand writing situations also occur where writers must compose text under time constraints. The results from the 2011 writing assessment are intended to provide information about what students can accomplish in on-demand writing situations. Tasks reflect grade-appropriate real-world issues and are designed to measure one of three communicative purposes: to persuade, to explain, and to convey experience.

  • Lost World measures students' ability to convey experience.
  • Making a Change and Use of Technology measure students' ability to explain.
  • Big Discount measures students' ability to persuade.
  • Following each task below is a sample student response, scoring commentary, data results, and the scoring guide that was used to score the response.

Grade 8: Lost World
Grade 8: Making a Change
Grade 12: Use of Technology
Grade 12: Big Discount




Lost World Sample Student Response

Below is a sample student response at the "Effective" level.

Sample "Effective" response:

        The first thing I noticed when I stepped onto the deserted island were the
creatures. They were taller than any trees I have seen, even the ones me and my family saw in
Northern California. They made my height of six feet tall seem as a great elephant may seem to
a tiny beetle. They had extremely long legs, legs that looked as if they could jump up past the
clouds, beyond the great blue, and into the heavens. They had the coloring of the Pacific
Ocean, a great deep, royal blue. The texture of their skin looked soft and comforting for us
travelers, who were worn and wary. But even with their blue coat and long legs, the most
striking feature they had where their eyes. They were a dazzling amber and were the size of a
child’s head. They had tiny silver pupils that gleamed even in the faint moonlight, almost
fluorescent. But when one of those great eyes caught my glance, we stared at each other for a
few moments, each of our species completely foreign to the other. By making the slightest of
movements, he was after me, bolting with all of his great might. The only advantage I had on
him was my size, and him not being able to see me. I hid with great stealth trying not to be
discovered by those haunting glowing eyes.
        I had lost the others while back, running for the life that was soon to be over at
any minute, yet it did not end. I stayed in the small opening of a large, other-worldly tree.
What am I saying? This whole island is other-worldly, as it was not of this world I am sure of it.
When the plane crashed, we did not land on earth. The trees were a beautiful, lush green that
held great height. The flowers and plant were colors that I had never seen before, mixes of
reds and greens, pinks, purples, exotic  shapes and sizes. Every creature I saw had a look of
hunger in their eyes. Every thing that surrounded me was pure beauty, but it seemed that in
this world, everything was big, more than big, and I felt smaller than anyone could possibly
imagine. I had absolutely no survival skills and not even a determination to live. Sorrow and
hopelessness filled my system as it grew darker and darker and the moon and stars shed little
light on this world of mystery. These were not the same stars and moon that were lighting up
the sky back home in New York. The darker it grew, the more hope and light fled my body,
shivering in the cold. I grew lonely, thinking that I would never find the rest of the small group
that had survived with me during the crash, and that was the group that I would eventually
come to know as my family and fellow comrades. I began to accept that this would most likely
be the life as I would know for the rest of my young life. In a couple weeks or so, I figured that
my family would declare me as dead. They would probably be preparing my funeral, arranging
invitations and memorials. What had seemed to be a relaxing vacation to the Bahamas turned
out to be an unexpected adventure and journey for survival on this large foreign island.


Scoring Commentary and Data Results

As in this story, "Effective" responses to this task offer well-chosen details to develop and recreate the experience throughout the response. In this response, ideas are developed with vivid detail (e.g., “They were a dazzling amber and were the size of a child's head”), are clearly focused, and progress through the use of effective transitions. The voice and tone are also well-controlled and appropriate for the purpose and audience, especially as the skillful narration shifts to an ominous outlook as the response develops.


Percentage of eighth-grade students in each response category: 2011
Effective Competent Adequate Developing Marginal Little or no skill Omitted
5 14 37 30 11 3 #

# Rounds to zero.
NOTE: Detail may not sum to totals because the percentage of responses rated as “Off-task” is not shown. Off-task responses are those that do not provide any information related to the assessment task.


Score & Description


Responses in this range demonstrate effective skill in responding to the writing task. All elements of the response are well-controlled and effectively support the writer's purpose and audience.


Responses in this range demonstrate competent skill in responding to the writing task. Elements are usually well-controlled and clearly support the writer's purpose and audience.


Responses in this range demonstrate adequate skill in responding to the writing task. Most elements are controlled and support the writer's purpose and audience.


Responses in this range demonstrate developing skill in responding to the writing task. While some elements are controlled and provide some support for the writer's purpose and audience, others are not.


Responses in this range demonstrate marginal skill in responding to the writing task. Many elements are not controlled and provide weak support for the writer's purpose and audience.

Little or No Skill

Responses in this range demonstrate little or no skill in responding to the writing task. Elements are seldom controlled and provide almost no support for the writer's purpose and audience.