Skip Navigation
small NCES header image

The NAEP Writing Achievement Levels

Grade 4
Grade 8
Grade 12

Specific definitions of the Basic, Proficient, and Advanced achievement levels for grades 4, 8, and 12 are presented in the tables that follow. The achievement levels are cumulative. Therefore, students performing at the Proficient level also display the competencies associated with the Basic level, and students at the Advanced level also demonstrate the skills and knowledge associated with both the Basic and the Proficient levels. For each achievement level listed, the scale score that corresponds to the beginning of that level is shown in parentheses. In writing, the scale ranges from 0 to 300 for each grade. These achievement levels are proposed for first drafts, not final or polished student writing, that are generated within limited constraints in a large-scale assessment environment.

Grade 4

Basic
(115)

Fourth-grade students performing at the Basic level should be able to produce a somewhat organized response within the time allowed that shows a general grasp of the writing task they have been assigned. Their writing should include some supporting details. Its grammar, spelling, and capitalization should be accurate enough to communicate to a reader, although there may be mistakes that get in the way of meaning.

Proficient
(176)

Fourth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to produce an organized response within the time allowed that shows an understanding of the writing task they have been assigned. Their writing should include details that support and develop the main idea of the piece, and its form, content, and language should show that these students are aware of the audience they are expected to address. The grammar, spelling, and capitalization in the work should be accurate enough to communicate to a reader; there may be some mistakes, but these should not get in the way of meaning.

Advanced
(225)

Fourth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should be able to produce an effective, well-developed response within the time allowed that shows a clear understanding of the writing task they have been assigned. Their writing should be clearly organized, making use of techniques such as consistency in topic or theme, sequencing, and a clearly marked beginning and ending. It should make use of precise and varied language to speak to the audience the students are expected to address, and it should include details and elaboration that support and develop the main idea of the piece. Their writing may also show signs of analytical, evaluative, or creative thinking. The grammar, spelling, and capitalization in the work should be accurate enough to communicate clearly; mistakes should be so few and so minor that a reader can easily skim over them.


Grade 8

Basic
(114)

Eighth-grade students performing at the Basic level should be able to produce an effective response within the time allowed that shows a general understanding of the writing task they have been assigned. Their writing should show that these students are aware of the audience they are expected to address, and it should include supporting details in an organized way. The grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization in the work should be accurate enough to communicate to a reader, although there may be mistakes that get in the way of meaning.

Proficient
(173)

Eighth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to produce an effective response within the time allowed that shows an understanding of both the writing task they have been assigned and the audience they are expected to address. Their writing should be organized, making use of techniques such as sequencing or a clearly marked beginning and ending, and it should make use of details and some elaboration to support and develop the main idea of the piece. Their writing should include precise language and some variety in sentence structure, and it may show analytical, evaluative, or creative thinking. The grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization in the work should be accurate enough to communicate to a reader; there may be some errors, but these should not get in the way of meaning.

Advanced
(224)

Eighth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should be able to produce an effective and fully developed response within the time allowed that shows a clear understanding of both the writing task they have been assigned and the audience they are expected to address. Their writing should show some analytical, evaluative, or creative thinking, and should demonstrate precise word choice and varied sentence structure. Their work should include details and elaboration that support and develop the main idea of the piece, and it may make use of strategies such as analogies, illustrations, examples, anecdotes, or figurative language to clarify a point. At the same time, the writing should show that these students can keep their work clearly and consistently organized. Writing by eighth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should contain few errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and sentence structure. These writers should demonstrate good control of these elements and may use them for stylistic effect in their work.


Grade 12

Basic
(122)

Twelfth-grade students performing at the Basic level should be able to produce an effective response within the time allowed that shows an understanding of both the writing task they have been assigned and the audience they are expected to address. Their writing should show some analytical, evaluative, or creative thinking. It should include details that support and develop the central idea of the piece, and it should be clearly organized, making use of techniques such as a consistency in topic or theme, sequencing, and a clear introduction and conclusion. The grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization in these students' work should be accurate enough to communicate to a reader; there may be some errors, but these should not get in the way of meaning.

Proficient
(178)

Twelfth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to produce an effective and fully developed response within the time allowed that uses analytical, evaluative, or creative thinking. Their writing should be organized effectively, and it should show that these students have a clear understanding of the writing task they have been assigned. It should be coherent, making use of techniques such as a consistent theme, sequencing, and a clear introduction and conclusion, and it should include details and elaboration that support and develop the main idea of the piece. The writing should show that these students are able to use precise language and variety in sentence structure to engage the audience they are expected to address. Writing by 12th-grade students performing at the Proficient level should contain few errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and sentence structure. These writers should demonstrate a command of these elements and may use them for stylistic effect in their work.

Advanced
(230)

Twelfth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should be able to produce a mature and sophisticated response within the time allowed that uses analytical, evaluative, or creative thinking. Their writing should be fully developed, incorporating details and elaboration that support and extend the main idea of the piece. It should show that these students can use literary strategies—anecdotes and repetition, for example—to develop their ideas. At the same time, the writing should be well crafted, organized, and coherent, and it should incorporate techniques such as consistency in topic or theme, sequencing, and a clear introduction and conclusion. It should show that these writers can engage the audience they are expected to address through rich and compelling language, precise word choice, and variety in sentence structure. Writing by 12th-grade students performing at the Advanced level should contain few errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and sentence structure. These writers should demonstrate a sophisticated command of these elements and may use them for stylistic effect in their work.



Last updated 05 January 2012 (RF)
Would you like to help us improve our products and website by taking a short survey?

YES, I would like to take the survey

or

No Thanks

The survey consists of a few short questions and takes less than one minute to complete.
National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education