8th Grade

Middle Grades Writing Assessment (MGWA)

The MGWA, administered in grade 8, consists of an evaluation of the student’s response to an assigned prompt. The prompt type may be narrative, persuasive, or expository. Students decide the type of writing that best suits their knowledge of and interest in the writing topic. Many different types of topic development, support, and organizational strategies are acceptable. The type of writing chosen by the student determines what tone is appropriate for the paper.

To help students prepare for the writing assessment, LMS has purchased MyAccess for all 8th grade students. MyAccess is a web-based essay scoring tool that instantly grades students' essays and provides targeted feedback. Students may access the resource through any Internet connected computer by typing http://myaccess.com into the web browser. The username is the student's first name followed by his or her student ID number. The password is 999 followed by the student's last name.

Nature of the Scoring System: Each student paper is scored by raters, who independently rate the composition on five aspects of effective writing. These qualities or domains of effective writing should be present in a composition regardless of the topic on which it is written. They are Content/Organization, Style, Sentence Formation, Usage, and Mechanics. A component is a feature of writing within a particular domain. For example, "controlling idea" is a component of the Content/Organization domain.

Analytic and Holistic Scoring: The scoring system is analytic. Analytic scoring simply means that more than one feature (domain) of a paper is evaluated. Each domain itself is scored holistically. The score assigned indicates the test rater’s overall impression of the writer’s command of the components, using predetermined scoring criteria contained in the Scoring Guidelines for each domain. Holistic scoring requires balancing a writer’s strengths and weaknesses in the various components.

The Score Scale : The score scale is a four-point scale. Each one of the domains of effective writing is evaluated separately and assigned a score of "1"(lowest), "2," "3," or "4"(highest). The scale is a continuum representing a range of quality. Each score point on the continuum is defined by domain-specific scoring guidelines.


Domain I. CONTENT/ORGANIZATION. The writer establishes the controlling idea through examples, illustrations, facts, or details. There is evidence of a sense of order that is clear and relevant. (Weight = 3)


  • Focus
  • Controlling idea
  • Clear main idea(s)
  • Relevant, supporting details
  • Development (fluency, depth, and balance of exploration or explanation of the topic)
  • Organization (discernible and appropriate order of main and supporting ideas)
  • Sense of completeness

Domain II. STYLE. The writer controls language to engage the audience. (Weight = 2)


  • Sense of audience (writing to be read)
  • Precise language (accurate, technical) or engaging language (descriptive or figurative language, dialogue)
  • Varied word choice
  • Appropriate tone for topic, audience, and purpose (energetic, honest, forceful, excited, humorous, suspenseful)
  • Appropriate approach to topic and purpose (original, novel, technical, academic, appeal to logic or emotions)
  • Transitions (smooth flow and linking of ideas within and across parts of the paper)

Domain III. SENTENCE FORMATION. The writer forms effective sentences. (Weight = 1)


  • Clarity of meaning at sentence level
  • Complete sentences and/or functional fragments
  • Sentence variation (length, type, sentence beginnings, coordination, and subordination)
  • End punctuation

Domain IV. USAGE. The writer uses standard American English. (Weight = 1)


  • Subject-verb agreement
  • Standard noun and verb forms
  • Correct word forms (case, number, pronoun reference, confused word pairs, same sound/different meaning, adjective/adverb degrees)
  • Manipulation of the conventions of Usage for effect (dialect, idiom, nonstandard language within a quotation)
  • Distinction between possessive pronouns and contracted pronouns (its, it’s; their, they’re; your, you’re)

Domain V. MECHANICS. The writer employs devices necessary in written standard American English. (Weight = 1)


  • Internal punctuation
  • Spelling
  • Format (paragraph breaks, dialogue, margins, spacing between words)
  • Capitalization
Manipulation of the conventions of mechanics for effect (capitalization, repeated punctuation)

Assessment and Instructional Guide Download:


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Kimberly H. Jackson, Instructional Technology Specialist

Last updated 28-June 2007

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