Candidate Handbook

Writing Skills Test (WST)

Description

This standardized assessment tool was developed to assess the technical competency "Writing Skills." This competency is defined in the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) Competency Catalogue.

The CRA uses a proficiency scale for all its technical competencies, including Writing Skills. This proficiency scale ranges from level 1 (basic knowledge) to level 5 (expert capability). The Writing Skills Test (WST) is designed to assess levels 1, 2, and 3 (levels 4 and 5 are assessed via other assessment tools).

The following is a description of each level:

Level 1:   

- correctly spells words commonly used in the workplace; and,

- correctly uses capitalization and punctuation.  

Level 2:  

- correctly spells words commonly used in the workplace;

- correctly uses capitalization and punctuation;

- demonstrates a moderate range of vocabulary;

- correctly applies the basic rules of grammar; and,

- correctly constructs sentences. 

Level 3:  

- correctly spells words commonly used in the workplace;

- correctly uses capitalization and punctuation;

- demonstrates a wide range of vocabulary;

- correctly applies the basic rules of grammar;

- correctly constructs sentences; and,

- arranges sentences in logical order.

 

Although equivalent, the English and French versions of the Writing Skills Test are not direct translations of the other. As the principles of grammar are different between the two languages, it would not be appropriate to create the test in one language and then create a direct translation of it in the other language.

The Writing Skills Test contains 106 multiple choice questions, and has a time limit of 90 minutes. For each question there are four possible answers; you are to choose the answer that you think is correct. Each correct answer is worth one point. No points are deducted for incorrect answers.

 

 

Note

In order to protect the security of the test, the Canada Revenue Agency is developing alternate versions of the Writing Skills Tests. In order to do so, new questions are being piloted.

There will now be 116 questions in the WST: 106 original questions plus 10 new pilot questions. The time limits will be changed from 90 minutes to 105 minutes to account for the extra 10 questions. The pilot questions will not count towards your score. The following paragraphs describing the subtests and cutoff scores are based only on the original 106 questions that will be scored.

What is measured

The test is divided into five subtests and assesses the following:

Subtest 1: Spelling

This subtest consists of 20 questions and is divided into two sections. In the first section, you must select the word that is misspelled in the list of words provided. In the second section, you must select the word that is spelled correctly in the list of words provided.

Subtest 2: Grammar

This subtest consists of 25 questions and is divided into two sections. The first section has two types of questions. In one type, you must select the option which improves the sentence or part of a sentence indicated in bold; in the other type, you must select the sentence that is grammatically correct. In the second section, you are provided with an initial sentence and four rewritten sentences which have similar meanings. You must select the rewritten sentence that is most grammatically correct and which has exactly the same meaning as the original sentence.

Subtest 3: Vocabulary

This subtest consists of 25 questions and is divided into two sections. In the first section, you must select the word that has the same meaning as the word in bold. In the second section, you must select the word that best fits in the blank portion of a sentence.

Subtest 4: Punctuation and Capitalization

This subtest consists of 16 questions. You are given sentences that may contain incorrect use of punctuation or capitalization. Some sentences may contain multiple errors, some may contain a single error, and one sentence will contain no errors. You must select the sentence that is correct (no errors). Possible errors include incorrect usage or missing punctuation and/or capitalization.

Subtest 5: Sentence sequencing

This subtest consists of 20 questions. You are given four sentences, which you must organize in the most logical sequence to make a paragraph that has a clear meaning.

Results

You will receive a result of either non demonstrated, level 1, 2, or 3 on this test. The following table indicates test scores for the three levels.

Writing Skills in English

Writing Skills Test
Level 1 From 36 to 61
Level 2 From 62 to 83
Level 3 From 84 to 106

Candidate information

Before the test

  • Ensure you are aware of the exact location, date, and time of your test session.
  • Review the sample questions contained in this manual to familiarize yourself with the test structure.
  • If you have a disability that could affect your test performance, you must inform the responsible resourcing advisor, as soon as possible, so that appropriate accommodations can be made.

On the day of the test

  • If you do not feel well on the day of the test and you think that this will impact on your test results, you must inform the contact on your letter of invitation as soon as possible.
  • Arrive in advance so that you do not feel rushed or overly stressed. You will not be admitted to the room once the test has begun.
  • Bring at least one photo identification card and your Personal Record Identifier (PRI) if you are a government employee.
  • Do not bring smart phones, cellular phones, USB keys, personal digital assistant, digital cameras or any other electronic device into the testing room, they are not permitted. This will save you the trouble of checking them in with the test administrator.

When taking tests in general

  • Read the instructions thoroughly and completely before you begin.
  • Organize your time, work quickly, and use all the time available.
  • If you finish the test before the time is up, review your answers.
  • For handwritten tests, write neatly so you don't lose points for answers that are not legible.

When taking multiple choice tests

  • Read the whole question before answering it. Eliminate answers that you know are wrong. By reducing the number of alternative choices, you increase your chance of selecting the correct answer.
  • Don't spend too much time on a question that you find too difficult. Leave it and return to it if you have time at the end.
  • If completing answer sheets, use only the HB pencils that have been provided. Any answers recorded in ink will be scored as incorrect.
  • Ensure that the question number on your answer sheet matches the question number you are answering.

After the test

  • Do not discuss or share the content of the test. Also, you are not permitted to view or obtain a copy of any standardized test material as these tests are protected by the Access to Information Act. Section 22 of this act stipulates that:

"The head of a government institution may refuse to disclose any record requested under this Act that contains information relating to testing or auditing procedures or techniques or details of specific tests to be given or audits to be conducted if the disclosure would prejudice the use or results of particular tests or audits."

Failure to comply with this regulation and/or engaging in a fraudulent practice will result in disciplinary action.

Additional information for candidates writing online tests

As a test taker, you may be required to write a test on a computer instead of the traditional paper and pencil format.

Computer skills

Only two computer skills are necessary to write an online test. First, you will need to point your mouse's cursor in specific areas of your screen and click with your index finger. During your online testing session, you will need to use your mouse to mark your answers and, when necessary, to move "back" to a previous question and "next" to the following question. Second, you will use your mouse to point on the scroll bar to the right of the screen in order to move up or down on a page.

Instructions

As with paper and pencil formats of tests, online tests are proctored, which means that test administrators (TA) are present to ensure that the session follows the CRA's administrative and security procedures. For example, the TA will begin with the general test session instructions and then the specific instructions for the test you are taking. TAs will follow all current procedures concerning late candidates, temporary absences from the testing room, withdrawal of candidates from a testing session, candidates requiring accommodations, cheating, disruptive candidates, disputes regarding test questions, emergencies and other situations.

Security and Privacy

Your name is assigned to an electronic version of a specific test. Your session will start with a login screen. You will receive two identification (ID) numbers at the testing session: the first number is your unique Test Taker ID and the other number, the Test Administrator ID. These measures are to ensure test security. The TA will take you through this simple process. Please note: for each online test that you are scheduled to take, you will be issued a unique Test Taker ID.

Timed tests

All CRA online tests are timed; the computer ensures fairness by controlling the duration of the session, from the exact moment each test-taker clicks "Start Your Test". A timer in the upper right corner of the screen will show exactly how much time is left. After the allocated time the computer will close your test. If you finish early, you can use the remaining time to review your answers.

How to respond to questions

Although this will vary from test to test, Figure 1 shows an example of a screen presenting a multiple choice question. The main elements of this screen are the name of the test (in this case "CRA Standardized Test – Writing Skills in English – Multiple-Choice Test"), the number of the question you are responding to and the total number of questions in the subtest (in this case "Question 3 of 6"), the actual question, and the options from which you can choose. Of course, more text can appear, depending upon the amount of text in the question and in the answer choices. Point your mouse's cursor and click the square next to your answer choice. The bottom center of the screen shows a "Review Later" box you can check to remind yourself to revisit any question later if you have time. Finally, towards the left bottom portion of the screen, "Previous" and "Next" buttons will allow you to move back to the previous question or forward to the next question.

This information will be repeated immediately before the testing session and your TA will answer any questions.

Figure 1

Example of a test screen showing a multiple-choice question

How to review your answers

Two strategies are available. During the test, you can use the "Previous" and "Next" buttons to navigate within your test. If, after answering all the questions, you have time left, you will see a screen that looks like the one shown in Figure 2. This is the "Test Summary" screen. In this hypothetical example, the test timer in the middle left of the page shows that you still have 80 minutes and 33 seconds left to complete the test. The screen also shows the answers you provided for the six questions, for example, "a" at question 1, "a" at question 2, and so on. When you checked the "Review later" box for a question like it is the case for question 2 in this example, a check mark will appear in the "Review" box corresponding to question 2. Click on the question number: this will take you directly to the question. You can change your answer or leave it as is. You don’t have to unmark the "review" questions, as leaving that mark beside a question will have no impact on your test score.

If you are satisfied with all your answers, you can click on "End Test". You will then be asked to confirm that you want to end your test. If you click on "Yes" your session will be complete and your results will be registered and processed by the system.

Figure 2

 

Example of a screen where you can review your answers

Retest Period

There is a 180-day waiting period before you can rewrite the test. Should you wish to take this test again, you must wait until after the retest period has elapsed. If you rewrite the test before the retest period has elapsed, your result will not be valid and a new retest period will be imposed from the new test date. If you have written the 2001 version of the WST, you must wait until the waiting period has elapsed before you can write the 2013 version. The 180-day retest period for the English version of the WST does not impact on the retest period for the French version of the Test d’aptitudes à écrire (TAE).

Rescores

Rescore requests are not accepted for online tests. However, managers are encouraged to respond to candidates' concerns.

Validity Period

Your score is valid for an indefinite period of time provided that the test standards do not change. Should you rewrite the test, your most recent score will be the only valid score.

Preparing for the test

  • You may find it useful to review textbooks on grammar, sentence structure, and writing techniques. For example, try the following references: The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing (Dundurn Press Limited in cooperation with Public Works and Government Services Canada Translation Bureau 1997) and Writing guidelines for the Canada Revenue Agency. Please note that for consistency purpose, the Canada Revenue Agency always uses the serial comma structure when listing items in a sentence, therefore this rule takes precedence in the Writing Skills Test.
  • Use memory aids to help with spelling (for example, use "i" before "e" except after "c").
  • Do crossword puzzles to enhance your vocabulary and spelling.
  • Answer the sample test questions under time limits to become more accustomed to time pressures
  • Have a friend dictate sentences to you and then check your spelling.
  • Seek coaching on writing skills from someone who has strong writing skills. Ask this individual to review a sample of your writing and give you feedback.

Sample questions

The following section contains only examples of the types of questions included in the test. It is not part of the test.

Read the instructions carefully for each section and try the sample test questions. Then compare your answers with the answer key at the end of this document.

Subtest 1: Spelling

Select that word that is misspelled from the four words shown by choosing a, b, c, or d.

1.

  1. address
  2. prevelent
  3. reference
  4. accommodate

Select the word that is spelled correctly from the four words shown by choosing a, b, c, or d.

2.

  1. accreditasion
  2. acreditation
  3. accreditation
  4. accredatation

Subtest 2: Grammar

Select the option which improves the bolded portion of the sentence and that is grammatically correct.

3. Sitting behind the noisy photocopier Yasmin and me could not hardly hear each other!

Which change improves the bolded portion above?

  1. Yasmin and I could not hardly hear
  2. Yasmin and me did not hardly hear
  3. Yasmin and me could hardly hear
  4. Yasmin and I could hardly hear

First, read the initial sentence and the four rewritten sentences which have similar meanings. Then, select the rewritten sentence that is most grammatically correct and that has exactly the same meaning as the original sentence.

4. A few changes were made to the procedures manual, which are highlighted in yellow below.

Rewrite the sentence above beginning with: Below

  1. Below please find a few changes to the procedures manual, which are highlighted in yellow.
  2. Below, highlighted in yellow please find a few changes to the procedures manual.
  3. Below, a few changes to the procedures manual may be found highlighted in yellow.
  4. Below, may be found highlighted in yellow a few changes to the procedures manual.

Subtest 3: Vocabulary

Select the word that has the same meaning as the word in bold from among the four options that follow that word.

5. Impartial:

  1. fractional
  2. unbiased
  3. inequitable
  4. tolerant

Select which word best fits in the blanks by choosing a, b, c, or d.

6. In order to move forward, the focus group needed to reach __________on how to proceed.

  1. consensus
  2. direction
  3. purpose
  4. resolution

Subtest 4: Punctuation and capitalization

The question may contain the following types of punctuation:

Comma ,
Period .
Colon :
Semicolon ;
Apostrophe ''
Quotation marks " "
Question mark ?
Hyphen -

Select the correctly written sentence.

7. The activities that were planned for the United Way campaign included a bake sale a raffle a 50/50 draw and the staffs favourite a karaoke contest.

  1. The activities that were planned for the United Way campaign included a bake sale, a raffle, a 50/50 draw, and the staffs favourite, a karaoke contest.
  2. The activities that were planned for the United Way campaign included a bake sale, a raffle, a 50/50 draw, and the staff’s favourite: a karaoke contest.
  3. The activities that were planned for the United Way campaign included: a bake sale a raffle a 50/50 draw and the staff’s favourite: a karaoke contest.
  4. The activities that were planned for the United Way campaign included a bake sale, a raffle, a 50/50 draw, and the staffs’ favourite: a karaoke contest.

Subtest 5: Sentence Sequencing

The following questions ask you to organize sentences to form coherent paragraphs. Read each sentence carefully, then select the most logical sequence for the sentences by choosing a, b, c, or d.

8.

  1. Employees are reminded not to block horizontal vents in window bays with items such as books and files.
  2. This reduces the supply of fresh air and promotes condensation on the glass.
  3. Condensation can cause water damage and even mould growth.
  4. When vents are blocked, air can't flow over the window.

a. C-A-D-B
b. A-D-B-C
c. D-B-A-C
d. A-B-D-C

Answer Key

  1. Correct answer is b. The word "prevelent" is misspelled. The correct spelling is "prevalent."
  2. Correct answer is c. The correct spelling is accreditation.
  3. Correct answer is d. Yasmin and I could hardly hear.
  4. Correct answer is a. Below please find a few changes to the procedures manual, which are highlighted in yellow.
  5. Correct answer is b. The word "unbiased" is most similar in meaning to the word "impartial".
  6. Correct answer is a. consensus.
  7. Correct answer is b. The activities that were planned for the United Way campaign included a bake sale, a raffle, a 50/50 draw, and the staff’s favourite: a karaoke contest.
  8. Correct answer is (b) A-D-B-C
    Sentence A introduces the topic of the paragraph.
    Sentence D presents the main idea of the paragraph.
    Sentence B gives further detail regarding the topic.
    Sentence C provides concluding information.
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