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Frequently Asked Questions Assessment Policy

Is there any way to evaluate writing skills without creating an actual writing assessment (i.e., one that doesn't require scoring)?

Yes, a hiring manager may ask that the candidates perform a writing exercise (i.e., responding to a pre-determined question) once the candidates have been found to be the best qualified and are at the end of the hiring process (i.e., at the final interview).  

However, a writing sample like that is not scored; it's merely used to inform the hiring manager of the candidate's writing ability.  And just like a "real" assessment or test, there are still many aspects to the process that need to be followed:

  • Clearly notify applicants in the job opportunity announcement that they may be required to participate in a writing exercise and at what point in the assessment process this will occur.
  • Develop the question(s), or "prompt(s)," the candidates will respond to (or address).
  • Ensure each candidate receives the same question and testing considerations.

You will also need to consider:

  • Testing environment
    • Type of room – Will it be the hiring manager's office, conference room, or another room? 
    • Use of computers – Will a laptop be needed?  Will you want the candidates to be able to access the Internet?  Can they use spell-check?
    • Geographically remote applicants – For any candidates who are not local, consider using technology as appropriate
    • Maximum amount of time for writing
    • Maximum and minimum lengths of writing sample

It is up to your discretion how you (or the hiring manager) collect the writing sample.  For example, you could ask the candidate to respond to a question or have them fix a grammatically-incorrect paper.  Just keep in mind what writing skill you want to measure in order to guide the development of the assessment.

 

As with all testing practices, it's paramount to standardize the process, meaning that all candidates who are asked to produce a writing sample are treated the same, given the same question, and so forth.

 

For more information regarding the development of writing samples, please contact Assessment_Information@opm.gov.

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