The Most Suitable Scoring Method to Assess Essay Writing in ESL Classrooms

Arsaythamby Veloo, Noor Hashima Abd Aziz, Aizan Yaacob


The Malaysian Education Act in 1996 states that the national language which is the Malay language becomes the main medium of instruction in educational institutions and English is accorded the status of a second language. In Malaysian schools, teachers are given the freedom to use their own teaching and assessment methods in assessing their students’ writing. However, majority of the English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers use a scoring method adapted from the Malaysian Examination to assess their students’ writing. For the Malaysian Certificate of Education (SPM) English Language 1119 subject, students are required to write an essay of more than 350 words and they must be eloquent in their writing style with flawless grammatical errors to obtain the highest score for the subject. The purpose of this study was to explore the ESL teachers’ preference towards the most suitable scoring method to assess essay writing in the classrooms. The study used qualitative approach which involved 25 grade 10 ESL teachers at 12 secondary schools in one of the states in Malaysia. The teachers in this study were trained on how to use the three types of scoring method to examine the students’ continuous essay writing based on the three types of scoring methods namely Holistic, Analytical and Primary Traits. After the training, a few teachers were selected to be interviewed to get their perspectives of the three scoring methods used for classroom-based assessment. The research involved multiple data collection methods: verbal protocol, documents in the form of students’ essays and interviews with the teachers. The findings indicated that the majority of the ESL teachers in this study preferred the holistic scoring method over the other two scoring methods due to its time saving characteristic when it involved a large scale marking and the results were needed to be completed within a short period of time. In addition, the ESL teachers in this study liked the idea of having to give overall evaluation of the essays whereby they could identify not only the overall band, but also the strengths and weaknesses of their students’ writing. The teachers discovered that the holistic scoring method helped them to improve their students’ learning as they could evaluate their students’ overall performance.


Classroom-based Assessment, Holistic Scoring Method, Analytic Scoring Method, Primary Trait Scoring Method, Essay Writing, ESL Teachers

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