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When BAWE meets WELT:The use of a corpus of student writing to develop items for a proficiency test in grammar and English usage

Author(s): Gerard Paul Sharpling

Journal: Journal of Writing Research
ISSN 2030-1006

Volume: 2;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 179;
Date: 2010;
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Keywords: corpus | BAWE | WELT | academic writing | language test design | English for Academic

This article reports on the use of the British Academic Written English (BAWE) corpus as a source for developing test items for the Grammar and English Usage section of the Warwick English Language (WELT) test in 2007. A key feature of this newly designed multiple choice grammar test was its use of student-generated writing. The extracts used for the re-designed test were derived directly from the BAWE corpus, as opposed to text books, published sources or indeed, simulated extracts of academic writing devised by test developers, which had been the case previously. The rationale for using the BAWE corpus for language test design is outlined, with a particular focus on the attributes of the students’ writing within the corpus, and the inclusion of both first and second language writing. The challenges involved in developing grammar test items based on BAWE corpus data are also presented. While the procedures set out in the paper were undertaken within a specifically British higher education setting, it is hoped that the research will be of interest to test developers and/or researchers in writing skills in other academic settings worldwide.
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