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KPG research

Factors affecting writing and written mediation task difficulty 

Vasso Oikonomidou
PhD Thesis
Faculty of English Language and Literature
School of Philosophy
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

The aim of this study is to investigate the kind of variables that affect writing task difficulty in the foreign language examination context. In particular, it focuses on the writing component of the KPG exams in English, where candidates are asked to produce two written scripts –“writing production” and “mediation” -based on visual and verbal prompts, following KPG test specifications. Taking the mean score of the activities of different examination periods into consideration, the first stage of the study is distinguish between ‘easier’ and ‘more difficult’ activities and explore the text-types where candidates seem to perform better. The second stage involves the researcher in an attempt to define task difficulty and its effect on the outcome through an analysis of the discourse features of candidate scripts. In particular, tasks are analyzed and the changes in task design over time are explored. What is more, candidate expected performance is described and compared with candidate actual performance. The third stage of the study aims at exploring perceptions of writing task difficulty through questionnaires and interviews. The study involves four different groups: candidates, raters, task designers and EFL teachers. The investigation is both quantitative and qualitative. The study may yield interesting results for test designers who need to consider the kinds of difficulty candidates of a specific level are usually confronted with. The results are also expected to prove useful to foreign language teachers and material writers who are interested in designing ‘fair’ activities. On the whole, the findings of this study may be of wider use not only in the area of Language Testing and specifically in writing and written mediation task design, but also in the field of Foreign Language Didactics and its particular concerns with development of EFL writing skills.


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