An Analysis of English Majors’ Writing Ability and Improvement Strategies: A Case Study on ZUCC English Majors’ TEM-4/8 Performances 1. Purpose and Significance Thanks to the globalization, the demand for the bilingual workers is on the rise. As English majors, we believe that what we can do to be more competitive in this increasingly globalized world is to have a solid command of this language. The certificates such as TEM-8 (Test for English Majors Band Eight) are a must but what really matters is what ability the students really have possessed and could be employed at ease.
Upon reflecting on the TEM-4 (Test for English Majors Band Four) /TEM-8 scores the seniors have acquired, we clearly learn that there is still quite a room for improvement, especially when it comes to writing. Some students still find it tough to put pen into the paper and work out a satisfactory essay; some are hard-pressed to express themselves smoothly in the writing; still some tend to produce Chin-glish works.
Actually, all these are standing in the way of global communication and cultural interaction, which may be a major part in our future work. Therefore, English majors should place high value on honing this skill, not only for juggling exams but also for the sake of our future career. This paper tries to analyze the writing ability of the English majors, who have spent the four years specializing in English learning, especially ZUCC-ers while focusing on rendering improvement skills and strategies that are feasible and effective.
This paper also suggests the gap between what we have achieved and what we should achieve, judging from the standards set in TEM-4/TEM-8 and the test scores the seniors gained in the previous TEM-4/ TEM-8 exams, which, I believe, will not only facilitate our understanding of the goals, the rating standards of TEM-4/TEM-8 and the expectations our educators place on us, but also serve as the guide for our academic advisors, whose instructions definitely play a pivotal role in our progress.
And with a heightened awareness of the importance of writing on the part of the students and the more attention paid to the training of particular writing skills on the part of the teachers, English majors’ writing ability will surely be raised. 2. Current Literature Review According to Wanxiaohui(??? ),grammar, syntax and wording errors as well as the lack in writing skills training are what hamper the improvement of English Majors’ writing ability. Also, in Gaocaifeng(??? ),Xujie(?? ),and Bairuifang(??? ’s article, we clearly learn that the gap between outstanding English learners and poor ones looms especially large when it comes to writing and several factors should take the blame. “Those who spend more time in mapping out the overall structure in the preliminary writing stage tend to yield better works but a great many students are likely to use L1 in the L2 writing. Meanwhile, we educators may have paid too much attention to the grammar and structure, while ignoring the importance of relevant skills’ training” (24).
Undoubtedly, writing is a complicated task that encompasses the input of knowledge, output of ideas and thoughts, as well as the usage of particular skills that could make the structure more logical and the content more exciting. It is also assured by Jean Wyrick who claims that good writers are made—simply because effective writing is a skill that can be learned. He also renders some pump-primer techniques that we could employ in our writing, say, listing, free-writing, looping, interviewing, dramatizing the subject and sketching.
As English majors, who are supposed to outperform other students, we should spend more time in trying on various means and reach out for the feasible and practical skills for our own use. For instance, as Wyrick mentioned in the book Steps to Writing Well, writing a good thesis and developing paragraphs in logical terms can always serve the purpose well, especially in exams. He also suggests that we should try to select a subject that will interest, amuse, challenge, persuade, or enlighten our readers.
And if our subject itself is commonplace, we should find a unique approach or an unusual, perhaps even controversial, point of view. As regards the paragraph development, he suggests that by adding more supporting evidence—specific examples and details—to this paragraph, the writer has a better chance of convincing the reader. In his perspective, personal experiences, memories, observations, hypothetical examples, reasoned arguments, facts, statistics, testimony from authorities, many kinds of studies and research—all these and more can help us make our points lear and persuasive. Actually, we English major students should approach writing in a more systematic and sensible way—we should not only try hard to improve the overall structure, but also attach high importance to the separate units such as the improvement of sentences, wording and transitional signals. To some extent, the improvement of wording, sentence forms and structure could be made after intensive training, but what also counts in the writing is the demonstration of one’s critical thinking and creative thinking that can hardly be cultivated in a short time.
Therefore, we need to work hard to develop a sense of critical thinking and creative thinking, which, without any doubt, requires both the students’ and the teachers’ efforts. Jishourong(??? ) pointed out that since our educators are used to applying product approach which requires students to do their work alone and the teachers commenting and correcting all by themselves, it may exert negative impact on the cultivation of students’ essential thinking skills since the teachers may put forward the corresponding feedbacks and require the students to revise accordingly.
Therefore Cherry Campbell states in her book Teaching Second Language Writing—Interacting with Text that conferencing as a means of responding to students’ drafts in progress is preferred although it demands excessive time. And a combination of conferencing, written comments on the drafts, and peer review could also be adopted as to cultivate students’ thinking skills. To sum up, there is still a large room for improvement as regards our writing ability. Some pertinent skills should be cultivated and under the guidance of professional educators, we can be a better writer.
Given the current level, we should also resort to the fundamental improving ways such as widening knowledge scale and increasing the awareness of critical and creative thinking. 3. Key Points and Possible Difficulties The paper mainly addresses English majors’ writing ability, focusing on the analysis of that of ZUCC-ers. By analyzing the seniors’ TEM-4/ TEM-8 performance, the paper could give us a general picture and enlighten us to evaluate our writing more objectively.
In the meantime, the paper will propose on how to polish our wording, sentence use, paragraph development, overall structure building as well as reshape of our own thinking. The paper also tries to illuminate the teachers, suggesting what they can do as to lead us towards better. So based on the frame, the paper can be developed into three parts: Firstly, focusing on the writing performance of 2000-2004 ZUCC test-takers in TEM-4 and that of 2000-2002 in TEM-8 and putting forward the analysis of the existent problems. Secondly, advancing suggestions on writing improvement. Thirdly, eliciting advice for teachers.
The possible difficulties of this topic are that the data-collecting process may be time-consuming and it may be hard-pressed for us to work out a perfect questionnaire that could help figure out all the problems that hamper in the English writing. 4. Approaches and Methods The research will be conducted on the basis of the data-collection and statistics analysis, which I mean picking up the previous writing scores the seniors have earned as well as collecting some of the problems we English majors encounter in writing by sending out questionnaires, which, I believe, will somewhat expose the problems standing in the way.