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What Are Reading & Writing Competencies?

by Sav Keo

To progress through the formal education process, students must achieve certain competency levels. These levels determine what skills and concepts an individual possesses in a certain subject and if they are suitable to move on to a higher level. Reading and writing competencies are often gauged using tests that differ dependent on the age and basic knowledge of the subject.

Reading Competency

Reading competency is the level of understanding a subject has achieved in regards to written text. Reading comprehension works together with writing comprehension as the two subjects work simultaneously with one another. Proficient reading competency includes the ability to quickly recognize and analyze words and understand the cognitive concepts behind the words. Vocabulary plays a significant part in reading competency as it allow for an expansion of terms in one's dialect and it assists with word and sound association.

Writing Competency

Like reading competency, writing competency is the level of understanding you have achieved in regards to writing your own piece of text. To gauge writing competency, teachers may ask students to write on a particular prompt. As students enter higher grades, the prompts and activities will become more difficult in nature. For example, literature-based prompts are often successful gauges of writing competency, but also a way to tie in classroom material. An example of this would be to write about a similar experience or personality trait that you share with one of the characters from 'Huckleberry Finn'. Writing competency will take into consideration how logically a subject constructs their words, but will also deal with structural concepts such as grammar and punctuation.

Competency Testing in Secondary Educational Systems

Throughout your career as a student in the secondary school system, you will receive exams and participate in classroom activities that will assist in gauging competency levels. A teacher may require students to read passages aloud to gauge competency. As the student progresses into higher grades, the competency levels will include more difficult concepts to grasp. It is important to understand what competency level a student is to ensure they are receiving the most appropriate type of instruction. For example, parents/guardians should assist their students by providing books suitable for a certain competency level and progressively increase the difficulty slightly.

Competency Testing for Higher Education

Most higher education institutions require students to pass reading and writing competencies for admission. These exams incorporate the basic foundation of an English education received in secondary school, but will have a more difficult structure dependent on the academic status of the institution. Along with an exam, writing portfolios may also be requested to gauge competency. For example, all college reading and writing competency exams will touch upon basic inference skills while reading, but an ivy league college may employ a more difficult writing prompt than a two-year institution.

About the Author

Sav Keo has been a freelance writer and editor since 2009. She received her Bachelor's degree in English literature and Journalism from Georgia State University and has written for several cultural and academic publications, including "Creative Loafing" and "The Signal." Sav is an Atlanta native and when she is not taking red pen to paper, she can be found devouring zines over a pot of coffee.

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