The International Competitions and Assessments for Schools (ICAS) Writing is an English language writing test perfect for assessing a student’s writing skills. This skills-based assessment gives teachers a clear indication of the strengths and weaknesses in their students’ writing ability. With annual participation, over time this writing competition provides valuable insights for both the individual student as they progress in their studies and schools as they compare the performance of students in the current year against previous years.

The International Competitions and Assessments for Schools (ICAS) Writing assess students’ ability to write an extended response to a given task. Two forms of writing, narrative and persuasive, are assessed in alternating years.

Examples of medal-winning scripts from 2009 to 2012

ICAS Writing is marked on a common scale, that is, all scripts are marked using the same criteria. The strength of the common scale is increased with the use of common tasks across year levels. Each student’s result is only compared to the results of his/her peers’ in the same year level.

In 2013, the ICAS – Writing task will assess persuasive writing.

For persuasive writing, the task requires students to write a text that persuades. These include writing:

  • a review
  • an advertisement
  • a letter to a council
  • a formal argument
  • an opinion piece for a newspaper
  • a campaign manifesto

For a narrative, the task requires students to write one or two of the following aspects or stages of a narrative. These include writing:

  • the beginning of a narrative
  • the complication or event in a narrative
  • a description of a setting
  • a description of a character
  • the conclusion of a narrative

All students are given age-appropriate tasks in the same genre. The stimulus provided to the students is adapted to the interest levels of students from Paper A to Paper J.

Test Structure

A Y 3 Persuasive writing 30 minutes
B Y 4 Persuasive writing 30 minutes
C Y 5 Persuasive writing 30 minutes
D Y 6 Persuasive writing 30 minutes
E Y 7 Persuasive writing 30 minutes
F Y 8 Persuasive writing 30 minutes
G Y 9 Persuasive writing 30 minutes
H Y 10 Persuasive writing 30 minutes
I Y 11 Persuasive writing 30 minutes

Paper to year level conversion table

Marking Scheme

ICAS Writing is a criterion-referenced assessment that uses a common scale. This means that the assessment is marked against criteria which are specific to the task and that every student’s work is assessed against the same marking scheme. There are between nine and twelve marking criteria which are divided into four domains or sections:

Some criteria such as Syntax, Punctuation and Spelling are similar from task to task. Each marking criterion can have a range of up to five scores (0-4). Each score point describes the achievement of a skill level in that criterion. For example, at a score of 3, a student will have satisfied the standards described by scores 1, 2 and 3 but will not have demonstrated the standard described by score 4. In this sense the scoring can be seen as cumulative.

That each score in each criterion describes a specific skill level allows for the results to provide for individual student requirements and can assist teachers with diagnostic information for planning their teaching programs.

Although each student is only compared to his/her peers in the same year level, the use of the common scale in ICAS Writing allows parents and teachers to track a student’s progress from year to year as well as to compare student achievement across year levels. In other words, a student in Year 4 who scores 25 points can be described as having performed better than a student in Year 6 who scores 22 points as both students have been marked using the same criteria. This ability to make such direct comparisons can inform whole-school teaching strategies and programs.


Marking criteria in the skill area of Genre assess the ways in which the text has been structured and specific stylistic and vocabulary choices have been made to achieve the writer’s purpose and engagement of the reader. The best texts will demonstrate a creative and skilful integration of structure and language choices in order to do this.

Textual Grammar

The features of Textual Grammar which are assessed include the correct use of tense and the ways in which tense can be manipulated to strengthen the writing; the correct use of pronouns, conjunctions and connectives to assist the reader in following the text; and the ability to correctly structure a variety of different types of sentences, including complex sentences, for effect.


The skill area of Syntax/Punctuation includes marking criteria which assess correct use of sentence grammar - including
subject-verb agreement and the correct use of prepositions; articles and plurals; and punctuation.


Spelling assesses a student’s demonstrated ability to correctly spell words of increasing levels of complexity which are appropriate to the task.