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Alternative Test 2: Writing From Dictation

PROCEDURE. Give the child pen, ink, and paper, place him in a
comfortable position for writing, and say: "_I want you to write
something for me as nicely as you can. Write these words: 'See the
little boy.' Be sure to write it all: 'See the little boy.'_"

Do not dictate the words separately, but give the sentence as a whole.
Further repetition of the sentence is not permissible, as ability to
remember what has been dictated is a part of the test. Copy, of course,
must not be shown.

SCORING. Passed if the sentence is written legibly enough to be easily
recognized, and if no word has been omitted. Ordinary mistakes of
spelling are disregarded. The rule is that the mistake in spelling must
not mutilate the word beyond easy recognition. The performance may be
graded by the use of Thorndike's handwriting scale. The handwriting of
8-year-old children who have been in school not less than one year or
more than two usually falls between quality 7 and quality 9 on this
scale, but we shall, perhaps, not be too liberal if we consider a
performance satisfactory which does not grade below quality 6, provided
it is not seriously mutilated by errors, omissions, etc.

REMARKS. This test found a place in year VIII of Binet's 1908 scale, but
has been omitted from all the other revisions, including Binet's own.
Bobertag did not even regard the test as worthy of a trial. The
universal criticism has been that it is a test of schooling rather than
of intelligence. That the performance depends, in a certain sense, upon
special instruction is self-evident. Without such instruction no child
of 8 years, however intelligent, would be able to pass the test. Nature
does not give us a conventionalized language, either written or spoken.
It must be acquired. It is also true that a high-grade feeble-minded
child, say 8 years of age and of 6-year intelligence, is sometimes
(though not always) able to pass the test after two years of
school instruction. It is exceedingly improbable, however, that a
feeble-minded subject with less than 6-year intelligence will ever be
able to pass this test, however long he remains in school.

The conclusions to be drawn from these facts are as follows: (1)
Inability to pass the test should not be counted against the child
unless it is known that he has had at least a full year of the usual
school instruction. (2) Ability to pass the test after only two years of
school instruction is almost certain proof that the child has reached a
mental level of at least 6 years. (3) Failure to pass the test must be
regarded as a grave symptom in the case of the child 9 or more years of
age who is known to have attended school as much as two years. (4) For
mental levels higher than 8 years the test has hardly any diagnostic
value, since feeble-minded persons of 8- or 9-year intelligence can
usually be taught to write quite legibly.

If the limitations above set forth are kept in mind, the test is by no
means without value, and is always worth giving as a supplementary test.
Learning to write simple sentences from dictation is no mean
accomplishment. It demands, in the first place, a fairly complete
mastery of rather difficult muscular cooerdinations. Moreover, these
cooerdinations must be firmly associated with the corresponding letters
and words, for if the writing cooerdinations are not fairly automatic, so
much attention will be required to carry them out that the child will
not be able to remember what he has been told to write. The necessity of
remembering the passage acts as a distraction, and writing from
dictation is therefore a more difficult task than writing from copy.

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