Thoughts on HS Writers

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BennyTheJett
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Thoughts on HS Writers

Post by BennyTheJett » January 13th, 2021, 7:23 am

Ok so......

Yes, I'm a high school writer that has written for tournaments and such, but I want to know what the alumni think about high school kids writing for tournaments. I'd also like to know if you're against it, if you'd be willing to cowrite with high school kids to introduce them to test writing to better train the next generation of alums.
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Re: Thoughts on HS Writers

Post by ZachMUHS » January 13th, 2021, 8:15 am

I think the main goal is to get qualified people to write the test and sometimes high school writers and ESs are the best option. The main concern for high school writers can be because of integrity issues and worries of a highschooler doing a bad job.

I still think high school writers are a good source of well written tests and alumni should be open to partnering because it could be a lot of fun.

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Re: Thoughts on HS Writers

Post by sciolyperson1 » January 13th, 2021, 5:08 pm

This really depends on the tournament. For some competitions, they just need a writer, and are willing to take in anybody. Typically, division B competitions and small-scale online div C ones allow non-alumni to write or supervise.

With the influx of online division C tournaments, other high schoolers are able to help with these competitions. Many competitions take in volunteer graders to grade tests, a feasible option considering the amount of teams that participate. However, even with high school event supervisors, I've almost never seen a bad test coming from them (Yosemite, SOLVI, etc.) as they typically hold themselves to higher standards as long as they're chosen right. For all div C events, there are div C competitors qualified to write for high levels of competition - whether it be that they participate in international olympiads, or have placed at nationals themselves - and I don't believe most alumni with less experience can produce a test better than a competitive, experienced high schooler.

TLDR: typically B writes for C and D writes for C, but I don't see an issue with C writing for C.
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Re: Thoughts on HS Writers

Post by pepperonipi » January 13th, 2021, 5:13 pm

The end goal of finding a test writer is to get a tournament a quality test.

I think the question is less about high schoolers vs. alumni as much as it is non-experienced vs. experienced. If you take a senior who just joined Science Olympiad this year vs. a senior who has won medals at MIT, Princeton, SOUP, etc. for 5 years, they are likely going to write different levels of test quality given the same amount of time despite being in the same age range. I've seen some tests written by current high schoolers that are much better than what a random 40-year-old volunteer wrote to help out a tournament.

Also though, experience doesn't just have to come from competing in Science Olympiad. A professional ornithologist might still write a better test than a sophomore who has competed at moderate-level invitationals, because of the ornithologist's extensive experience in the subject. However, this can also flip. Experienced college professors can sometimes go too in-depth in their subject on a test or just write about a general subject rather than what is laid out in the rules.

So overall, sure, high schoolers should totally be able to write for invitationals (especially if they have a lot of experience!)! I think just restricting test writers to alumni can limit the amount of possibly good tests you could get at invitational. Alumni can totally write amazing tests, but just as much as high schoolers can. And getting these two groups to work together can lead to amazing outcomes. :)
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Re: Thoughts on HS Writers

Post by SilverBreeze » January 14th, 2021, 8:00 am

BennyTheJett wrote:
January 13th, 2021, 7:23 am
but I want to know what the alumni think about high school kids writing for tournaments. I'd also like to know if you're against it, if you'd be willing to cowrite with high school kids to introduce them to test writing to better train the next generation of alums.
I'm not an alumnus of course (actually everyone who has posted here has been high school haha), but I haven't seen it frowned upon within the alumni community in my experience. I think it helps a lot when the alumni involved know the high schooler, whether personally, by reputation, or by word of mouth.

To any skeptical alumnus reading this, I can personally vouch for the high-quality tests high schoolers are capable of producing. As with any age group of test writers, quality varies from writer to writer. If you've had a case of a high schooler writing a low-quality test or embarrassing the tournament with their conduct, it could be a one-off case, but probably just means a slightly tighter screening process is needed.

I will note that competitive achievement is pretty often a good prerequisite to ensure the high schooler knows enough to write a good test (watch out for competent students in teams that can't go to high-level competitions, though!). However, an impressive medal rack or list of non-SciOly credentials doesn't always translate to test writing ability - some of it can be bad questions from lack of experience, which fixes itself over time, but many times students may lack the maturity or responsibility to handle writing/ESing.

Try to screen even people who have written for several tournaments - some "experienced" writers have repeatedly done things like reuse their own tests, turning in tests very late, quitting soon before the competition, etc. (this applies not just to high school writers)

Then we run into an issue - taking on unexperienced high school writers is a gamble, but not taking them on makes test-writing opportunities hard for them to come by. I think it'd be interesting if high schoolers wrote a test before applying/signing up for invitationals, then showed the invitational the test. If the writer gets rejected, they can revise and/or resubmit to a different tournament. (of course the test would have to match the difficulty level of the tournament so that limits options a little) If all else fails at least the test can be published on the test exchange here, where people can practice with it. There might be concerns with leaks, though, if the writer asks a peer to review it before signing up for invitationals but that peer ends up competing (normally you could ask someone you know is not going to the invite).

Intentional test leaks aren't a huge issue if you know the high schooler writing has a good reputation, but I don't think it would be/has been a widespread issue.

If you're a high schooler who wants to write tests, contact tournaments, ask around! Don't feel discouraged if you get rejected a few times. Write for smaller/easier tournaments first, help out as a grader, etc. High schoolers writing for B is much more common than for C. I think it's a great way to be able to help out early on and get experience. Don't write just for volunteer hours or clout - those writers tend to produce lower-quality tests that give a worse experience for students. On the other hand, if you genuinely volunteer because you enjoy it, don't feel afraid to ask for volunteer hours! It's usually clear whether you're doing it for the hours or the sake of it, and I don't think most tournaments have found the latter case annoying.
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