Direct writing assessments, like the timed essay test, require at least one sample of student writing and are viewed by many writing assessment scholars as more valid than indirect tests because they are assessing actual samples of writing.
Portfolio assessment, which generally consists of several pieces of student writing written over the course of a semester, began to replace timed essays during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In this wave, the central concern was to assess writing with the best predictability with the least amount of cost and work.
The shift toward the second wave marked a move toward considering principles of validity.
In this wave, portfolio assessment emerges to emphasize theories and practices in Composition and Writing Studies such as revision, drafting, and process.
Indirect writing assessments typically consist of multiple choice tests on grammar, usage, and vocabulary.
The second wave (1970-1986) focused on holistically scored tests where the students' actual writing began to be assessed.
And the third wave (since 1986) shifted toward assessing a collection of student work (i.e. Bob Broad in What We Really Value points to the publication of Factors in Judgments of Writing Ability in 1961 by Diederich, French, and Carlton as the birth of modern writing assessment.
Timed essay tests were developed as an alternative to multiple choice, indirect writing assessments.
Timed essay tests are often used to place students into writing courses appropriate for their skill level.