COMPASS® Writing Advice and Tips

Planning the Essay
Before plunging in and starting to write immediately after reading the prompt, test takers should think about what they want to say and jot down the main points they want to cover. Students should ask the staff at the testing center for some scratch paper they can use for this purpose. Some helpful things test takers might want to write down include ideas, arguments, and examples they could use to support their point of view. Also, considering how best to organize ideas will help students as they are typing their essay on the computer.

Writing the Essay
At the start of the essay, students should address the topic immediately and then make their point of view clear. They should then support their points with specific, relevant examples. The more test takers can write about the topic, and the more supporting details they can provide to back up their point of view, the better their grade will be. Students don’t necessarily need to write a standard five paragraph essay, but should instead shoot for a multi-paragraph response that ranges from 300 to 600 words. The important thing is for students to write a fully-formed response that clearly develops their viewpoint and stays on topic throughout the essay. If asked to write something like a letter to the editor, test takers should make sure they use the proper format for such business correspondence.

Going Over the Essay
Students should set aside a few minutes after they finish writing to read over their essay. They should read carefully, correcting any mistakes in grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. Also, students should make sure they have written a variety of types of sentences (both short and long), since that is one of the scoring criteria. Students need to proofread their essays to make sure that what they have written makes sense and clearly expresses their point of view on the topic.