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COMPASS® Writing Skills Test

The Writing Skills Placement Test is given in a multiple choice format, and tests knowledge of basic grammar. Test takers are required to identify and correct mistakes in essays, and will encounter one or more passages on the test that contain multiple grammatical errors. When they find a mistake in the essay, students click on that part of the passage. Several alternatives will then be presented. Students should read the alternate choices carefully in order to determine which one best corrects the grammatical mistake.

The writing test covers the following key concepts:

Skills in basic grammar usage and mechanics, including:

  • Verb formation/agreement (whether students can identify the correct form of the verb tense - past, present, future, etc. - and determine whether it agrees with the singular or plural subject)
  • Relationship of clauses (whether students can recognize if clauses used in the passage logically relate to each other and make sense)
  • Shifts in construction (whether students can recognize if a piece of writing starts in present tense and changes to past tense, or vice versa)
  • Spelling (whether students are able to recognize the correct spelling of certain words)
  • Capitalization (whether students know when capital letters should be used)
  • Punctuation (whether students know when to use commas, semi-colons, colons, etc.)
  • Sentence structure (whether students can recognize errors in how sentences are composed)

Rhetorical skills, including:

  • Organization (whether students can determine the best order for sentences so that paragraphs flow logically, and also whether they can determine the best way to order paragraphs in order to make sure the writing passage makes sense)
  • Style (whether students can determine the most effective way to use language in a given type of writing)
  • Writing strategy (whether students can recognize the best way to go about composing a given essay)

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Last Updated: 07/09/2014