Strategies for Taking the Writing Assessment Test

The following strategies will help you perform to the best of your abilities on the writing portion of Massasoit’s placement exam:

  1. Read the Questions or Prompts Carefully.
    Take a few minutes to read and understand the writing prompts before choosing which one you will address. Some students find recopying the question in their blue book a helpful strategy for understanding the question. Please note, however, readers of your essay should not need to know the question you were asked to understand the content of your essay.
  2. Plan Your Essay.
    Many writers benefit from brainstorming, free writing, outlining, clustering or otherwise planning their work. If you find this strategy helpful, please use it. Use the first page or inside cover of your blue book to map your assignment. Pre-writing is a part of the writing process, so we encourage you to demonstrate it if it is a tool you find useful.
  3. Consider Your Audience.
    Think about your intended audience as you write your essay. Thinking about your audience helps you make important decisions about how to organize your writing, and decide what context (background) or information your reader needs to understand your essay. When thinking about your audience, also consider what tone and vocabulary are appropriate. For instance, slang or abbreviations are acceptable in a text message to friends, but in a formal essay they would likely seem out of place.
  4. Show What You Know.
    This essay is an opportunity for you to demonstrate what you know about writing. Show readers that you know the parts of an essay. The “parts” include elements like: a title, an introduction, a point, focused and developed paragraphs, a conclusion.

    Please note that your essays are scored holistically. This means that readers consider your writing as a whole piece as they evaluate it. In other words, they are not marking off for a missed comma or an underdeveloped paragraph. Rather, they are considering the overall essay.
  5. Edit and Proofread Your Work.
    We suggest leaving time to edit and proofread your essay. This step will add clarity and demonstrate pride in your work. Make any corrections neatly; we can accept arrows, slashes, “X”s or whatever marks you deem necessary for improving your writing.
  6. Take Your Time.
    We encourage students to use the entire 60 minutes to complete their essay.
  7. Understand the Essay’s Purpose.
    Students do not pass or fail this essay. Our writing placement exam is meant to find the writing course that best suits your academic needs. If you’d like to review some writing handouts, please visit the Writing and World Language Center located in the Academic Resource Center on the bottom floor of the Student Center (SC) building.

    Below you will find sample directions and a prompt that is very similar to what you will encounter during your assessment. By familiarizing yourself with this structure, you will be much more comfortable and prepared on the day of your writing assessment.

    Directions:

    Dear Student,

    Below are a few guidelines from the English department that will help you write your essay. Please take a few minutes to read these tips before you start writing.
    1. Reading
      1. When reading the prompt, use your (word structure, context clues) strategies to determine unknown vocabulary. If you cannot understand all of the vocabulary, then try to get a general understanding of the prompt.
      2. Read it at least two or three times.  Feel free to annotate it like you would any other reading.
    2. Writing
      1. After reading the prompt, spend 5-10 minutes brainstorming and planning your essay. A brief outline or word web generally works well for this part of the writing process. Start writing!
      2. In your introduction, include a clear thesis that responds to the prompt with a thoughtfully developed argument.
      3. Next, develop several focused body paragraphs with examples that support the thesis.
      4. Finally, compose your conclusion restating your thesis and giving your essay a feeling of closure.
      5. Be sure and proofread. Your essay needs to be written in clear language that does not impede the reading of your work and it should contain few to no run-ons or fragments.  The essay should be approximately 400 words.

Remember, this essay will determine your placement into one of several English writing courses and should be an example of your best work.