COMPASS Writing Assessment Review Module
To help you be successful, proper course placement is important in fostering the academic success of students at Triton College. In order to ensure you enroll in courses that match your individual skill level and prior preparation, all new students take placement tests in Writing, Reading and Mathematics. The placement test results are used to aid academic advisors as they help students plan their courses. Not all students are required to take the placement test. Upon admission to the college, Admissions office personnel, using specific waiver criteria, determine whether you are required to take the placement test.
This module reviews the necessary information which will help prepare you to take the COMPASS® placement assessment for writing. The COMPASS® assessment is designed to determine your skill level in college level writing. Taking the assessment doesn't mean that you've 'passed' writing but your score indicates which courses you can enroll in at Triton. Since the score you receive will help determine which courses you should take it's important for you to take the assessment seriously.
Once you're ready to take the actual COMPASS® assessment, you can contact assessment services to schedule your appointment. Remember, parts of the computerized assessment are untimed—that is, you may work at your own pace so be sure to answer all questions even if you're not sure of the answer. But the essay portion of the assessment is a timed essay submission. After you complete the COMPASS® assessment, you can get a score report to help you make appropriate choices when you register for college classes.
We hope you benefit from this review material, and we wish you success as you pursue your education and career goals!
The COMPASS® e-Write Placement Test consists of one writing prompt that defines an issue or problem and describes two points of view on that issue. You are asked to respond to prompt addressing your position on the issue described in the prompt. Your essay response is evaluated using the following measures:
While you'll use this review module to help you prepare for the actual COMPASS® assessment, it's important to remember to write often, in response to a variety of topics, journaling, etc. in order to improve your writing ability and make your academic experiences worth while.
a. Basic Grammar - Grammar tells us how the classes of words (nouns, pronouns, prepositions, etc.) are related to one another, and how they all go together to make up a sentence. Grammar shows us how to build meaningful communications out of isolated words and phrases. Specific examples include:
b. Punctuation - Use and placement of commas, colons, semicolons, dashes, parentheses, apostrophes, and quotation, question, and exclamation marks. Specific examples include:
c. Sentence Structure - Relationships between/among clauses, placement of modifiers, and shifts in construction. Specific examples include:
2. Rhetorical Skills - Items that measure rhetorical skills may refer to an underlined portion of the text or may ask a question about a section of the passage or about the passage as a whole. You must decide which alternative response is most appropriate in a given rhetorical situation. Item examples include:
a. Focus - consistency and clarity in identifying and maintaining the main idea or point of view. Specific examples include:
b. Organization - Organization of ideas and relevance of statements in context (order, coherence, unity). Specific examples include:
c. Content - Appropriateness of expression in relation to audience and purpose, strengthening of writing with appropriate supporting material, and effective choice of statements of theme and purpose. Specific examples include:
d. Style - Precision and appropriateness in the choice of words and images, rhetorically effective management of sentence elements, avoidance of ambiguous pronoun references, and economy in writing.
The COMPASS® Writing Placement Test consists of a essay question which requires students to respond to a writing task (prompt) framed within a familiar context. This might be a community or school setting where a problem or issue related to that setting is presented.
The essay prompt requires that you take a position and offer a solution supported with specific examples or evidence regarding the position taken. You should adopt one or the other of the points of view or solutions described in the writing prompt. Your score will not be affected by the point of view you take on the issue. For example,
A School Board is concerned that the state's requirements for core courses in mathematics, English, science, and social studies may prevent students from taking important elective courses like music, other languages, and vocational education. The School Board would like to encourage more high school students to take elective courses and is considering two proposals. One proposal is to lengthen the school day to provide students with the opportunity to take elective courses. The other proposal is to offer elective courses in the summer. Write a letter to the School Board in which you argue for lengthening the school day or for offering elective courses during the summer, explaining why you think your choice will encourage more students to take elective courses.
Begin your letter: Dear School Board:
Your response is evaluated according to how well you:
You will receive a lower score for not taking a position on the specified issue, not supporting that position with reasons and evidence, not developing the argument, or not expressing those ideas using clear, effective language.
Let's review the guidelines for effective essay writing and then we'll move to the complete essay example.
An essay is a written argument or discussion. The purpose of an essay is to say something about an issue or a topic in a clear, logical manner so that the reader understands the writer's points and is convinced that they make sense.
1. The three parts of an essay are:
2. Functions of the Introduction Paragraph
A. It attracts the reader's interest, encouraging him or her to continue reading the essay.
B. It supplies any background information that the reader may need to understand the essay.
C. It presents a thesis statement which is a clear, direct statement of the main idea or central of the essay. The thesis statement should (1) identify the topic you are going to discuss,(2) your point about that topic and (3) your plan of development. Your statement can appear at the beginning or end of the introduction paragraph.
D. The plan of development which "previews" the major supporting points the writer will discuss in the order they will be presented in the paper. However, writers can sometimes choose to use a basic thesis statement which does not preview the major supporting points.
3. Common Methods of Introducing Your Topic
A. Begin with a broad, general statement of your topic and narrow it down to your thesis. (Eases the reader into the thesis statement by first introducing the topic.)
B. Start with an idea or a situation that is opposite of the one you will develop. (Surprises the reader, then intrigue them by the contrast between the opening idea and the thesis that follows it.)
C. Explain the importance of your topic to the reader. (Convince readers that the subject in some way applies to them, or is something they should know more about.)
D. Use an incident or a brief story. (Appeals to the reader's curiosity and usually grabs the reader's attention right away. The story should be brief and should relate to the writer's main idea. The incident in the story can be something that happened to you, something you've heard about, or something you have read about in a newspaper or magazine.)
E. Ask one or more questions. (The question should be thought provoking meaning you want the reader to think about possible answers, or you may plan to answer the questions in the paper.)
F. Use a quotation. (This can be expressions you've heard, read about in a book or an article. This lets you add someone else's voice to your own.)
4. Body Paragraphs provide supporting details for major points
A. It includes a topic sentence which is a complete sentence that states the paragraph's main idea.
B. The features of an effective topic sentence are:
C. It contains supporting detail sentences that are related to the topic sentence and the controlling idea. These sentences give information that supports the topic of the paragraph. Effective supporting sentences explain, describe, give reasons, facts, and examples to prove and/or illustrate the point being made. They answer the questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how to help prove specific detail.
Topic Sentence: Secondly, with these camera, not only would there be fewer fights in schools, but there would also be fewer thefts.
Evidence: At my local White Hen, there was a camera installed to prevent theft. One time I was in there and a couple of high school kids were stuffing candy bars into their pockets. Once they saw the camera, they ran out of the store.
This evidence is weak for two reasons. For one thing, it goes off topic. The issue is security cameras in schools, not in retails stores. Make sure to relate your examples directly to the prompt topic. Secondly, the example is not clearly tied back onto the argument for the cameras.
Topic Sentence: Secondly, with these camera, not only would there be fewer fights in schools, but there would also be fewer thefts.
Evidence: At my school, my physics teacher used his expensive laptop for class. One day he couldn't find it. Some students stole his computer. He had no idea who would have taken it from him.
This evidence ties back to the central argument, if ther were a camera in his room, the thief would have been caught. Or if everyone knew a camera was watching, the theft might have been prevented altoghether.
D. The concluding sentence is the last sentence of each supporting detail paragraph. Its job is to bring that paragraph to a logical conclusion by:
5. Concluding Paragraph
A. This is the last paragraph of the essay.
B. It restates the ideas contained in the thesis statement.
C. The topic sentence of the last paragraph should signal the reader that the essay is drawing to a close.
D. The supporting details of the concluding paragraph should highlight what you want the reader to think about after reading the essay.
E. Do not add a new supporting point in your conclusion.
6. Using Transitional Words, Phrases, or Linking Sentences
A. Signal the direction of a writer's thought.
B. They are used between paragraphs to help tie the supporting paragraphs together in an essay.
C. They enable the reader to move smoothly and clearly from one idea in one paragraph to the idea in the next paragraph.
D. Some commonly used transitional words or phrases are: first of all, secondly, another, in addition to, finally, as a result, consequently, therefore, however, nevertheless, on the other hand, meanwhile, also, but, for example, etc...
This technique strengthens your argument in 3 ways:
EXAMPLE: The installation of cameras does cost an immense amount of money. They also give no privacy to the students.
This writer is acutally in FAVOR of security cameras. In the introduction, however, he raises these two arguments against the cameras to establish credibility.
WARNING! If you acknowledge a differing viewpoint, don't just say the other side has a valid point and leave it at that. Move on to the next step of rebuttal.
2. Rebut Differing Viewpoints
A strong argument points out the flasw in the other side's thinking using reasonable language and examples.
INTRODUCTION EXAMPLE: The installation of the cameras does cost an immense amount of money. They also give no privacy to the students. However, they would be convienient for the shcool's security.
CONCLUSION EXAMPLE: Even though the installation of cameras is expensive and offers no privacy to student, it does help the security of the school.
In a timed writing situation you don't always have time to fully rebut the opposing side. You should ad least, thought, present your side as the better choice.
Pace yourself. You will have 60 minutes to read and think about the issue in the prompt, and to plan and write your essay. You should feel free to ask testing center staff how much time you will be allowed and plan your writing time accordingly.
When asked to write an essay, most writers find it useful to do some planning before they start writing, and to do a final check of the essay when it is finished. It is unlikely that you will have time to draft and fully revise your essay. Therefore, taking a few minutes to plan your essay before you begin writing is a good strategy.
Plan before you write. Some writers like to plunge right in, but this is seldom a good way to do well on an essay writing task. Planning and prewriting gets you thinking about the issue, suggests patterns for presenting your thoughts, and allows you to come up with ideas for introducing and concluding your essay. Before writing, carefully read the prompt and make sure you understand it—reread it if you aren't sure. Decide how you want to answer the question in the prompt.
If you choose to do some prewriting, ask testing center staff if you may use paper they provide to organize your thoughts. This prewriting might simply be a list of ideas, reasons, and examples that you will use to explain your point of view. Write down what you think others might say in opposition to your point of view and think about how you would respond to their arguments. Think of how best to organize the ideas you are going to present in your essay. You can refer back to these notes as you write the essay on the computer.
Please note that because COMPASS® e-Write is a secure test, testing center staff will need to collect any notes you've made after you have completed testing.
Write. Once you're ready to write your essay on the computer, proceed with the confidence that you have planned your writing. At the beginning of your essay, make sure readers see that you understand the issue. Explain your point of view in a clear and logical way. If possible, discuss the issue in a broader context. Address what others might say to refute your point of view and present a counterargument. Use specific examples. Vary the structure of your sentences, and use varied and precise word choices. Make logical relationships clear by using transitional words and phrases. Do not wander off the topic. End with a strong conclusion that summarizes or reinforces your position.
Your essay will be evaluated according to how well you:
Students often ask whether it is a good idea to organize the essay by using a formula, like "the five-paragraph essay." Points are neither awarded nor deducted for following familiar formulas, so feel free to use one or not as you prefer. Some writers find formulas too limiting, while other writers find them to be useful.
At the end of the writing prompt, there is a suggestion that you write a multi-paragraph response of about 300–600 words. It's important to note that this suggestion is included to encourage you to write a fully formed response, rather than simply writing one or two sentences. However, the exact numbers of words and paragraphs in your essay are less important than the clarity and development of your ideas. Writers who have something to say usually find that their ideas have a way of sorting themselves out at a reasonable length and in the right number of paragraphs.
As you write, remember that you have been asked to write a letter to a specific person or group who is looking for feedback regarding a specific issue. Your response is being written to persuade a person or group, so it's important that your essay be focused on your readers and their concerns. Begin your letter with an introduction; end your letter with a conclusion that summarizes the points you've made. Make sure that the audience understands your position at both the beginning and the end of your essay.
Review your essay. Take a few minutes before submitting your essay to read it over. Correct any mistakes in grammar, usage, punctuation, and spelling. Within the time available, try to make your essay as clear, as focused, and as polished as you can.
Educators debate extending high school to five years because of increasing demands on students from employers and colleges to participate in extracurricular activities and community service in addition to having high grades. Some educators support extending high school to five years because they think students need more time to achieve all that is expected of them. Other educators do not support extending high school to five years because they think students would lose interest in school and attendance would drop in the fifth year. In your opinion, should high school be extended to five years?
In your essay, take a position on this question. You may write about either one of the two points of view given, or you may present a different point of view on this question. Use specific reasons and examples to support your position.
The Senior Itch—the incurable chaffing we all crave to scratch. The cure? Graduation. As we progress through our high school years growing with wisdom and maturity, we all yearn for freedom. Yet what we desire most is not always what is best for us. Although most won't want to admit it, extending our high school career to five years would make an important and beneficial impact on our future. With the four years that are currently provided, there is not enough time for motivated students to accomplish their goals before college. Merely being accepted by a selective college or university requires much pre-planned effort that is literally unavailable to students already concerned with grades and other activities.
Colleges look most thoroughly at how an applicant used his or her four years of high school. Leadership roles, a dedication to an organization, and a well-rounded, involved student is appealing to the most elite educational institutions. Often, students desire leadership positions in numerous extra-curricular organizations, but face limiting regulations on the number of offices they may hold at one time. Even if a school doesn't limit students' involvement, students eventually reach the limits of what a 24-hour day can hold. Too often, students cannot participate as much as they want in as many extra-curriculars as they want because there just isn't time. With an extra year of high school, those involved in more than one activity could successfully find the time to contribute to and to lead each one. Colleges would see a longer, more developed individual's resume that included a time for each of their interests. The organizations would benefit from stronger student participation and the students would be recognized for their true efforts as well.
Because they struggle to gain leadership roles and become the well-rounded students colleges desire, the task of maintaining a respectable grade-point-average during high school is a struggle for many students. It is difficult to be involved in activities of interest while still keeping high grades. However, colleges don't consider this when they seek applicants with high grade-point-averages in their admissions pool. Elongating the span of high school would allow more students with both grades and activities on their agenda to spend more time focusing on each separate interest. Rather than feeling forced to crunch a large block of "weighted" classes together in hopes of elevating their GPA, students would find more time to spread out their difficult classes and make the most of every single year. With less pressure and more time, grades would improve for all dedicated students, as would the enjoyment of studying those subjects and the increased retainment of what we learned in those classes.
Education aside, many high school students find that four years is not enough time to accomplish their varied goals. For instance, a student may desire a job in addition to school. The money they earn may help pay their way through college. With such a short preparation period before college, they can hardly be expected to make a successful life for themself without the proper funds. Also, many students are interested in community service prior to attending college, but find they do not have enough time in the four-year high school period. Colleges are drawn to students with a rich assortment of community service and evidence of responsibilities such as holding a job, but students have a hard time finding the hours to put into these tasks.
High school is the foundation of the rest of our life. Like money in the bank, the investment of an additional year when we are young can make all the difference. With the additional time, motivated students would be able to become more involved in their schools, boost their grades, and find the time for a job and community service. Colleges admire these attributes, and for the sake of high-schoolers' acceptance into these institutions, more time should be provided for their endeavors. High school students work hard toward their future. Another year would help ensure their success.
This essay demonstrates effective skills in responding to the writing task and would receive a score which will allow the student to enter RHT101, the first college level writing course.
The essay takes a position on the issue (extending our high school career to five years would make an important and beneficial impact on our future) and offers a critical context for discussion (Yet what we desire most is not always what is best for us). Complexity is addressed as the writer anticipates and responds to a counter-argument to the discussion (Even if a school doesn't limit students' involvement, students eventually reach the limits of what a 24-hour day can hold). Development is ample, specific and logical, discussing most ideas fully in terms of the resulting implications (Colleges would see a longer, more developed individual's resume that included a time for each of their interests. The organizations would benefit from stronger student participation and the students would be recognized for their true efforts as well). Clear focus on the specific issue in the prompt is maintained.
Organization of the essay is clear though predictable. Most of the essay demonstrates logical sequencing of ideas (It is difficult to be involved in activities of interest while still keeping high grades. However, colleges don't consider this when they seek applicants with high grade-point-averages in their admissions pool. Elongating the span of high school would allow more students with both grades and activities on their agenda to spend more time focusing on each separate interest). Transitions are used throughout the essay (Although, Even if, However, Rather than) and are often integrated into the essay (Because they struggle to gain leadership roles and become the well-rounded students colleges desire, the task of maintaining a respectable grade-point-average during high school is a struggle for many students). The conclusion and especially the introduction are effective and well developed.
The essay shows a good command of language, with precise and varied sentences and word choice (The Senior Itch—the incurable chaffing we all crave to scratch. . . . Merely being accepted by a selective college or university requires much pre-planned effort that is literally unavailable to students already concerned with grades and other activities).
There are few errors to distract the reader.
The essay score you receive on the actual COMPASS® exam after you've written your essay determines which course you'll take to fullfill your English competency requirements. Writing scores are used in conjunction with the reading score to determine if you're eligible for RHT101: Freshman Composition.
An essay score of 6, 7, or 8: indicates you may be ready for college level reading.
An essay score of 5: indicates you would be ready for Introduction to College Writing Level 2, RHT096.
An essay score of 2, 3, or 4: indicates you would be ready for Introduction to College Writing Level 1, RHT095.
Again, these are just the possible outcomes you might expect when you actual take the COMPASS® assessment. Just remember to take the test seriously and don't rush through the writing process.
Now that you've completed the review material, schedule your testing time with the assessment services office. If you think you need more information about reading and the comprehension process make an appointment with an English department instructor or visit the Academic Success Center. Once you've taken the COMPASS® Placement Assessment talk to your counselor about your score to determine your next step. Good Luck!!!
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