Supplemental Resource Guide
Essay Placement Test
You have taken the Writing placement test at Elgin Community College and you did not place into ENG097, the lowest level developmental writing course the college offers. What do you do now?
The first step to determine is why? Look at the list below and decide which of the following categories best describes your situation.
I did not prepare for the test beforehand.
What to do:
- Review the preparation materials posted:
- See the English composition writing placement test section.
- Attend a placement testing preparation workshop
- Practice making an outline on a topic you are familiar with and see if you have gathered enough ideas to write a two-page paper.
I was in a hurry to complete the test and did not take enough time.
What to do:
- Retest when you have more time so you can make an outline, map out your points, proof what you wrote, and check that you’ve written complete sentences. Use the resources that you are allowed to use - dictionary, thesaurus, and grammar book – to be sure you have written a quality essay. Writing takes time to develop an idea and then thoughtfully share it with the reader. Take that time.
I was not feeling well.
What to do:
- Retake the test on a day when you are well and feeling relaxed and rested.
How to Meet Expectations
You need to be able to write a paper on a topic you are given that is 400-600 words long. It needs to have a thesis and supporting points, be well-organized, and grammatically correct.
- I have never written a lengthy essay.
- Practice before you come for a second time by writing a paper on a topic you are interested in and know something about.
- How do I organize a long paper and my thoughts?
- When you do retest, pick a topic (you are given more than one choice) that you know something about and are interested in.
- Be sure to make an outline of what you want to say and in what order.
- Or you can draw your outline (it’s called mapping) as it will help you visualize what you can write about.
- Remember to include an introduction with a thesis, at least one (but ideally more than one) body paragraph, and a conclusion paragraph.
You need to do an outline or a map. All good writers do. You may change points or add ideas, but if you don’t know where to start, your paper will not be organized.
- I am a poor speller and never did know where commas went!
- No excuse! Use the dictionary, thesaurus, and grammar writing book.
- What’s a thesis? And how many supporting points do I need?
- Prepare ahead of time. Check out online sites that show where commas go and why.
- Attend the writing workshop to be reminded of some of these skills.
A thesis is the main idea you want your reader to take away after reading your essay. And the number of supporting points depends on what you want to say and how you will support your thesis. Remember you have to have 400-600 words, not 300 or 700, so plan the points ahead of time. If you can’t think of enough points, consider a different topic or develop a different thesis.
- I have been told I don’t write good or complete sentences.
Proof your paper by reading it backwards under your breath, pausing after you read each sentence. In this way, each sentence is a separate thought.
So begin by reading your last sentence. Does it make sense? If not, you probably wrote a fragment, and your mind automatically connected it to the sentence ahead of it. And instead of using a comma, you used a period, so now that sentence is really not connected to the previous sentence and the thought is incomplete (a fragment).
Continue to do this until you reach the beginning of your paper. Pause between each sentence. Put a mark by those that don’t make sense. Now go back starting at the beginning and see if you need to add a word in the sentences with a checkmark, such as a subject or a complete verb, or connect it to the previous sentence with a comma or a conjunction for one smooth complete thought.
If you were a poor or weak reader in elementary and high school, or if you avoided reading because you did not like to read, the chances are that you are also a weak or poor writer. One cannot write what one can’t read. To improve your writing, you need to read. You need to be aware of how an author develops his or her thoughts and gets them across to the reader. You will also see how well-constructed sentences are written. Read every day and spend some time analyzing what the author must have done to develop the article.
Take a Reading course before you take a writing course. Once you see how reading is structured and what you should pay attention to, your writing will improve as you mimic what you’ve learned.
If English is not your first language, you may struggle with the structure of written English. Some languages assume the subject or it is designated by the ending on the verb. In English, this is not so. You must state the subject every time, either with a noun or a pronoun. Some languages insert time sequence into the verb or ignore it altogether. Again, in English we use specific words to convey time in a sentence. What is often overlooked is that knowledge of another language can make you a good writer as you may be more aware of parts of speech than your peers. You need to consider what knowledge you bring to writing, but also be aware of the differences in the written languages.
English as a Second Language (ESL) classes may help you to strengthen your academic writing skills. If you’d like to know more about these classes, contact the ESL outreach coordinator, to discuss your options for improving your English language skills – firstname.lastname@example.org or 847-214-6975. Even one semester of ESL classes can strengthen your comprehension skills and then you can retake the placement test.
If you have a writing disability – a learning disability, dysgraphia, compromised manual dexterity, or compromised speech or hearing – writing can be a challenge.
You definitely need to develop a map or outline before you begin to write. This helps you to stay focused and organized.
If you do not have good computer skills, develop them! Take a computer class or a typing class. Many of the difficulties with writing are resolved by using spellcheck, grammar check, and just the neatness of the lettering when you use a computer instead of handwritten words.
Next, consider writing your first draft using a colored font instead of black, use Arial or Tahoma font, especially if you are dyslexic because it helps eliminate distortions. Increase the size of the font, as this will help with tracking. Some students even like to write their draft in bold text. When you are done editing your draft, highlight the whole essay and set it at the defaults again. Then submit.
(If this is not possible on the writing placement test, talk to Disability Services about writing your essay in Word where you can use these supports, and then have someone in the Disability office type it into the placement test format.)
If despite all these suggestions, you cannot improve your writing, you should talk to your academic advisor, or Disability Services if you have a disability, about a career that does not require college level writing skills.