Study Guide for the Writing Section of COMPASS

How to Select a COMPASS Writing Study Guide

If you are a native speaker of English, you might underestimate the writing section of the COMPASS exam. This mistake is best avoided. English is a constantly evolving language, and what you thought was incorrect a few years back, could have become legitimate and correct today. Not only grammar rules change, but also new words get constantly added to dictionaries. It is therefore best that both native and non native speakers of English do not treat this section lightly, or comparatively lesser than the math section of the test. Since the COMPASS is an untimed test, students often spend too much time trying to over analyze questions. This should be avoided.

Overall, here's a quick list of the points you should keep in mind while selecting a study guide for this test:

  1. Does it have enough practice tests?
  2. Yes, you read right. You need to practice the writing section to fare well in the exam. It is one of the primary reasons why students generally tend to lax in the exams, or just answer based on the "feel" of what is right. Sometimes simple rules and tips offered by a prep material can help in resolving the confusion you have when you guess based on "feel".

  3. Does it have grammar, punctuation and style?
  4. Most prep resources simply concentrate on providing tips to answer questions, caring very little about explaining the grammatical rules involved in selecting that answer. Purchasing something that explains why a particular answer is right should be your choice for a guide

  5. Is it free?
  6. This might sound strange, but can a free study material influence its quality? Chances are more in the favour of this aspect. You might not want to waste time and money on a book that's outdated, or is not from a credible source or publisher. Choosing a prep material for writing skills test that has been revised recently and which has been authored by experts. You might not want to study from a book that's lower than your own standards.

Finally, here are reviews of three books that are currently available in the market.

Compass Writing Test Success: Compass Test Writing Practice Tests

From the stable of Academic Success Media, this book is perhaps the most preferred among the books available in the market. Available for a modest 16 USD, the guide has around 20 practice tests, with details about English grammar, punctuation rules and styles. It is perhaps the best buy if you are looking for a cheap study material that covers the entire syllabus and which carries enough practice tests to allow you to feel comfortable during the exams.

COMPASS Exam - Doug French's Verbal Review

If you are looking for a guide that covers both the verbal and writing sections of the test, this book is for you. Focussed on the COMPASS and Accuplacer test, this guide provides good techniques for the exam, and has explanations in lucid and easy to understand language. This guide on writing section is definitely recommended if you have had a break in your studies, or if you are a non-native speaker. The author is a seasoned writer in test preparation, and for a price of around 18 USD, this is a prize catch.

Cliff's Notes:

Another popular resource for improving your language skills is Cliff's notes. The online eBook is downloadable from the net for a charge of around 4 USD. A preview is available on the online site in case you are apprehensive about the quality. Passages from popular novels and books are taken and a quiz at the end of the passage checks whether you have understood or not. This offers enough practice for the COMPASS test.

In conclusion, an English study guide is helpful in allowing you to go through the entire syllabus in less time, and provides for practice tests to make you comfortable while taking the exam. Although most students answer the exam based on "feel", chances are that you can save time and confusion if you are well versed with grammar and rules. This aspect coupled with the nature of English being a constantly evolving language, a study guide for writing skills test, if not a reference book, is highly recommended.