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Details of the COMPASS Writing Section


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What Skills Are Tested in COMPASS Writing Exam?

The writing skills section of COMPASS is an untimed computer adaptive test used to measure the ability of a student to pick up college level courses. It is often conducted after admission to a college as a part of orientation to understand the student profiles and to prescribe preparatory courses to them.

The Nature of the Test:

On a broad level, this section is an English test used to measure the ability of a student at recognizing errors in English language usage. It might be surprising that contrary to the name of the test, it is not scored on essay writing. It is actually a multiple-choice test, where errors have to be identified and corrected from a pre-existing essay. The errors in it can be related to:

- Grammar
- Punctuation
- Rhetorical skills
- Sentence structure
- Usage

Skills Required:

The Writing section requires you to,

  1. identify errors in passages, and
  2. correct these errors by selecting the right answer choice.

It is important to note that the answer choices in this test will always have one choice that is exactly the same as the details stated in the passage. This is done to test your skill in organization of the complete passage. Similarly, there can also be extra punctuation in some sentences, and you must be competent enough to identify the errors.

To make it simpler, here's the complete list with explanation of topics that this test may contain-

  1. Order/Organization:

    Questions that test your ability of organization are based on finding a logical order of words that determine the idea in the text in a crisp and clear manner with as few words as possible. For example, if you identify a sentence that has the words "an adequate supply of plentiful food", you must identify the answer choice of "a plentiful food supply" as the correct one from the available answer choices.

  2. Construction:

    When it comes to construction, the questions offer choices in the form of long sentences. The correct choice in such cases is the sentence that has the correct context before each phrase. These types of questions include many commas or colons and you, as a test taker, must identify the correct construction of the sentence.

  3. Usage:

    The questions that test you on usage generally take the form of singular-plural sentence constructs. Sentences in these types of questions include words like "run" and "ran" to confuse the readers.

  4. Verbs

    The questions in this section, that are on formation of verbs, take the form of sentences such as "if one student will fail." Since verbs denote action, the correct form of writing such a statement would be "if one student fails"

  5. Punctuation:

    These are straightforward questions testing you on punctuations in English. Sentences can include extra punctuations, and these have to be identified correctly. Apart from such questions, the questions can be on usage of characters such as comma, colon, semi-colon, and full stop.

  6. Spelling

    Even in today's age of short messaging, spelling carries a weightage in the COMPASS test. The questions of this type test your ability to identify if a word is wrongly spelled, or used in the wrong context.

  7. Clauses

    These type of questions test you on the correct usage of constructs like "which" and "whether".

  8. Tense

    These questions of COMPASS judge you on the correct use of present, past or future tense. The thing to remember in such questions is to follow the tense of the passage, and not treat each sentence as distinct from the other.

Overall, the writing skills is a test of sentence constructions, which should not be treated lightly. If you are not a native speaker of English, it is important that you set a specific time each day to practice from books of English, which have good authors such as Wren and Martin or Norman Lewis.


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