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Writing skills are essential to college success across majors. All college students must take an English course and most students have at least one composition requirement. The English faculty identified the categories listed below as areas of focus for rating essays. In addition, when you write-take your reader to your experience. Be descriptive in your writing. Within the parameters of the assignment, write about things you know. If necessary, sketch out an outline of all aspects of the topic you want to cover. Then begin writing. If time allows, read your essay and correct your own mistakes.

  1. Rhetoric
    a. Following the essay assignment
    b. Purpose
    c. Audience
    d. Style
    e. Fluency
  2. Form
    a. Focus
    b. Organizational logic and flow
    c. Unity / Coherence 
  3. Development
    a. Details, illustrations, examples and evidence
    b. Reasons and explanations
    c. Clarity
  4.  Mechanics
    a. Sentence boundaries (sentence fragments, run-ons, etc.)
    b. Agreement (tense consistency, pronoun-antecedent)
    c. Punctuation (end punctuation, apostrophe, quote marks, etc.)
    d. Syntax
    e. Capitalization
    f. Spelling and Word Choice

Sample Writing Skills Test
Directions; In the passage that follows, certain words and phrases are underlined and numbered. In the right-hand column, you will find alternatives for each underlined part. You are to choose the one that best expresses the idea, makes the statement appropriate for standard written English, or is worded most consistently with the style and tone of the passage as a whole. If you think the original version is best, choose "NO CHANGE." You will also find questions about a section of the passage, or about the passage as a whole. For each question in the test, choose the alternative you consider best and blacken the corresponding space on your answer sheet. Read each passage through once before you begin to answer the questions that accompany it. You cannot determine some answers without reading several sentences beyond the phrase in question. Be sure that you have read far enough ahead each time you choose an alternative.

The following paragraphs may or may not be in the most logical order. Each paragraph is numbered in parentheses, and item 11 will ask you to choose the sequence of paragraph numbers that is in the most logical order.

Paragraph 1

1.  In the end, everyone gives up jogging. Some find that their strenuous efforts to earn a living drains away the energy necessary for

  1. NO CHANGE
  2. drain
  3. has drained
  4. is draining

2.  running. Others suffering from 

  1. NO CHANGE
  2. suffering
  3. suffer
  4. suffering with

3.  defeat by the hazards of the course, which can range from hard pavement to muddy tracks and from smog to sleet and snow. Person's can also simply  

  1. NO CHANGE
  2. Still others
  3. One may also
  4. It's also possible to

4.  collapse in their sneakers. My experience having been different,

  1. NO CHANGE
  2. being different,
  3. was a difference,
  4. was different,

however; I had a revelation.

Paragraph 2

5.  It happened two summers ago up at Lake Tom, where I was vacationing with friends. I had been accustomed to running fairly regularly, but that whole week I decided to be lazy. I sailed, basked in the sun, and ate wonderful: lobster, steak,

  1. NO CHANGE
  2. ate wonderfully:
  3. eating wonderful:
  4. eat wonderful:

6.  corn on the cob, baked potatoes, and ice cream. By the fourth day of this routine I had to face the truth which my body was slowly changing to dough.

  1. NO CHANGE
  2. truth about 
  3. truth:
  4. truth, which

Paragraph 3

7.  So, filled with worthy ambition, I tied on my favorite pair of running shoes and loped out to the main road
in search of a five-mile route. Out of curiosity, I turned onto Lookout Hill Road and soon discovered how the

  1. NO CHANGE
  2. Out of curiosity, Lookout Hill Road was turned onto
  3. Having become curious, Lookout Hill Road was the road I turned onto
  4. Lookout Hill Road, having become curious, was the route I turned onto--

8.  road had come by its name. I was chugging, at a painfully slow rate, up one of the longest, steepest

  1. NO CHANGE 
  2. longest, steepest, 
  3. steepest longest, 
  4. longest and steepest,

inclines in the region. Perched at the faraway top of the hill was a solitary house, and only a desire to get a closer look at the place kept me going.

Paragraph 4

9.  I was exhausted when, gasping and bedraggled, I reached the crest of the hill. There I found a native New Englander rocking tranquilly on the front porch of the house. which was painted. "Mister," I panted, "you sure live on a' big hill !"

  1. NO CHANGE 
  2. house (painted). 
  3. house, and it was painted.
  4. house

Paragraph 5

10.  He studied me closely for a moment and then responded, "Yep, and I've got the good sense not to run up it." That night I tied the laces of my running shoes around a rock and pitched them into Lake Tom.

  1. NO CHANGE 
  2. laces, of my running
  3. laces of my running,
  4. laces; of my running

Items 11 and 12 pose questions about the essay as a whole.

11.  Choose the sequence of paragraph numbers that will make the essay‚Äôs structure most logical.

  1. NO CHANGE 
  2. 1, 4, 5, 2, 3
  3. 1, 5, 4, 3, 2
  4. 4, 5, 1, 2, 3  

12. Is the use of direct quotation in the essay appropriate? 

  1. No, because the essay is an explanation of why the writer gave up jogging.
  2. No, because more physical detail would be better in a descriptive essay.
  3. Yes, because the story is enlivened by dialogue.
  4. Yes, because the essay persuades readers to talk about running. 

Last updated: 3/5/2009 2:00:35 PM