How to Do Well on the English and Reading Sections of the ACCUPLACER

The ACCUPLACER test is designed to measure incoming students’ knowledge in the areas of mathematics, reading, and writing to accurately place students in a college classroom setting. While many tests are given to provide a general idea of a student’s knowledge, this one is more specific, in that it provides institutions with a guideline of students’ abilities, allowing them to be placed in classes best suited to their current knowledge and abilities. Rather than being sent away for scoring, these exams are evaluated by academic counselors and advisers to offer students the best possible academic experience.

The reading and writing portions of the ACCUPLACER test hone in on different levels of expertise; one requires an understanding of the English language and its nuances, while the other requires an understanding of how to construct coherent, compelling work. Remember the following tips, tricks, and things when sitting these tests.


As with any exam, you should study for a significant portion of time before taking the test. Writing, in particular, cannot be studied for by cramming in a single night; rather, you must develop writing skills over a period of time, typically through reading and practicing extensively.

When taking the reading portion of the test, read the question at hand before you read the passage. This allows you to look for the information requested as you read and helps save time and energy.

Pay close attention to wording in the reading portion of the test. Oftentimes, terms seem interchangeable (thesis and main idea, for instance), but may be used differently. When asking for the thesis, you are asked to identify the overall purpose and opinion of the paper, while the main idea could apply to the whole paper, to a single sentence, or to a single paragraph. Wording is key.

When you are writing, avoid using words you do not fully understand. Although it may be tempting to “beef up” your essay using large words, this tactic is ineffective if the word is used incorrectly—or even awkwardly. A well-crafted, comprehensible essay with small words is far superior to a muddled, confusing essay filled with unnecessarily complicated phrases.

As you write, regularly check back to ensure you are staying on topic. While you do not want to waste time, you also do not want an essay prone to tangents. As you write, glance over the preceding sentences to ensure your points are flowing and working together.


Reading comprehension exams frequently contain buzz words or phrases. For instance, a question might ask you to choose the best way to phrase a sentence, not the correct way. Instead of looking for a sentence that is merely grammatically correct, you are looking for the optimal way to frame a certain idea. Identifying this difference can help save you time and avoid confusion.

Understand the difference between “stated” and “implied.” If something is stated, it is laid out clearly for the reader. If it is implied, it is not said clearly, but is instead hinted at or suggested. Knowing the difference can, once again, save you a headache.

When writing, focus on three things: expression, organization, and support. These are the three tools used to evaluate your writing. The first, expression, means your ability to adequately (and accurately) convey your point or purpose. The second is the order in which you structure your essay. All essays should have an opening paragraph, a body, and a closing paragraph or conclusion. Your thesis should be identified in the open and close of your paragraph, and supporting details should be found in the body. Finally, you must focus on support. It is not enough to have an opinion: you must support that opinion with facts or reasons. Constructing an essay fulfilling all of these requirements will put you on the road to success.

Things to Remember

Always do your best. This means studying, getting a good night’s rest before the test, and eating a healthy meal before sitting for your exam.

If a question confuses you or seems unclear, skip it and come back to it after you have completed the remainder of the test. This allows you to speed through questions you are familiar with and confident in, freeing up more time and energy at the end of the test to mull over concepts that are not as clear to you.

Remember that this test is being used to evaluate where you are in your knowledge and skill level. Trying to cheat or, in any way, manipulate the exam will only harm you, because it will result in you being placed in classes you are not equipped to handle. View the test as a mere evaluation tool, designed to provide you with the best chance at success in this new stage in life.

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