How to Do Well on the ACCUPLACER Essay

How to Do Well on the ACCUPLACER Essay

Navigating the ACCUPLACER essay, also known as the WritePlacer, can feel daunting. However, with a bit of preparation, understanding, and a solid strategy, you can ace this component of the exam. This guide is here to arm you with everything you need to tackle the WritePlacer successfully.

Understanding the WritePlacer Exam

Before we delve into strategies, let’s first understand what the WritePlacer Exam is. This exam is the essay portion of the ACCUPLACER Test, a comprehensive, computer-adaptive, multiple-choice test administered by the College Board. The WritePlacer is different from the other sections, as it is not multiple choice. Instead, you’ll be asked to provide a writing sample in response to a given prompt.

Your essay will need to be a standard 5-paragraph essay: an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. You will be given a prompt that you need to respond to in a well-structured, organized manner, using proper grammar and syntax.

Understanding the WritePlacer Prompt

In the WritePlacer section of the ACCUPLACER exam, you’ll be presented with a prompt, which is usually a brief statement or question on a specific topic. Your task is to respond to this prompt in an organized, well-argued essay.

The prompt may be a statement you’re asked to agree or disagree with, a question you’re asked to respond to, or a situation you’re asked to analyze. Regardless of the prompt’s nature, it’s crucial to read and understand it fully before you begin writing. Your entire essay should be a direct response to this prompt, and each paragraph should contribute to your overall argument or analysis related to the prompt. You will not need specialized or advanced knowledge to respond to the prompt.

The Scoring Criteria

Your WritePlacer score, ranging from 1 to 8, is a key determinant of your ACCUPLACER result. Understanding the scoring criteria is crucial to performing well. Your essay will be evaluated on the following parameters:


In terms of focus, the evaluators look at whether your main idea is clear and consistently reflected throughout your essay. This begins with a strong thesis statement, which should be supported by each subsequent paragraph. Unrelated tangents or irrelevant information can detract from the focus of your essay, thus lowering your score in this category.


Organization refers to how well you structure your essay and present your arguments. An organized essay features an introduction with a clear thesis statement, body paragraphs each discussing a different point related to the thesis, and a conclusion that ties everything together. Transitions should be used to guide the reader from one idea to the next smoothly. Clear organization makes your essay easier to read and your arguments more persuasive.

Development and Support

Development and Support assess how well you elaborate on your points with supportive evidence or examples. Each point should not only be stated but also explained and justified. This could involve presenting data, citing authoritative sources, providing examples, or drawing logical inferences. The details you use to support your argument should be relevant and compelling.

Sentence Structure

Sentence Structure measures how well you construct your sentences. A variety of sentence structures keeps the essay interesting and demonstrates your grasp of the English language. Using only short, simple sentences or overly long, convoluted ones can negatively affect your score. Be mindful of using correct syntax and maintaining sentence clarity.

Mechanical Conventions

Mechanical Conventions encompasses the rules of English grammar, punctuation, and spelling. While the WritePlacer isn’t solely a grammar test, consistent errors can distract the reader and make your ideas harder to understand. Before submitting your essay, take the time to proofread your work for any grammatical, punctuation, or spelling errors.

Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking evaluates your ability to demonstrate depth of thought and present a coherent, reasoned argument. Rather than merely summarizing information or stating your opinion, you should analyze the issue at hand and make persuasive arguments. The best essays show a sophisticated understanding of the topic and offer nuanced insights.

In order to achieve a high score, your essay will need to satisfy all these points effectively. Understanding these criteria and keeping them in mind as you write can guide your approach and help you deliver a more effective essay.

Opinion Neutrality in Scoring

It’s important to note that your score on the WritePlacer is not influenced by the particular viewpoint or stance you adopt in response to the prompt. The scorers are not evaluating whether they agree with your opinion, but rather, they are assessing your ability to construct a coherent, well-supported argument.

What counts is your capacity to present your ideas clearly, justify your points with relevant evidence or examples, structure your essay effectively, and demonstrate good command of English language conventions. Even if your viewpoint is unconventional or differs from popular opinion, as long as you present it logically and convincingly, it won’t adversely affect your score. Remember, the focus is on your writing skills and critical thinking abilities, not your personal beliefs or attitudes.

Essential Tips for Success

Having a strong grasp of the WritePlacer format and scoring is the foundation of your success. Here we will dive deeper into the essential strategies that will allow you to excel on the WritePlacer exam.

Plan Your Essay

A well-structured essay starts with a solid plan. Before you begin writing, spend a few minutes analyzing the prompt. Identify the key issues or questions being asked, and jot down your initial thoughts. Once you’ve deciphered the prompt, organize your thoughts.

Create an outline that includes your main idea, the points you want to include in each paragraph, and the evidence you’ll use to support those points. This preliminary plan will act as your road map during the writing process, ensuring that you maintain focus and clarity.

Create a Strong Thesis Statement

The heart of your essay lies in your thesis statement—it’s the claim you’ll be arguing throughout your essay. A strong thesis statement is concise, clear, and arguable. It should succinctly articulate your main idea and your stance on the prompt’s topic.

Take the time to craft a thesis that encapsulates the argument you will present. Remember, your thesis should be specific enough to give direction to your essay but broad enough to allow for detailed discussion.

Develop Well-Structured Paragraphs

Your essay should be divided into well-structured paragraphs, each one serving a distinct purpose. A standard paragraph structure includes a topic sentence, supporting details or examples, and a concluding sentence.

  • Topic Sentence: This is the first sentence of your paragraph and introduces the main idea that the paragraph will explore.

  • Supporting Details or Examples: Expand on your topic sentence with evidence, examples, or explanations.

  • Concluding Sentence: This sentence wraps up the paragraph’s idea and can also provide a transition to the next idea in your essay.

Ensure there’s a logical progression of ideas throughout your essay. Your argument should flow naturally from one point to the next, building momentum as it goes.

Proofread Your Work

Never underestimate the power of proofreading. While the WritePlacer will primarily assess your ability to argue a point effectively, your grammar, punctuation, and spelling will also factor into your score.

Make sure to allocate some time towards the end of your test period to review your work. Check for clarity and consistency in your argument. Verify that your essay adheres to the outline you prepared and that there are no grammatical errors or typos that could distract your reader or detract from your argument.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The importance of practice cannot be overstated. Writing is a skill, and like any skill, it improves with practice. Write several practice essays before the exam, ideally using prompts similar to those you may encounter on the test.

After each practice essay, review your work critically. Identify areas of strength and weakness in your writing. Seek feedback from teachers, peers, or online writing forums. Don’t just focus on what you did well—pay special attention to the areas where you can improve. Your goal is to be the most polished writer you can be on test day.

Final Thoughts

Writing an essay can be challenging, but with the right preparation and understanding, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate your writing skills and critical thinking. Remember to stay focused, stay organized, develop your points, practice your grammar, and above all, practice! A well-prepared test-taker is a successful one. Good luck with your ACCUPLACER essay!

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