How To Pass The Essay Portion Of The Accuplacer

Knowing how to pass the ACCUPLACER test can be important for high school or college students. The exam is used to ensure correct placement within the educational institution. It assesses the knowledge level of students in a number of areas: reading comprehension, sentence skills, arithmetic, elementary algebra, college-level mathematics, and even writing. There are a total of 90 questions on the test. The administration of the ACCUPLACER test is determined independently by each school, so there are no standard fees, time limits, and disability allowances. To take the ACCUPLACER test, see your school’s guidance or advisory counselor.

ACCUPLACER Practice Test


The ACCUPLACER test is used by more than 1,300 American educational institutions including high schools, colleges, universities, as well as adult education courses and GED programs. It was developed and is administered by the College Board. The ACCUPLACER test will assess your level of knowledge in reading, writing, and math. This test does not have a pass/fail grade. Your scores will help your potential school determine the best course levels for your particular educational needs. Schools also use the ACCUPLACER test scores to determine overall student body weaknesses and to adapt their curriculum to address these particular issues.

The ACCUPLACER test is a comprehensive, web-based assessment tool used to determine your skills in reading, writing and math. It is untimed, but most students complete it in less than 90 minutes. All questions must be answered, and you cannot go back to a previous question once you have answered it. Test scores are available as soon as you have completed the exam. The test is adaptive, which means the questions get more difficult as you give more right answers. It also means for every wrong answer, the questions get easier.

How to Pass the ACCUPLACER Exam

Mometrix can help you study and strengthen your skills in math, reading and writing. Visit where you can find many different tools to help you practice for your ACCUPLACER test. These tools include an ACCUPLACER study guide, an ACCUPLACER practice test, and ACCUPLACER flashcards. You can also visit the Mometrix Academy for free ACCUPLACER video tutorials.

The ACCUPLACER test is multiple-choice, except for the WritePlacer written essay section. Below is an outline of the six sections of the ACCUPLACER test and Mometrix can help you study for each of these sections so you are better prepared on test day.


The Arithmetic section has 17 questions to test your skill in high-school level basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) and problem-solving using whole numbers, fractions and decimals. You will also be tested on estimating, percentages, measurement and geometry.

College-Level Math

The College-Level Math portion of the test has 20 questions that will test you on problem-solving at a college level. You will answer questions on algebraic expressions, factoring, expanding polynomials, and manipulating roots and exponents.  You will also be solving linear and quadratic equations and inequalities. Geometry questions will test you on plane geometry, straight lines, conics, and graphs using algebra. Your trigonometry skills will also be tested, including polynomials, as well as algebraic, exponential, and logarithmic and trigonometric functions.

Elementary Algebra

The Elementary Algebra test section has 12 questions and will also test your ability to perform algebraic operations and to problem solve but at an elementary level. During this test, you will perform operations with integers and rational numbers, as well as basic adding subtracting, multiplying and dividing of algebraic expressions.

ACCUPLACER Math Practice Test

ACCUPLACER Math Prep Study Pack

Reading Comprehension

The Reading Comprehension section has 20 questions and will test you on your ability to understand the meaning of a written passage. You will answer questions pertaining to a given paragraph. The questions will include identifying the paragraph’s main idea and supportive information.

ACCUPLACER Reading Practice Test

Sentence Skills

The Sentence Skills section is made up of 20 questions as well and will test you on sentence structure and grammar. For example, you will be given four versions of a sentence and you will be asked to choose the version that uses proper sentence structure and grammar.

Written Essay

The Written Essay portion of the ACCUPLACER test is called the WritePlacer test. This portion of the test is non-adaptive. You will provide a writing sample and the computer will use an automated assessment tool to grade your essay. You will be tested on your ability to use critical thinking to create a passage with purpose and focus, to organize and structure a clear message, and to use proper mechanical conventions.

ACCUPLACER Writing Practice Test

ESL (English as a Second Language)

For students whose first language is not English, the ACCUPLACER test offers an ESL (English as a Second Language) section so your potential educational institution can evaluate your level of English skill and understanding. Your ESL test results can then allow the school to set you on a path to help you strengthen any weak areas in your English language comprehension.

If necessary, you can be tested on your English language usage, listening and reading skills, and your understanding of sentence meaning. For non-native English speakers, there are four ESL (English as a Second Language) tests. Each test is comprised of 20 questions.

  • The Language Usage test measures your ability to use proper English grammar.
  • The Listening test will offer different conversations in different venues and situations with a varying number of people for you to show your ability to understand spoken English.
  • The Reading Skills portion will test you on your ability to read and understand short passages written in English.
  • The Sentence Meaning section will ask you to show your understanding of the meaning of several individual English language sentences.

The College Board provides information on the ACCUPLACER test and is a helpful study resource for students interested in taking the ACCUPLACER test. There is also a free web-based APP that will quiz you using questions similar to those you will find on the test.

Mometrix will help you study to pass the ACCUPLACER test using Mometrix ACCUPLACER study guide, ACCUPLACER practice test, ACCUPLACER flashcards and ACCUPLACER video tutorials will help you study for your ACCUPLACER test and get you closer to your educational goals.


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Jay Willis

Jay Willis joined Mometrix as Vice President of Sales in 2009, and has developed several key strategic relationships that have enhanced the distribution of Mometrix products. With nearly 20 years of sales experience in the publishing industry, his dedication to providing the highest quality experience for customers, coupled with his sales and marketing expertise, has resulted in significant growth of the Institutional Sales division. View all posts by Jay Willis

The ACCUPLACER includes the WritePlacer exam, which is the ACCUPLACER essay test. On this portion of the test you are evaluated on organization, focus, development and support, sentence structure, and mechanical conventions. The good news is that your essay is only required to be 300-600 words in length. A simple 5 paragraph essay will be more than sufficient. Scores on WritePlacer range from 1 to 8 (you can find WritePlacer sample essays at each score-level here).

You will have 1 hourto plan, write, and proofread this essay.

An essay that is too short to be evaluated, written on a topic other than the one presented, or written in a language other than English will be given a score of zero. Notice that the biggest differences between the low-scoring and high-scoring essays is LENGTH and CLARITY. Aim to achieve multiple paragraphs with good organization, and this essay should be fairly easy!

WritePlacer Tips and Strategies

  • Understand that the WritePlacer exam will NOT require any outside knowledge. You are not expected to have any specific technical know-how or understanding of specific books or authors. The essay will be based off a provided prompt meant to spark your creativity. Everything you need to answer the question will be part of the prompt!
  • Select one side only. Unlike real life where most of our opinions are a mix of gray, the ACCUPLACER essay requires you to take a strong stand on one side and one side ONLY of the issue. You won’t be able to adequately argue a middle-of-the-road approach, and you risk appearing indecisive and muddling your essay.
  • Remember that you will not be scored on your opinion. Don’t worry if you feel you are choosing a less commonly held position on the topic. The reader will NOT give you a lower score based on personal bias.
  • Don’t change your position mid-essay. Even if you feel you’re running out of steam and you’re regretting your position on the topic, stay strong and finish the essay anyway. Don’t waffle, and don’t try to take a “middle of the road” approach. You don’t have time to go back and re-write the whole thing.
  • No example is “too” specific. As long as you can argue logically that it supports your thesis, no example is “too” specific. Most essays are way too general. Aim to make the reader think, “wow, what extreme detail!” as they read. If you are using an example from personal experience, using some names, dates, places, and other concrete details can go a long way. Replace abstracts with absolutes.
  • Incorporate the opposing side. A great way to strengthen your own argument is to acknowledge that there is in fact complexity to the issue. However, if you bring up and describe the opposing side, make sure to criticize it effectively and reiterate that your side is the only one that is valid. This is a great tool to use in your conclusion, although many students include it in an additional body paragraph.
  • Keep the introduction and conclusion brief. Don’t take forever to get to the topic. The function of an introductory paragraph is to introduce the reader to the topic in the prompt, and then to clearly and forcefully state your position on it. More than 3-4 sentences is too long. In the conclusion, 1-2 sentences is great to reiterate your position and leave the essay with a closing idea. Save your writing-time for your body paragraphs!
  • Use Transition Words. Scroll down to the bottom of this article to see a good list of common transition words. Be sure to use them as you move between paragraphs! Always make sure the reader will understand why you are moving from one paragraph to the next paragraph!

WritePlacer Template

This is a sample outline for the ACCUPLACER Essay. Notice we are aiming for 5 paragraphs total. You may opt for a shorter 4 paragraph version if 5 paragraphs are too many for you to write, but aim for 5 paragraphs if you can. If you have trouble completing 5 paragraphs, see if you can streamline your body paragraphs. They can often be bloated with unnecessary wordiness. Keep the introduction and the conclusion short and sweet.

Paragraph 1 – Introduction (3-4 sentences)

You will want to begin your essay with one of the following: a generalization about the topic, a quotation, a short anecdote to set-up the correctness of your position, a historical framework, or a piece of news illustrating the contemporariness of the issue.  Admit the complexity of the issue.

You have two goals in the beginning part of the essay: to introduce the topic, and to express your opinion on it. Be sure to place your thesis as the final sentence in your introduction.

Paragraph 2  – First Example (4-6 sentences)

Start with your most-powerful or relevant example. Be specific. Your example can be from history, science, politics, business, entertainment, pop culture, current events, personal experience, etc. Anything can be an example, but choose ONE only for each paragraph. It needs to be something you are knowledgeable about and also something that you believe strongly supports your thesis. You have three tasks in your body paragraphs:

  • Introduce your example.
  • Describe it.
  • Explain how it fully supports your thesis.

You should be spend the majority of your body paragraph accomplishing the the third step: explaining how it fully supports your thesis. Aim to convince the reader through very concrete details how your position on the issue is correct.

Paragraph 3 – Second Example (4-6 sentences)

Use a transition phrase to introduce the second example. Describe it, and explain again how it fully supports your thesis. You may refer to your first example if you need to, but prioritize a focus on your new example. Don’t mention your third example until you get to the third paragraph.

Paragraph 4 – Third Example (4-6 sentences)

Use a transition phrase again in the first topic sentence. Describe the example. Explain how it supports. Make sure you are elucidating for the reader how each example relates to the topic.

Paragraph 5 – Conclusion (2-4 sentences)

In your conclusion, introduce the opposing side. Explain their position in general terms. Refute their position. Then reinforce the correctness of your own thesis. This takes care of having to come up with a conclusion- you’ll already know what to do! Here’s how it might look:

Although ________ is demonstrably correct, some have argued that _______, believing that ________. However, this viewpoint on the present issue is negated by ________. Rather, __________. Therefore, in the long run,

ACCUPLACER Essay Practice

Be sure to write at least 2-3 sample essays before your exam so you are comfortable with the format. Have a teacher, friend, or trusted relative read through your exam and give you feedback.  Below you’ll find a list of three possible ACCUPLACER essay prompts. Choose at least TWO of these ACCUPLACER essay topics and write a practice essay, attempting to follow the above template to the best of your ability.


1) Do works of art have the power to change people’s lives? Some people say a book or a movie has the power to do just that. Are they exaggerating, or can art have such a large impact of individuals?

2) Is an education a requirement for a successful career? Explain the topic and either agree or disagree with the statement, offering support for your position.

3) Scientists and politicians argue over whether global warming and climate control present a real threat to human welfare. Take a position on this issue and explain whether or not you believe this to be a serious problem for humanity.

Transition Words List

Agreement Words

  • in the first place
  • not only … but also
  • as a matter of fact
  • in like manner
  • in addition
  • coupled with
  • in the same fashion / way
  • first, second, third
  • in the light of

Opposition Words

  • in contrast
  • different from
  • of course …, but
  • on the other hand
  • on the contrary
  • at the same time
  • in spite of
  • but
  • (and) still

Causation Words

  • in the event that
  • for the purpose of
  • with this intention
  • with this in mind
  • in the hope that
  • in order to
  • If
  • … then
  • in case

Example Words

  • in other words
  • to put it differently
  • for one thing
  • as an illustration
  • in this case
  • for this reason
  • to put it another way
  • that is to say
  • with attention to

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