WritePlacer Essay Guide

During the ACCUPLACER test, you will have to take the WritePlacer exam, which requires you to write an essay. Your essay will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Purpose and focus
  • Organization and structure
  • Development and support
  • Sentence variety and style
  • Mechanical Conventions
  • Critical thinking

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

Your Accuplacer essay is only required to be 300–600 words in length, so a simple 5 paragraph essay will be more than sufficient. Scores on WritePlacer range from 1 to 8, with 8 being the highest.

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.

The biggest differences between a low-scoring and a high-scoring essay is LENGTH and CLARITY. Aim to achieve multiple paragraphs with good organization, and this essay should be fairly easy!

WritePlacer Tips and Strategies

  • This essay DOES NOT require you to have any outside knowledge. 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!
  • You must take a clear stance. Unlike real life where most of our opinions are a mix of gray, the ACCUPLACER essay requires you to take a strong stance on the issue provided in the prompt. Essays that don’t take a clear stance will score low on the rubric.
  • Your stance doesn’t affect your score. The test is not steering you to one side of the argument or another. The side you choose doesn’t matter; what matters is how well you craft your argument.
  • Don’t change your stance. Part of taking a clear stance means following it through to the end of the response. Even if you are struggling with the stance you chose, work your way to the end.
  • Be specific in your argument. As long as you can argue logically that it supports your thesis, no example is “too” specific. One of the biggest issues that writers have with the WritePlacer exam is being too vague and general. If you are using an example from personal experience, using some names, dates, places, and other concrete details can go a long way. Try to avoid hypothetical examples as well.
  • Incorporate a counter-argument. While you need to take a clear stance, that doesn’t mean you have to ignore the other side of the argument. The best writers take the opposing side into account before criticizing it and effectively securing their stance as the correct one. 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. This should be done in no more than 3–4 sentences. In the conclusion, 1–2 sentences are enough to reiterate your position and leave the essay with a closing idea. Save the bulk of 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 to 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. Remember that you won’t have any material to work from, so it’s OK that you don’t have direct quotes, statistics, or other incredibly specific details in your examples. However, be as specific as you can be about how your example supports your position. 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 (history, science, politics, business, entertainment, pop culture, current events, personal experience, etc).
  • Describe your example as specifically as you can (do not make up fact/statistics; readers can usually tell when you’re making something up).
  • Explain how it fully supports your thesis. This is the most important step and should be your main focus. This is where you prove your point.

You should be spending the majority of your body paragraph accomplishing 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, and then follow the same format as the previous paragraph with your new example. It’s OK to mention your first example, but the main focus of your paragraph should be on the new example, and, most importantly, how the new example proves your thesis.

Paragraph 4 — Third Example (4–6 sentences)

Use another transition phrase to introduce your third example. Then, follow the same format as the previous two paragraphs. Again, make sure the focus of your paragraph is on your new example and how it proves your thesis.

Paragraph 5 —  Conclusion (2–4 sentences)

Many writers struggle with the conclusion. A good way to end your essay is with a counter-argument. Introduce an opposing opinion, explain it in general terms, then refute it. Finish the paragraph by reinforcing the correctness of your own stance. Here’s how it might look:

Despite the fact that                     , some people will argue that                     . However,                     (refute the opposing viewpoint as wrong and/or shortsighted). Instead,                     (discuss how your viewpoint is more valid than the viewpoint of the opposition). Therefore,                     (leave the reader thinking about how correct your stance is).

ACCUPLACER Essay Practice

Be sure to write at least 2 sample essays before your exam. This will help you sharpen your skills and ensure that you are comfortable with the format. Have a teacher, friend, or mentor read through your exam and give you feedback. Use the links below to find our 2 practice ACCUPLACER essay prompts. As you write your practice essays try to follow the above template to the best of your ability:

Practice Essay 1

Practice Essay 2

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

More Resources

We have plenty of additional resources to help you with your Accuplacer test prep. Check out both of our practice essays for more WritePlacer practice, or head over to our home page for a full-length practice test.

Practice Essay 1

Practice Essay 2

Accuplacer Practice Test