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College Sample Essays For Placement

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.

ACCUPLACER Essay Topics

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

Prompt: For many students, the time of transition between high school and college is not long at all. They graduate in late May or early June and enter postsecondary education in August. Students may take a few different paths through those few months between these two stations in life. In an essay of 400-500 words, describe the path you plan to take as you journey from high school graduation to your first day here at Old Dominion University.

Throughout high school, I worked a part-time job, took care of my siblings, and tried to achieve the best grades possible. As I struggled through these troubled times, I seldom thought about college. I just wanted to be the first in my family to graduate from high school. However, Mr. Jones, my tenth grade biology teacher, encouraged me to consider going to college. As I began my senior year, he called me into his office to make me aware of the application process not only for colleges but also the various scholarship offers and grants available to me. Because of his efforts, I will be stepping onto the campus of Old Dominion University in August 2012 after winning a scholarship. Because my scholarship does not provide spending money and I must maintain a grade point average of 3.2, my path over the next few months will be a balancing act as I work to save money for spending, study to make certain I am ready for classes, and spend as much time as possible with my family before I leave home.

Working is nothing new to me. I have had some type of a part-time job since I was fourteen years old. I spent many summer days harvesting crops at my grandfather's farm. The work was hard, but I learned the importance of staying focused on the task at hand. Failure to do so could have resulted in a serious injury, as farm machinery is not forgiving. These experiences with "Pap" enabled me to learn a great deal about the farming process and the selling of produce to local restaurants. I can see now just how he groomed me for the work I will do over the next few months.

I have a route that services twenty-five restaurants within a radius of 50 miles from Pap's place. I will be making two runs per week to service these establishments. The good news for me is that I have access to the Internet and can fill orders prior to each run. As a result, I simply need to carry with me the requested produce. Poor Pap never had such an opportunity. Forty years ago, he just filled the truck and hauled the "farm," just hoping to sell what he had. Needless to say there was spoilage and money lost. Because of refrigeration and the Internet, I will take only what I need; little will be lost to spoilage. Pap is allowing me to keep all profits from these routes this summer.

I am not necessarily the smartest student in the state, but I was able to graduate from high school with honors. Over the course of those four years, I learned to manage my time wisely so that I was able to study yet still care for my siblings until my parents came home from work. Many nights I had to make dinner and help the twins with their homework before I was able to begin my own studies. Fortunately for me, the twins will be gone for the summer. I will not have to look after them. However, the lessons I've learned in doing so will guide me through my efforts as I prepare for college. I will have my books with me on my routes. In the event there is down time, I will be able to study. I plan on studying during my lunch hour each day. Of course there will be a few hours at night when I can also study. I will be laying out a schedule, as I learned a few years ago that having a plan makes for a better study session. I also learned to focus on my least favorite subjects first. Yes, I will be working on literature; I despise talking about the works of all the great dead people. William S. was never one of my favorite folks, but I did learn a great deal about the English language as we studied his works.

I know that work and studies will keep me busy this summer, but I will most definitely find time to spend with my family. I know my absence will leave a void in the weekly routine at home. Luckily, the twins are older now, and they should be able to take care of themselves after school. I just hope they do not burn the house down while trying to make a grilled cheese sandwich. Over the last four years, I have formed a bond with both of them. We are close, and I do hope that my being over two hundred miles from home will not dampen their spirits. I certainly appreciate the times I have had with them.

Although I have not had a great deal of time to spend with my mother and father, I know that they both want the best for me. Just graduating from high school was an accomplishment that they were un able to achieve. When they found out that I had the chance to go to college due to a scholarship, they were overjoyed. Obviously, I want to spend as much time with them as I possibly can; since the twins will not be home, I think there will be a bit more "me" time with my mother and father. Pap, well I'll see him every day.

These next few months will be busy for me, and there is a great deal that I need to get done before I leave for Norfolk. The key to success will be for me to balance my time and obligations so that I can be successful with business, brush up on my known areas of academic weakness, and ensure I have quality time with family.