Home     Students     Catalog      Academic Department       Athletics      Library     Alumni/Foundation    About LCC

English Department
Compass Writing Skills Placement Test

(Click on the questions for the answer.)

  1. What is the Compass test and why must I take it?

    1. The Compass test is designed to help you fulfill your individual plans, goals, and needs as you begin your college career. In addition, it helps to ensure your success in college by placing you in classes that are the "best fit" for you.
       

  2. How is the test designed?

    1. The Writing Skills part of Compass asks you to find and correct errors in essays that are already written. The items cover the general categories of punctuation, basic grammar, usage, and sentence structure. Also, you will be asked to make decisions about the essays based on your knowledge of strategy, organization, and style in effective writing. You won't be asked to write an essay as part of the test.
       

  3. Do I need computer skills to take the Compass test?

    1. No, but being familiar with a keyboard is helpful. Before you take the test you will be given a practice test. This test is a tutorial, designed to help you learn how to use the keyboard and how to answer questions. It is designed to make sure you don't accidentally make the wrong choice on the placement test. You won't be given the actual test until you know how the Compass program works.
       

  4. What if I "fail" the test?

    1. You can't "fail" because it is not that kind of test. No one passes or fails. Compass simply recommends what writing class is right for you, based on your answers. It is important that you take the test seriously, however, and do your best. If for some reason you don't feel you have done your best work on the test, you can take the test a second time.
       

  5. Can I study for the Writing Skills Placement Test (Compass)?

    1. Yes. You can review your knowledge of punctuation and grammar, and you can make sure that you can recognize a sentence fragment, a fused (run-on) sentence, and a comma splice, as well as other common mistakes such as misspelled words, problems with capitalization, and misplaced and dangling modifiers. If some of these terms mystify you, don't panic; you aren't expected to know all the answers!
       

Sample Paragraphs

First Paragraph - Answer
    
Second Paragraph - Answer
     
Third Paragraph - Suggested Answer
     

Some Sample Paragraphs

Because the Writing Skills Placement Test is computer-based, no standard test can reproduce the interaction that takes place during the Compass test. In other words, Compass will guide you as you take the test, but these sample paragraphs cannot! (Yes, there are some advantages to computer-based tests!)

However, you can begin to sharpen your skills by reading the following paragraphs and correcting the mistakes you find. The first two paragraphs test your knowledge of grammar and punctuation and your ability to proofread. The third paragraph test you understanding of expository writing. Remember, however, when you take the actual Compass exam, you will be looking for both kinds of problems: grammar and structure!

The first paragraph contains 10 errors.

Steve Miller is a stingy friend of mine. When he comes to work, he never brings any money. But always asks me if I have a quarter to lend him so that he can buy cookies or a small bag of potato chips. One time he asked me to lend him a dollar so he could buy a chance from another employee for a thanksgiving turkey. I refused at first but he practically begged me. As a result, I gave him the money. As I expected, he never offered to return my dollar. When I’d remind him, he’d say, Oh yeah, I’ll get it to you soon, but he never did. Another example of Steves stinginess were the time he and me and two of our friends decided to go out and eat during our lunch hour at the Red Rooster, a new restaurant. Steve suggested that we take his car, and as we were driving to the restaurant, he said his gas tank was empty. I couldn’t believe he would have the nerve to ask us for gas money. With only a total of eight miles to the restaurant and back. However, he pulls into an Exxon gas station and cheerfully said that a dollar for gas from each of us would be fine. I was really fuming because I could see that his gas tank was at least a quarter full. After we pulled into the restaurant parking lot, Steve informed us that he would have to wait in the car while the rest of us ate. I asked him with hard voice, “Don’t you have any money?” Steve’s reply was, “Yeah, but I’m not going to spend it eating out when I can go home and eat for nothing.”

Back to top

The second paragraph also contains 10 errors.

When I was a child, my brother took advantage of my fear of ghosts. I would be taking a shower, and my brother would open the door turn out the lights, and start “wooing” until I began to cry. Then he would almost suffocate from laughing.  Other times, he would make moaning sounds through the keyhole of my bedroom door. Rattling the doorknob as well. One night he did the worst thing of all, he took out the main fuse in the fuse box, and all the lights in the house went out. Neither one of my parents were home at the time, and I was so petrified that at first I couldn’t move.  But I sure did move when my brother came running down the hall with a white sheet over his head. Screaming at the tip of his lungs.  He must have chased me around the house for almost a half hour.  I finally stopped grabbed an apple out of the fruit basket, and throwed it at him as hard as I could. I missed him but not the kitchen window. Telling my parents what happened later, they spanked my brother. However, thanks to him, I can’t walk down a dark street today. Without thinking there is someone behind me.

Answer: First Paragraph

Steve Miller is a stingy friend of mine. When he comes to work, he never brings any money. (1) But always asks me if I have a quarter to lend him so that he can buy cookies or a small bag of potato chips. One time he asked me to lend him a dollar so he could buy a chance from another employee for a (2) thanksgiving turkey. I refused at first (3),  but he practically begged me. As a result, I gave him the money. As I expected, he never offered to return my dollar. When I’d remind him, he’d say, (4) Oh yeah, I’ll get it to you soon, but he never did. Another example of (5) Steves stinginess (6) were the time he and (7) me and two of our friends decided to go out and eat during our lunch hour at the Red Rooster, a new restaurant. Steve suggested that we take his car, and as we were driving to the restaurant, he said his gas tank was empty. I couldn’t believe he would have the nerve to ask us for gas money. (8)With only a total of eight miles to the restaurant and back. However, he (9)pulls into an Exxon gas station and cheerfully said that a dollar for gas from each of us would be fine. I was really fuming because I could see that his gas tank was at least a quarter full. After we pulled into the restaurant parking lot, Steve informed us that he would have to wait in the car while the rest of us ate. I asked him (10) with hard voice, “Don’t you have any money?” Steve’s reply was, “Yeah, but I’m not going to spend it eating out when I can go home and eat for nothing.”

  1. a sentence fragment. Better: When he comes to work, he never brings any money but always asks me if I have a quarter to lend him so that he can buy cookies or a small bag of potato chips.

  2. a problem with capitalization. The “T” in Thanksgiving should be capitalized.

  3. a missing comma.  Always place a comma in front of words that link two sentences.

  4. missing quotation marks.  Better: When I’d remind him, he’d say, “Oh yeah, I’ll get it to you soon,” but he never did.

  5. a missing apostrophe. Better: Steve’s

  6. a subject-verb agreement problem.  Better: Another example of Steve’s stinginess was. . .

  7. a pronoun case problem.  Better: . . . the time he and I and two of our friends . . .

  8. a sentence fragment.  Better: I couldn’t believe that he would have the nerve to ask us for gas money with only a total of eight miles to the restaurant and back.

  9. a shift in tense.  Better: However, he pulled into an . . .

  10. a missing word.  Better: I asked him with a hard voice. . .

Back to top

Answer: Second Paragraph

When I was a child, my brother took advantage of my fear of ghosts. I would be taking a shower, and my brother would open the door (1) turn out the lights, and start “wooing” until I began to cry. Then he would almost suffocate from laughing.  Other times, he would make moaning sounds through the keyhole of my bedroom door. (2)Rattling the doorknob as well. One night he did the worst thing of (3) all, he took out the main fuse in the fuse box, and all the lights in the house went out. Neither one of my parents  (4) were home at the time, and I was so petrified that at first I couldn’t move.  But I sure did move when my brother came running down the hall with a white sheet over his head. (5) Screaming at the top of his lungs.  He must have chased me around the house for almost a half hour.  I finally (6) stopped grabbed an apple out of the fruit basket, and (7)throwed it at him as hard as I could. I missed him but not the kitchen window.  (8) Telling my parents what happened later, they spanked my brother. (9) However, thanks to him, I can’t walk down a dark street today. (10)Without thinking there is someone behind me.

  1. a missing comma. Always use commas to separate items in a series.

  2. a sentence fragment. Better: Other times, he would make moaning sounds through the keyhole of my bedroom door and rattle the doorknob as well.

  3. a comma splice.  Better: One night he did the worst thing of all. He took out the main. . .

  4. a subject-verb agreement problem.  Better: Neither one of my parents was home. . .

  5. a sentence fragment.  Better: . . . with a white sheet over his head, screaming at the top of his lungs.

  6. a missing comma.  Always use commas to separate items in a series.

  7. verb tense.  Better: . . . out of the fruit basket, and threw it at him as hard as I could.

  8. dangling modifier.  Better: When I told my parents what happened later, they spanked my brother.

  9.  word choice/transition.  Better: Consequently (or therefore), thanks to him, I can’t walk down a dark street today.

  10. a sentence fragment.  Better: Consequently, thanks to him, I can’t walk down a dark street today without thinking there is someone behind me.

Back to top

Third Paragraph

This paragraph tests your knowledge of paragraph structure, paragraph order and paragraph unity; it also tests your ability to think critically and to revise effectively. First, read the paragraph carefully. After you have read the paragraph, consider the questions listed at the bottom of this page.

The living conditions in many city jails are appalling. In fact, many of the jail cells aren’t fit for human habitation. They are often filthy and unsanitary. Disinfectant and stuff like cleaning agents are rarely used. Roaches and rats scuttle across the floor looking for crumbs of food. Roaches, of course, are difficult to get rid of even in clean places. Scientists say that roaches have changed little since prehistoric times and that if the world were to experience an atomic holocaust, roaches would be one of the few living creatures to survive. Finally, many city jails are overcrowded. As many as three or four inmates sleep in cells that are only twelve feet wide and twelve feet long. But, of course, most criminals deserve to be treated like rats. In addition, because the pay is limited, there aren’t enough guards in jails. When violence arises guards, fearing for their own safety, are afraid to take proper action. Of course, with more and more government funds being made available, this problem is easing up. In some city jails, murders and suicides have occurred because guards were occupied in other parts of the building and were unable to arrive in time to prevent them. Therefore, city and local officials can do much to improve the living conditions in city jails.  

Suggested Answer: Third paragraph

  1. What is the purpose of this paragraph?

  2. Does every sentence in the paragraph contribute to this purpose?

  3. What sentences, if any, should be left out?

  4. Do you recognize any elements of “slang?”

  5. Do all of the phrases that serve to link sentences seem clear and appropriate?

  6. What sentences, if any should be revised?

Now, examine the highlighted areas of the same paragraph. Using the numbers in front of each part of the highlighted section, note the suggestions for revision.

The living conditions in many city jails are appalling. In fact, many of the jail cells aren’t fit for human habitation. They are often filthy and unsanitary. Disinfectant  and (1) stuff like cleaning agents are rarely used. Roaches and rats scuttle across the floor looking for crumbs of food. (2) Roaches, of course, are difficult to get rid of even in clean places. Scientists say that roaches have changed little since prehistoric times and that if the world were to experience an atomic holocaust, roaches would be one of the few living creatures to survive. (3) Finally, (4) many city jails are overcrowded. As many as three or four inmates sleep in many cells that are only twelve feet wide and twelve feet long. (5) But, of course, most criminals deserve to be treated like rats. In addition, because the pay is limited, there aren’t enough guards in jails. When violence arises guards, fearing for their own safety, are afraid to take proper action. (6) Of course, with more and more government funds being made available, this problem is easing up. In some city jails, murders and suicides have occurred because guards were occupied in other parts of the building and were unable to arrive in time to prevent them. (7)Therefore, city and local officials can do much to improve the living conditions in city jails.

  1. slang/vague/wordy language: Better: Disinfectant and cleaning agents are rarely used.

  2. problem with paragraph unity: It would be better to take these sentences out of the paragraph.

  3. inappropriate transition phrase: Better: Secondly, many city jails are overcrowded.

  4. word repetition: Better: Secondly many city jails are overcrowded. Three or four inmates often sleep in cells that are only . . .

  5. problem with paragraph unity: It would be better to take this sentence out of the paragraph.

  6. problem with paragraph unity: It would be better to take this sentence out of the paragraph.

  7. illogical concluding sentence: Better: This problem only adds to the appalling conditions that exist in most city jails.

 Back to top

Labette Community College   200 S. 14th Street    Parsons, KS 67357
1-620-421-6700 or 1-888-Labette

Comments or suggestions? Please email the Webmaster.
© Labette Community College 2004