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This two-part writing assessment will help us place your student in the appropriate level of writing course. Remember, this is not a test, but rather a tool to help us help your student.

Our writing assessment is not an appropriate tool to assess a student's grammar placement. We have specific self-assessed grammar placement tests located in each grammar course description. Please make sure to have your student take the appropriate grammar placement test before registering for any grammar courses.

Please note:

  • All responses must be typed by the student. If this is not possible, please contact us at before using the assessment.
  • Do not help the student.
  • Do not send in a corrected version of your student’s writing.
  • An asterisk (*) indicates a form field that must be filled out in order to submit your student's writing assessment.

Part I: Expository Writing

Please have your student answer ONE of the following prompts. The student should be given 20 minutes to write his/her answer.

  • Describe a movie you’ve seen recently. Then, tell us whether or not you liked it, and why.
  • Tell us what you find to be the most fascinating thing about the solar system. Then, tell us why you think this thing is so fascinating.
  • Tell a friend how to do something that you know how to do really well that he/she doesn’t know how to do at all.
  • Who is the most influential living person in the world? Why?
  • Pick an event in history that interests you, and tell us what happened and why you find it interesting.
IIA: Middle School (rising 5th through rising 8th grade, Logic Stage)
  • Directions:
    • Take no more than ten minutes, and outline the following passage.
    • For each paragraph, state the main idea or topic of the paragraph, and give it a Roman numeral (I, II, III).
    • If you can, then list one or more thoughts, ideas, or details in each paragraph that tell more about the main idea. Give these supporting thoughts capital letters (A, B, C, and so on).
    • You may use complete sentences, phrases, or both.

    From A Child’s History of the World, by V. M. Hillyer

    The Egyptians believed that when they died, their souls stayed near by their bodies. So when a person died, they put in the tomb with him all sorts of things that he had used in daily life--things to eat and drink, furniture and dishes, toys and games. They thought the soul would return to its own body at the day of judgment. They wanted their bodies to be kept from decaying until judgment day, in order that the soul might then have a body to return to. So they pickled the bodies of the dead by soaking them in a mineral called natron and wrapping them round and round with a cloth like a bandage. A dead body pickled in this way is called a mummy, and after thousands of years the mummies of the Egyptians may still be seen.
    At first only kings or important people of the highest classes were made mummies, but after a while all the classes, except perhaps the lowest, were treated in the same way. Sacred animals from beetles to cows were also made into mummies.
    When an Egyptian died, his friends heaped up a few stones over his body just to cover it up decently and keep it from being stolen or destroyed by those wild animals that fed on dead bodies. But a king or a rich man wanted a bigger pile of stones over his body than just ordinary people had. To make sure that his pile would be big enough, a king built it for himself before he died. Each king tried to make his pile larger than anyone else’s until at last the pile of stones became so big that it was a hill of rocks and called a pyramid. The pyramids therefore were tombs of the kings, who built them while they were alive, to be monuments to themselves when they were dead. In fact a king was much more interested in building a home for his dead body than he was in a home for his live body. So, instead of palaces, kings built pyramids. There are many of these pyramids built along the bank of the Nile, and most of them were built, we think, just after 3000 BC.
  • Give your student plenty of time to read the passage. Then, ask the student to follow the directions.

    IIB: High School Students (rising 9th grade and above, Rhetoric Stage)
  • Directions: Take no more than fifteen minutes and outline the following passage about Edward Jenner. If you don’t finish in fifteen minutes, don’t worry--just stop when the time runs out.

    You may create either a two-level outline:
    I. First main point
    A. Supporting point
    B. Supporting point
    II. Second main point

    or a three-level outline:
    I. First main point
    A. Supporting point
    1. Detail about supporting point
    2. Detail about supporting point

    Your points and details may be sentences, phrases, or a mix of the two.

    From “Edward Jenner,” by Clarence Cook (1874)

    Edward Jenner was born in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England, May 17, 1749. His father was a well-to-do clergyman, and Edward was brought up in comfort, and well taught. His father died when he was only five years old; but his elder brother, who was also a clergyman, took care of him, and was as good as a father to him. Edward Jenner was very fond of the country, and nearly all his life was spent in the neighborhood of the beautiful Vale of Gloucester, where he had the good fortune to be born. From a child, he showed a strong love of nature, and was ever observing and watching what was going on about him. He watched that birds so well, that what made his name first heard of in the world was an account he wrote of the cuckoo, a shy bird with strange habits about whom very little was known before. Edward Jenner told people what he had seen with his own eyes of the habits of this bird; and what he had to tell was very curious, and showed a power for patient observation, and a skill in reasoning, that are certainly very uncommon. At that time, people were just beginning to study the stones and rocks of which the earth is built; and here, again, Edward Jenner was able to be of great help, for the part of England where he lived was rich in fossils; and when he was still a boy, he had been attracted by these curious things, and had collected the best specimens, and studied over them, and thought about them, until, at last, he had come to understand something of their history, while few other people in the world at that time knew anything about the wonderful story these fossils have to tell.

    While Edward Jenner was a young man, working and studying in a surgeon’s office in a town called Sodbury, near Bristol, which is the chief town of Gloucestershire, he used to hear a good deal of talk about smallpox. In Jenner’s day, it was a frightful plague, and carried off in England alone, it is said, 45,000 people every year. Kings died of it, queens, princes, princesses, the rich and the poor, the high and the low, the learned and the ignorant. When it appeared in an army, it often slew more than the sword, and our soldiers suffered grievously from this pestilence in the War of Independence.

    While Edward Jenner was an apprentice in that surgeon's office at Sodbury, a young milkmaid came in to the surgery one day, and happening to hear the medical men talking about smallpox, she said that she was not afraid of catching it, for she had had cowpox. Little she knew what important words she had spoken. The cowpox is a disease of the eruptive kind, that shows itself on the udders of cows, and is sometimes caught by the people who are milking them. It is generally a mild disease, from which the cow suffers little, and the human being does not suffer seriously, being lightly ill for only a few days. Beside, it is not communicated as the smallpox is, by simply coming near the person who is ill with that disease ; the matter that is in the little blisters on the cow's udder must get of itself under the skin of a human being, or be put under it, before it can be communicated. Now, it seems it had been known for many years in the grazing districts of England, that if this were done, and the human being had the cowpox, there was little or no danger for him from the smallpox. And the farmers had been giving themselves the cowpox, and giving it to their families, and thus keeping the dreaded smallpox at a safe distance, and nobody outside the farming district seems to have been the wiser for it. And respectable physicians, young and old, had been trundling about the country in their gigs, and looking wise, and shaking their heads over the smallpox, and never suspecting that the method of preventing it was all the time in use under their very eyes.

    How long this would have gone on who can tell, if thoughtful Edward Jenner had not listened to what the milkmaid said that morning in the surgery ? But it set him thinking, in his slow, steady, earnest way ; and the idea once seized, that here was the long-desired prevention, he never lost sight of it until he had proved it beyond a doubt. He thought about it so constantly, and talked about it so much, that his very friends, —and he had friends in all the countryside who loved his company,—became tired of hearing him, and laughed at him for his forever talking about the cowpox and the smallpox. The medical men and scientific men in that country had a club, and Jenner would insist so on bringing in his hobby on all occasions, that, half in joke and half in earnest, a law was made that neither the smallpox nor cowpox should ever be mentioned at their meetings.

    But Edward Jenner was too much in earnest to be discouraged by snubs of this kind, and he kept on thinking and observing for twenty-six years. At last, having satisfied himself that vaccinating for smallpox was the true remedy, he made his first experiment on the 14th of May, 1796, inoculating a boy by the name of Phipps in the arm, from a pustule on the hand of a young woman who had taken the cowpox from her master's cows. This was called vaccination, a word made from "vacca," the Latin word for "cow." Phipps had cowpox, and got well over it. Then, on the 1st of July, Jenner inoculated him for smallpox, and, as he had predicted, Phipps did not take the disease.

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