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Test Descriptions

Take a moment to look at these test descriptions. They will help give you an idea of what to expect on the actual test.

The placement test consists of three sections: writing, reading and math. The reading and math tests are computer-based, and offered at the Main Campus and Regional Centers. No computer skills are required. You simply use the mouse to click on the answer.


You will have 45 minutes to write about a topic you will be given that day. Topics are chosen randomly. This writing sample is then scored by Compass; if necessary, it may also be reviewed by members of the Department of English who are trained to read and evaluate placement essays. Your essay will be read by at least two faculty members, and they will rank your essay for placement. The combined scores of the faculty readers or Compass, together with your score on the reading comprehension test, will be used to determine your placement in English classes.

The readers will be looking for clearly developed paragraphs with examples that support the ideas expressed in the essay. The evaluation will be based on a combination of good organization, content, sentence structure, grammar and spelling. 

Look to the right to see what the writing scores mean. If you receive a score of 5 or higher, you have placed in Level 2 or higher and are ready to take classes at Community College of Philadelphia. If you scored a 3 or 4, or lower, you will need to improve your writing skills. Click here to learn more.

Reading Comprehension and Mathematics (computerized):

The computerized versions of the reading and mathematics tests are untimed and allow you to work at your own pace. The tests are also adaptive and move forward according to your ability to answer questions correctly. The reading test includes at least three passages and measures your ability to understand what you read. The mathematics test begins in algebra and may progress to college algebra, calculus and trigonometry, depending on your skills.

Sample questions for the computerized mathematics and reading tests
Sample problems (a 24K PDF file) for the mathematics placement test.
Answers (a 32K PDF file) for the mathematics placement test sample problems.

The English faculty score the writing tests on a scale of 1 to 12. The following guide is an example of how the writing sample is scored and what the scores mean.

Score of 12:
A well-developed sense of purpose, audience and situation. Focus on the stated position is sharp and consistently maintained. Organization is unified and coherent, word choice is precise, and sentences are varied with few errors in usage in mechanics.

Score of 11:
Combines some characteristics of the level 10 response and some of the level 12 response.

Score of 10:
A well-developed sense of purpose, audience and situation. The focus is clear and consistent, and the command of language is apparent.

Score of  9:
Combines some characteristics of the level 8 response and some of the level 10 response.

Score of 8:
A developed sense of purpose, audience and situation. The writer takes a position on the issue defined in the prompt and supports that position.

Score of 7:
Combines some characteristics of a level 6 response and some of the level 8 response.

Score of 6:
Exceptionally well-developed and organized, not necessarily error-free but carefully reasoned with insightful examples, sophisticated vocabulary and thoroughly coherent development.
See a sample essay.

Score of 5:
Strong organization and development, reflects thought and the ability to control relatively complex sentences.

Score of 4:
Paragraphing and organization reflect planned exposition, adequate content, no major grammatical or punctuation errors.

Score of 3:
Minimal development, coherent sentences but contains verb and noun inflection errors, subject-verb agreement errors, length of writing sample is unparagraphed or paragraphs are very short, organization of content is unfocused.
See a sample essay.

Score of  2:
Minimal sentence sense, subject-verb agreement errors, major punctuation errors, ungrammatical sentences, limited contextual substance.

Score of 1:
Subject-verb agreement errors, manifest difficulty in constructing even simple sentences, rudimentary syntax and punctuation errors, short text, limited content and content accessibility because of mechanical problems.


Writing Sample - Score of 6

Hamlet says, Frailty, thy name is woman!" I say "Hamlet seems not to have understood real womanhood!" Two women from my life come to mind to help support my point.

First, there is my mother. I cannot think of a finer mother, though, of course, I am biased. When one thinks of a mother, a father is usually not far behind. Unfortunately for my family, my father's frailty was wasn't physical. My mother, Gwen is her name, divorced my father after twenty years of marriage. I, the youngest of two, was twelve at the time. Though it was an extremely difficult decision to make, my mother found the strength to not only leave the man that had been supporting her for twenty years but also to complete the raising of her twelve year old daughter. I did not speak with my father after the divorce because he never came around, which certainly suggests the lack of character that lead to my mother's decision. Despite the hardship, my mother made sure I had everything she could reasonably provide, best of which was her unqualified love.

The second woman to support my case is part of my current life. Her name is Johanna. Johanna is thirty-one years old. She divorced the father of her daughter when her daughter was an infant. She then raised this daughter to the age of seven, with very few visits from the child's father. Meanwhile the father had remarried and started a new family. Around the age of seven, Johanna's daughter began having tantrums that were well beyond the usual for a child that age. Johanna searched for answers until one seemed obvious: though everything had be provided for the child, she missed her father. So Johanna made arrangements to have her daughter live part time with her dad, and the tantrums ceased almost immediately. I am sure that was a very hard decision, one that only an incredibly strong woman could make.

In the cases of these two women, the strength and courage they showed certainly suggest that Shakespeare's character was more than a little short sighted.

Writing Sample - Score of 3

Following is a sample of a writing test that would require at least one semester of Developmental Education work. Please note description of a placement test score of 3 on the test description page and the annotation for the sample below:

Community College of Philadelphia should provide free day care for children of single and working parents.

Sitters are to (usage error) expensive unless you are on some kind of welfare assistence (misspelling).

If there was more free daycare (comma missing) than I think many more parents would attend Community to farther (usage error) there (usage error) education. Then better jobs could be found. (lack of specific development)

Actually, I don't know of anyone with this problem now (comma missing) but I do know lots of high school students with this problem and it doesnt (contraction error) help. Lots of them (inappropriate pronoun use) are planning to drop out as a result (wordiness) of this. My high school had a program like the free day care mentioned in the topic and because of cutbacks they no longer have the service. This forces lots of young girls out of school. And they never return. (This paragraph does not address the topic of daycare at Community College of Philadelphia)

If there is no program of day care in high school, how will they (lack of specific antecedent) ever think about college if they can't finish high school without a day care program or someone to take chare of their child? (Again, point is off topic) For this reason I think Community should offer a free day care program to any of its students. (In addition to grammar, usage, and focus errors, this essay does not provide enough concrete detail to support its thesis.)