Hello again! It’s time to think about the writing section of the TSI. None of my students ever really worried about this section because they found it “easy,” but in case you don’t want to leave things to chance, let’s check out what you will need to know.
First, it contains 20 multiple choice questions and is right before you write the accompanying essay. If you aren’t able to score a 6 on the essay, then you can earn a multiple choice score of at least 350 and an essay score of 5 or a multiple choice score of at least 363 and an essay score of 4 and still pass the entire section. Remember, the TSI scores range from 351 to 390 and each question is weighted, so we can safely say one to three questions is a safe bet. But let’s not think about it like that. Let’s show the test what we know.
Key things to do here are to read carefully. CAREFULLY. You want to make sure that you are reading each word as it appears in the text, not as it should appear or what sounds correct. The answer choices may only differ by one punctuation mark, so check out every answer choice before deciding which one to answer. Remember, it is not timed, but you can’t return to a question, so you will need to give each answer a thorough vetting. Yes, there is a NO CHANGE option and it will be a valid answer choice at times.
When reading the answer choices, I utilize “pauses” (one beat) and “full stops” (two beats) to help me “hear” how commas and periods, respectively, would sound; I give semi-colons a “three-quarters stop,” something in between a pause and a full stop. Test each answer choice because one might sound good but the next might sound better. You aren’t going to be able to read anything aloud as you will most likely be testing alongside other testers (even whisper reading can be distracting to some testers), but try to really hear yourself reading it in your head, or even pick out a favorite musician, actor, other celebrity, character, or cool person in your life to read it to you. This might seem silly, but I’m sure it will take the edge off having to deal with the test in the first place.
There are times when the exam will ask you to replace, rewrite, or insert a sentence or phrase. Although we can normally get away with just reading the sentences or phrases that have been marked for editing, we will need to have some context clues because a couple of the answer choices will make sense independently of them. For gathering context clues, a good start is to read the sentence right before and the sentence right after what is to be edited, a better idea is to read the entire paragraph that contains it, and the best way to gather the most clues is to go ahead and read the entire passage. Some of the passages are fairly interesting, too.
To close, take your time in working through this section. Since the essay is next, perhaps your reading can give you some ideas or warm your brain up to the abstract and philosophical thinking and essay formatting required for it. The same as before, if you encounter a question that you aren’t sure how to answer, it’s best for your stress level to settle on the answer you think is best so that you have plenty of brain power left heading into the essay. Feel free to rewrite answer choices and edits on the scratch paper provided. You still CAN retest if you need to within a short time frame, but you’d have to take both the multiple choice and essay sections together, so let’s get both of them knocked out at once. For practice, look up some editing or proofreading games online or try typing or writing random sentences and reconfigure them by playing with punctuation and other grammar essentials. Best of luck!