Diagnostic Testing Services




What is the Writing Lab’s Diagnostic Test?

The Writing Lab’s Diagnostic Test is a 70-item multiple-choice test, which will help you and your writing professor identify your strengths and weaknesses in writing mechanics.  The test measures your knowledge of language skills appropriate for standard written and spoken American English and appropriate for academic and professional writing, the kind of writing expected of college-trained professionals. Questions 1-40 cover word usage and grammar; questions 41-55 cover sentence construction; and questions 56-70 cover punctuation and capitalization.

Is the test a requirement?

The Writing Lab does not require that you take the diagnostic test. The Writing Lab administers the test if your professor requires you to take it.  You may also opt to take the test on your own, whether or not you are enrolled in a writing class or other class whose professor requires the diagnostic test.

What score do I need to pass the test?

Of course, the ideal score on any diagnostic test is 100%. However, your professor is using this test as a tool to determine your ability to recognize correctly punctuated, well-formed sentences with good grammar. In most cases, your professor uses the areas checked, not your score, to create a plan for your follow-up Lab Work.

The number of items you miss in a particular area will determine the follow-up skills you should work on in the Writing Lab. After taking the diagnostic test, you will receive an inventory of skills mastery sheet, or Lab Work Form, with specific skills checked. 

The average score on the diagnostic test is 57%.

What does my test score mean?

A score of 90% and above indicates that you have a very strong grasp of grammatical concepts and should be able to learn new concepts easily and quickly and proofread and edit your own writing.

A score of 89 to 70% suggests good to average competency in the area of grammatical/language skills.  Scores in this range indicate that you may need to review traditional grammatical concepts and spend some extra time studying new concepts and proofreading and editing your papers.

A score of 69 to 55% suggests a weak to poor grasp of grammatical concepts that may inhibit your ability to edit your own writing and to grasp quickly and easily the linguistic concepts associated with a particular grammatical skill. Scores in this range indicate deficiencies in 9 to 11 of the 14 skills covered on the test, skills which warrant your attention.

A score of below 55% suggests a deficiency in locating errors that violate the rules of grammar and mechanics that are appropriate for academic and professional writing. Scores in this range indicate deficiencies in 12 to 14 of the 14 skills covered on the test, a situation which may inhibit your ability to write  “clean and error-free” papers.

Your professors may require you to do Lab work (a series of tests, or skills lessons) based on the areas/skills checked on your Lab Work Form and/or based on the data provided on the Item Analysis Sheet each instructor receives for his or her class.

In addition to the general diagnostic test that is administered to students in composition classes and Intro to Lit classes, the Writing Lab has designed the following content-specific diagnostic tests:

  • Diagnostic Test for Prospective Educators
  • Diagnostic Test for Communication Arts Students
  • Diagnostic Test for Environmental Studies Students
  • Diagnostic Test for Legal Studies Students

Beginning Week 3 of each semester, the Writing Lab offers Skill-of-the-Week tutoring sessions on the 14 writing skills covered in the diagnostic test. These tutoring sessions are scheduled by appointment or on a walk-in basis and are offered every hour on the hour from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. The last appointment starts at 4:00 p.m.  These sessions provide instruction by a trained graduate or undergraduate Writing Lab assistant, interactive discussion regarding the skill, and quantitative assessment.

Grammar Live @ 5 on Elluminate Live! sessions are available Mondays at 5:00 p.m. for students who need to make up a missed session.  These sessions are offered the Monday of the week following each Skill-of-the-Week.

Study materials, including PowerPoints, self-scoring practice tests and mini-lessons, and handouts are available online under the "Expand Your Skills" section of this website and in the Writing Lab (Main campus, Bldg. 51, Rm. 157).

The 14 skills covered on the Diagnostic Test are as follows:

  • Commas – use of commas for clarity, purpose, and effect;
  • Semicolons and Colons – use of semicolons to separate sentences and to separate items in a series; use of colons to precede lists, quotations, and explanations;
  • Sentence Errors (Fragments, Run-ons, and Comma Splices) – recognition of incomplete thoughts, two sentences with no punctuation separating them, and two sentences with only a comma separating them;
  • Subject-Verb Agreement – grammatical use of singular subjects with singular verb forms ending in –s and plural subjects with plural verb forms not ending in –s;
  • Pronoun Reference and Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement – use of pronouns to substitute for a specific noun or pronoun, not an idea or entire sentence; grammatical use of pronouns with antecedents that agree in number and gender;
  • Pronoun Case – grammatical use of pronouns depending on their function in the sentence, including the difference between you and I and you and me, who and whom, and whoever and whomever;
  • Diction – correct use of words that are commonly misused and confused such as affect and effect, advice and advise, lead and led, and principle and principal;
  • Possessives – use of the apostrophe with singular and plural possessive words and with letters, numbers, and words used as words;
  • Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers – correct placement of modifying elements and correct wording of sentences with opening participles;
  • Verb Forms and Tenses – correct use of the principal parts of verbs, especially the past participle form (has done, has gone, has written, has seen, etc.); correct use of historical past tense, literary present tense, and other troublesome tenses;
  • Faulty Comparisons – identification of illogical, double, and incomplete comparisons; use of the comparative and superlative degrees of adjectives and adverbs;
  • Parallelism – correct use of conjunctions to connect structurally similar items in a series;
  • Adjective and Adverb Use – correct use of adjectives such as good and bad with linking verbs; correct use of adverbs with other kinds of verbs;
  • Capitalization, Hyphenation, Italicization, and Quotation Technique – use of capital letters with specific people, places, dates, courses; professional titles and departments; trademarks; etc.; use of hyphens; use of italics for long titles and quotation marks for short titles, dialogue, and other quoted material.

How do I schedule testing?

Most students let the professor do the scheduling. The Writing Lab usually administers the Diagnostic Test to a class upon request by the professor. The Writing Lab staff will score the tests and return the scores during a scheduled class meeting. During this visit, the lab assistant will explain the Lab Work Forms, deadline policies, and other Writing Lab services.

If your professor does not schedule testing but you want to study on your own, feel free to come to the Writing Lab to take the test during the first two weeks of the semester.