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Diagnostic and Skill-of-the-Week Information

Diagnostic Testing

The Writing Lab’s Diagnostic Test is a 70-item multiple-choice test designed to help professors and their students determine students’ areas of strength and weakness in the mechanics of writing. The test measures students’ 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. The number of items each student misses in a particular area will determine the follow-up skills he or she should work on in the Writing Lab. After taking the diagnostic test, all students receive a Lab Work Form with specific skills checked. Professors may require Skill-of-the-Week Tutoring or other lab work based on the areas/skills checked on each student’s Lab Work Form and/or based on the data provided on the Class Lab Work Form each instructor receives for his or her class.

In addition to the general diagnostic test administered to students in English 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. on Thursdays and Fridays, with the last appointment being at 4:00 p.m. These sessions typically provide roughly 20 minutes of instruction, 20 minutes of assessment, and 20 minutes of interactive discussion about the skill.

Grammar Classmate @8! and Grammar Live @5! sessions are available via Google Hangouts 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 on the Writing Lab website and in the Writing Lab (Building 51, Room 157).

Diagnostic Testing and Writing Lab Work Options

The Writing Lab offers two options for instructors who want their students to do Lab Work. Please select the option that best meets the needs of your class. Each option – with or without diagnostic testing – requires lab work. Lab work requires students to attend one-hour Skill-of-the-Week tutoring sessions in the Writing Lab. These tutoring sessions occur every hour on the hour from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily, with the last appointment beginning at 4:00 p.m. Whichever option you choose, your students must complete the required or requested skill during the week it is offered as the Skill-of-the-Week. The Skill-of-the-Week tutoring sessions begin in week 3 of each semester and run for 10 consecutive weeks through the end of Week 12, focusing on a different skill each week. Two skills are covered during some weeks. No tutoring is available during the last three weeks of each semester.

The Lab will not offer make-up lessons for missed skills/lessons except for Grammar Classmate @8! on Monday mornings and Grammar Live @5! on Monday evenings. Since we will not have staff available to provide make-up lessons, we request that you not send notes by students with extenuating circumstances such as absence from class because of an extended illness. Instead, we recommend that you waive the Lab Work requirement for the specific lesson(s) the student missed during his or her absence.

Option One – Diagnostic Test Administration and Follow-up Lab Work

During the first two weeks of the semester, the Writing Lab will administer the Writing Lab’s Diagnostic Test, a 70-item multiple-choice test that measures students’ knowledge of standard written American English. The Lab will score the tests and return the individual test scores to your students. You will receive a form with scores for all your students. All students will receive a Lab Work Form with specific skills checked. You may require your students to attend Skill-of-the-Week Tutoring sessions based on the areas/skills checked on the Writing Lab's Recommendation Sheet.

If you want your students to take the diagnostic, please email a request for diagnostic testing to Rustian Phelps at Include the days and times each class meets, the date you want the test to open in Canvas and the date you want it to close, and the date you want scores returned to your students. You must send a class roster containing each student's UWF email address or student ID number. The course cannot be built without this information. Please be sure to give us at least two business days to score and return your students' scores.

If you want your students to get a tour of the Writing Lab with a presentation about Lab services, this would be a good time to request it; we can return your students' test scores in the Writing Lab during their visit.

Option Two – No Diagnostic Test Administration, Skill-Specific Lab Work

This option is for Lab Work that does not require administration of the Writing Lab’s Diagnostic Test.

Simply advise your students to go to the Writing Lab for Skill-of-the-Week Tutoring sessions in order for them to receive credit for required Lab Work or to receive bonus points and extra credit. Please email Rustian Phelps at to let us know your students are coming. We will create a roster for your courses and record your students' attendance.

The fourteen 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
  • Diction – correct use of words that are commonly misused and confused such as affect and effectadvice 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