TSI Writing Study Guide

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The TSI—also known by its full name, the Texas Success Initiative Assessment—is aimed specifically at students preparing to enroll in college in the state of Texas. The goal of the exam is to evaluate how ready these incoming students are for the college environment, and whether they have the skills necessary to perform well and thrive. There are a few conditions that allow prospective college students to skip the exam, particularly those who took the ACT or SAT back in high school and earned a passing score. If you fall into the group that is required to take this exam, don’t feel discouraged or intimidated by the task ahead of you. At Mometrix Test Preparation, you will receive every possible tool for academic success.

The TSI covers three subjects: Writing, Reading, and Mathematics. All of these subjects are considered important, basic elements of college curriculum, and also featured heavily on most standardized tests you took in the past. On this page, you will find a detailed overview of the Writing section of the TSI—what you can expect to see, what you are expected to know, and how you can prepare for the exam.

Why is Writing included as part of the TSI exam? Writing will form a large part of your college curriculum. More specifically, you will be expected to fulfill any number of writing assignments at some point throughout your college career. One of the first courses you will be required to take is an English composition course, meant to bolster your writing skills and teach you how to communicate formally and effectively from an academic standpoint. Even if you don’t plan on pursuing a major that depends upon stellar writing skills, knowing the basics of writing and self-expression is a valuable skill for everyone to have.

We at Mometrix Study Preparation are devoted to helping you ace this portion of the TSI exam, whether you’re a wordsmith or find it hard to piece your thoughts together on paper. This is why we have put together this TSI Writing study guide. We want you to be able to use this overview as a means of constructing a detailed and cohesive study strategy. As such, we will go over every important aspect of the TSI Writing section. For further study, you can find a TSI Writing practice test and TSI Writing flashcards elsewhere on our website. We encourage you to keep reading this page to learn more about the TSI Writing section and how you can best get ready.

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What Content Is Featured on the TSI Writing Section?

Like the other two sections of the TSI, the Writing section has a multiple choice portion spanning 20 questions in length. The diagnostic test, which you will have to take before the official TSI exam, averages between 10 and 12 questions per section. Unlike its fellow sections, however, the TSI Writing section splits into two halves: an essay portion and a multiple choice portion.

Before we go into the contents of the TSI Writing section, we must first inform you of the TSI Pre-Assessment Activity. The Pre-Assessment Activity serves as a diagnostic tool meant to help guide you toward success on the official exam. Upon it you will find an assortment of helpful tools and resources, including why and how the test plays an important part in your college career, what you can do if you fail to earn a passing score on the official exam, a practice exam meant to show you what will be on the exam and where your weaknesses and strengths lie, and how your college can help you find and stay on the path toward academic success as you navigate your college career. You will receive a certificate upon completing the test. It is especially worth noting that you will not be granted access to the official TSI assessment if you have not finished the Pre-Assessment Activity first. You will need the completion certificate on testing day. It will serve as proof that you have cleared the Pre-Assessment Activity and essentially serves as your ticket in.

To help you get ready for the Writing section of the TSI as best you can, we will now go into detail about the exam’s two halves—what subjects they cover and how they can best be approached.

Written Essay

The premise of the written essay portion of the TSI Writing section is very similar to what you have encountered before on other standardized tests. You will be presented with a short prompt relating to a specific topic—usually one addressing a prominent current event or societal issue. From this prompt, you will have to construct an essay between 300 and 600 words, organized into five paragraphs. To do well on this portion of the exam, you must be sure to organize your essay properly. This means creating a strong main idea and thesis statement, using proper grammar and mechanics, and backing up your points with ample, well-explained evidence. It is worth noting that you will have no reference materials at your disposal for this portion of the exam. The prompt provided to you will be open enough to allow you to draw your argument from your own viewpoints.

Because the test will be taken digitally, the way it is formatted is a little different from other standardized tests you may have taken in the past. This holds especially true for the essay portion. The only paper you will be given is a couple of pieces, for which you can organize your essay response however you wish. Be sure to take the time to organize your essay to make your response as strong as possible.

Multiple Choice

As stated above, the multiple choice section of the exam contains 20 questions total. Each question will cover one of the four subjects detailed below:

Sentence Logic

Questions under the Sentence Logic category evaluate how well you can arrange sentences in a fluid and logical manner. You will be asked to evaluate how well a cluster of sentences make sense with one another and how they can be better arranged. You will also be asked to improve sentences by adding modifying elements meant to enhance the effectiveness of the sentence in question. You may be presented with a short paragraph and asked how it can be rewritten, or where a sentence would fit best with the rest of the selection. As such, you should think about how much sense the passage makes as you read and whether the sentences within need any tweaking (and in what ways said tweaks are needed).

Essay Revision

The Essay Revision category is very similar to the Sentence Logic category mentioned above, in that you will have to read an essay passage and determine how well-written it is. How well constructed the passage is depends on a number of elements. You must consider its usage of evidence to solidify its claims, how comprehensible the writing is, how it utilizes rhetoric and diction to strength its points, and whether the passage is structured in a sound, easily understood way.

Sentence Structure

This category is meant to assess how well you understand how sentences should be organized. Here your job will be to proofread for violations of basic grammar conventions such as subordination; run-on sentences; sentence fragments; poorly placed or missing punctuation; and comma splices.

To do well on this section, you may have to brush up on grammar and mechanics. As you approach these questions, be on the lookout for any misplaced commas, other nonsensical bits of punctuation, and misspellings, among other more subtle errors. These can be all too easy to miss, which can cost you valuable points.


The Agreement category ties in closely to the Sentence Structure and Sentence Logic categories. For questions of this variety, you will have to pay close attention to consistency within the passage. Be on the lookout for errors in verb tenses (such as tense changes within the same sentence or even two separate sentences), as well as whether the pronouns used match up with each other and the respective nouns tied to them, and subject-verb agreement. Much like the subtler aspects of grammar in the Sentence Structure category, some errors can be easy to miss. Read over each passage carefully to be sure whether or not everything makes sense.

This TSI Writing overview is meant to be detailed, but not completely thorough. You can find more extensive coverage of this particular subsection through the TSI Writing study guide featured farther up on this page. This overview, rather, is meant to help you create an effective strategy for your studies by explaining to you what will be on the exam and offering a few tips for preparation. If you feel that you need further study help, feel free to turn to our TSI Writing flashcards as well as our TSI Writing practice test, featured elsewhere on our website. We’re here to aid in your success however we can, which is why we offer as many tools and as much information as possible. Good luck, and study hard!

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by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: June 3, 2021