TSI Essay Practice Test

For all their diversity, most college students in Texas share the experience of taking the TSI (Texas Success Initiative), a test of essential reading, writing, and math skills. Only students with recent military experience or ACT or SAT scores are exempt. All state colleges and universities administer the TSI to ensure that new enrollees take classes suited to their skill level. Those with low scores on the TSI must enroll in remedial English and mathematics courses to improve their chance of success in college courses.

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What is the TSIA2?

To ensure the entering of students into public higher education programs in Texas, the Texas legislature enacted the Texas Success Initiative. This statute requires public colleges, universities, and technical colleges in Texas to determine all non-exempt undergraduate students’ readiness to enroll in freshman-level academic courses. The Texas Success Initiative Assessment 2.0 (TSIA2) is the tool used to assess college readiness.

The TSIA2 contains three assessments: Mathematics, English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR), and a 300-600-word essay. The Essay is technically a subsection of the ELAR, though it is taken separately from the main body of the ELAR. This article discusses the Essay portion of the ELAR.

Why is the TSI required?

The varied backgrounds and educational experiences of students give Texas schools their vibrant diversity, but these same factors can create uneven academic achievement. Texas colleges and universities use TSI scores to determine whether their enrollees should take regular or remedial English and math classes in their first year of college. Lows scores on the TSI will not derail the dream of attending college, but they could mean an extra semester or two of remedial classes that will not count toward a student’s college degree.

Can I exempt from this test?

As mentioned above, students may qualify for an exemption from the TSIA2. The exemptions include obtaining minimum college-readiness standards on the ACT, SAT, or the English III/Algebra II STAAR tests, successful completion of a college preparatory course, enrollment in a Level-One certification program, not seeking a degree, or on active duty or a veteran of the United States Military. To verify your eligibility for an exemption from the TSIA2, talk with your admissions or academic counselor. If you do meet exemption requirements, you can enroll directly into entry-level courses without the assessment.

Where can I take the TSI?

Every college campus in Texas offers prospective students a chance to take a free TSI practice test, which indicates how well a student is likely to score on the complete exam. No college or university offers the complete TSI without a practice test. The results of the computer-generated pre-test are available immediately. Testing staff explain the pretest scores and indicate what the scores mean. Low-scoring students are encouraged to study test-related materials and improve their skills before attempting the complete TSI.

What can I expect on the essay test?

The Essay Test contains one randomly selected prompt. Read and consider the prompt as you begin to develop your 300-600-word response (generally three to five paragraphs). You cannot use outside resources to form your response. However, scratch paper is provided as needed. The test is delivered and scored by a computer. Accommodations are available to those with documented disabilities. You have as much time as you need to write your essay. Take your time, be thorough, and edit your work.

For the essay, you are presented with a randomly selected prompt. The prompt is a short passage, and following the passage is your call to action. You are asked to focus on the issue addressed in the passage. The prompts are designed to stimulate your critical thinking and do not require specialized knowledge. You are asked to draw on your experiences, knowledge, and interests to answer the prompt to support your perspective on the issue in question. Your essay is then evaluated on six qualities. The qualities are as follows:

  • Purpose and focus. Is the information you are presenting unified and coherent? Do you address the issue clearly?
  • Organization and structure. Are your ideas connected in an orderly fashion? Does your organization lead to a clear path from one point to another?
  • Development and support. Are your ideas developed? Do your statements support your thesis and build upon one another, leading to a clearly developed statement or call to action?
  • Sentence variety and style. Are your sentences and paragraphs exhibiting control of vocabulary, voice, and structure?
  • Mechanical Conventions. Are your ideas expressed showing an understanding of standard English conventions?
  • Critical thinking. Does your point of view demonstrate an understanding of the relationship that exists between ideas? Are your thoughts well-reasoned and supported?

When do I take the essay portion of the test?

The Essay is the final assessment of the TSIA2 test. There are two paths to the Essay Test from the ELAR. The first is by obtaining a score in the college-ready range (945-990) on the ELAR CRC. If your CRC score indicates college readiness, you move directly to the Essay Test.

The second path to the Essay Test is through combined scores of the ELAR CRC and Diagnostic tests. If your CRC score is less than 945 and you receive a score of four (4) or higher on the Diagnostic, you move to the Essay Test.

If the combination of your CRC and Diagnostic scores do not meet the benchmark level for college readiness, you do not take the Essay Test. Instead, your testing session is ended, and an individual score report is provided. The score report has valuable information you can use to focus your study efforts for your next try at the TSIA2.

How is the essay scored?

Each of the six qualities is evaluated on a scale of 1 to 8, with 1 being the lowest and 8 the highest. The score report provides feedback on each of the scored qualities as well as your overall score. An essay that is too short, off-topic, or written in a language other than English receives a score of zero. A college-ready score for the Essay Test is 5 or greater.

Am I college-ready?

CRC + Essay

If you achieve a score of 945-990 on the CRC plus a score of 5 or greater on the Essay Test, your Individual Score Report indicates you are college-ready. If you achieve a score of 945-990 on the CRC plus a score of 4 or less on the Essay Test, your Individual Score Report indicates you are not college-ready.

CRC + Diagnostic test + Essay

If your score on the CRC is less than 945, your score on the Diagnostic is 4 or greater, and your Essay score is 5 or greater, you are considered college-ready.

If your score on the CRC is less than 945, your score on the Diagnostic is less than 4, and your Essay score is less than 5, you are considered not college-ready.

What will I see on the individual score report>

Regardless of your college-ready status, you receive an Individual Score Report at the end of your test. Your academic advisor uses the report to build your college schedule. Additionally, the information is used to identify areas for improvement and to select the classes that would help bring your skills up to college-level. You can also use the report to focus your study efforts, giving yourself more opportunity to focus on the content areas that are weaker than others. Each content area is further identified by proficiency descriptors and is as follows:

  • Basic – significant improvement is required in the content area.
  • Proficient – you have demonstrated skill, but there is room for improvement in the content area.
  • Advanced – you have well-developed skills in the content area.

How can Mometrix help me study for the TSI?

The best study method for an academic skills test is to practice the skills on the actual exam. Mometrix Test Preparation materials couple questions similar to those on the TSI with detailed explanations of how to choose the correct answers.

Subject matter experts guide the development of all Mometrix TSI study materials. The TSI Assessment Secrets Study Guide is an entire book of practice exams as well as advice on reducing test anxiety, intelligent guessing, and eliminating wrong answers. TSI Flashcards put a test practice in your pocket, allowing you to memorize key concepts during lunch breaks or after workout sessions. Our TSI online course offers lessons, video reviews, practice tests, and more in a mobile-friendly format.

Is TSI preparation worth my time and effort?

Yes. A strong performance on the TSI bestows lifelong rewards. Students who practice for the TSI move more quickly through their college classes. They avoid remedial classes in English and math, develop confidence in their testing skills, and improve their chances of graduating from college. College graduates are healthier, enjoy more exciting work, and earn $1 million more in a lifetime than workers with a high school diploma



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by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: April 9, 2021