Strategies for Taking the CUNY Assessment Test in Writing


The CATW is a 90-minute test that measures your ability to write a college-level essay. Keep in mind that this test focuses on the following criteria:

  • addressing all parts of the Writing Directions in an essay that summarizes the main ideas in the reading passage;
  • discussing a significant idea from the reading passage in a clear and coherent essay;
  • integrating references to specific ideas and details in the reading passage with your own ideas about the text;
  • constructing a written response that has a clear beginning, middle and end;
  • writing sentences that are constructed correctly and use correct word choices;
  • understanding and using good grammar and mechanics to convey your ideas clearly.

 When you take the test, you may find the following strategies helpful in planning how to use your time:

Reading: Spend about 20 minutes reading the passage and underlining significant ideas.You should decide which ideas in the reading you will use to write your summary.

Planning and Pre Writing: Spend about 10 minutes planning and pre-writing. Your testbooklet gives you two blank pages for planning notes or writing an outline. Briefly write down the key idea from the passage that you will develop in your response, along with some significant details and/or examples. Make a note about the order you might use to present your ideas most clearly and effectively. The planning work you do on these pages will not beevaluated.

Writing the Response: Spend about 50 minutes writing your response. Be sure to use thelined pages in your test booklet. Refer to your plan, or outline, and remember that the Writing Directions require you to include a summary of key ideas in the reading, select one idea and explain its significance, make specific references to the reading in your response, and develop your response with relevant details and examples, using standard edited American English.

You may begin with a summary of the key ideas in the reading passage. Be sure to write it in your own words; do not copy it word-for-word from the text. Then identify at least one significant idea in the reading passage. Explain why you think that idea is significant, using appropriate supporting details and examples from your personal experience or from your own reading.

Revising and Editing: When you have finished writing your response, spend about 10minutes proofreading and editing your response, and making any necessary changes. Consider the following questions when you review your response:

    • Did you complete all parts of the Writing Directions?
    • Did you include a summary of the reading passage?
    • Did you clearly identify at least one significant idea from the reading and discuss it in detail?
    • Are the details and examples you present in your response clear and relevant?
    • Is there any unnecessary repetition of ideas in your response?
    • Is your response written in clear well-constructed sentences, using correct grammar and punctuation?