Writing the CATW Response

Student Handbook

To be successful on this test, you need to understand some basic ideas about the CATW response.

 The Nature of the Test

The CUNY Assessment Test in Writing is a text-based writing sample that reflects the kinds of writing done in introductory college-level courses. (“Text-based writing sample” simply means that you are writing a response to a passage you have read.) The CATW assesses your readiness for writing in English in college composition courses and other introductory college-level courses.

 Your Response Should …

To prepare for the CATW, you should be aware of the required components of the response, as described in the scoring rubric.

 You should be able to:

  •  read and understand a short (250-300 words) reading passage written at the 10th to 12th grade reading level.
  •  identify the author’s main ideas—and important supporting ideas—in the reading passage.
  • read and understand the writing directions that accompany the reading passage, and address all parts of the writing task.

 Your response should:

  • include a brief summary of the author’s main ideas and supporting ideas (two or three key points in the reading). This summary can be written either at the beginning of your response to the reading passage or throughout your essay.
  • make direct reference to ideas in the reading passage, either with direct quotes or paraphrasing.
  • be organized in a clear and logical way, with appropriate use of transitions to connect your ideas, supporting details, and examples.
  • demonstrate your ability to write an essay that has a clear beginning, middle, and end.
  • combine ideas from the reading passage with your own ideas about the text.
  • demonstrate the ability to identify and address a specific idea in the reading passage that you feel is “significant” (it needn’t be the author’s main idea) and develop an essay in response to that idea, expanding through the use of explanation, supporting details, personal experience, and/or other reading you may have done.
  • demonstrate the ability to write clear and varied sentences, and use vocabulary that clearly and effectively communicates your ideas.


You should:

  • manage your time during the exam period (90 minutes) to allow for  proofreading and editing
  • check your response for errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation.


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