​Writing Placement: Choosing Composition Success


Welcome to DMACC’s Choosing Composition Success site, created by the DMACC Writing Placement Task Force and English Department. It describes how students place into their writing classes and offers options for students scoring at certain levels.

Choosing success in college starts with taking writing courses that fit your current writing skills. Most colleges and universities in the United States have a first-year writing course required for a degree. At DMACC, that class is Composition I (ENG 105). However, not everyone is ready to take ENG 105, so the first step is to see into which​ class you place.

Part-time and full-time students who need to take a composition class need to submit ACT, COMPASS Reading and Writing Skills, ACCUPLACER Classic Reading and Sentence, or ACCUPLACER Next Gen Reading and Writing scores to the Admissions Office as part of the admissions requirements. If you have taken these exams, bring the results to your advisor to help determine your writing placement. If you have not taken any of these tests, then you should schedule ACCUPLACER Next Gen Reading and Writing exams with the Testing Center and talk about the results with an advisor to find the best writing path for you. Guest students and current DMACC students, including Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) and Career Advantage students, who have already passed a prerequisite writing course prior to enrolling in Fall 2018 will be exempt. Academic transcripts will be required to verify transfer credit/grade awarded.

​Writing Placement Scores

Next Gen
Course ​Recommendations
01-13Writing 01-37​Sentence 20-65

Writing 213-243​​

ENG 060: College Prep Writing I
14-18Writing 38-69

Sentence 66-81

Writing 244-253​​

ENG 061: College Prep Writing II
14-19Writing 42-99Sentence 68-120Writing 245-279​COM 703: Communication Skills
16-18Reading 48-80
Writing 54-69
Reading 59-72
Sentence 74-81
Reading 239-248 
Writing 249-253​
ENG145: Strategies for Composition with ENG105: Composition I
19-36Writing 70-99​Sentence 82-120Writing 254-279​​College Ready (ENG 105: Composition I, ADM 157: Business English)

(See the full set of tests and scores)


  • A student who has an ACT composite score of 20 places into ENG 105.
  • Another student who does not have ACT scores but took COMPASS a couple of years ago and scored a 45 on the Writing test places in ENG 061.
  • A student who did not bring scores but takes ACCUPLACER Classic and scores a 68 in Sentence Skills is placed in ENG 061.
  • A student with an ACCUPLACER Next Gen Reading score in the 239-248 range but ​a 249 or higher Writing score should still consider taking ENG 145 and ENG 105. Reading skills are part of the ALP class.

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Writi​n​g Course Options

Look at the ACT range of 16-18. What do you see? You see that students who score in the middle through upper ranges of the ACT or who score in certain ranges on the Reading and Writing placement exams for COMPASS, ACCUPLACER Classic and ACCUPLACER Next Gen have different options.

course options 

Because reading and writing skills are so important to composition, we look at both scores to qualify students for an option of courses. Students who score 16-18 on the ACT, have a COMPASS Reading score range of 48-80 and Writing score of 54-69, or an ACCUPLACER Classic Reading score of 59-72 and Sentence score of 74-81 have two course options: 1) take ENG 061 then ENG 105 the next semester, or 2) partner ENG 145 with ENG 105.

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W​hat Is the Difference Between the Paths?

College Preparatory Writing II (ENG 061) is a tried-and-true developmental class at DMACC, helping students meet their writing goals for more than a decade. Students receive individualized attention while practicing specific reading and writing skills in the classroom. Students who earn a passing grade can move on to ENG 105. Pass and success rates for this course are higher than the national average across DMACC’s campuses.

Strategies for Composition (ENG 145) is taken with Composition I (ENG 105) and is a two credit, corequisite/accelerated learning program (ALP) model course. If your placement scores fall within the appropriate ranges, you may advance to ENG 105, but you must also enroll in ENG 145. The ENG 145 class meets immediately after ENG 105 and includes some of the same students you encounter in ENG 105. It is designed to provide a smaller class size (limited to 10-12 students) with individualized support and practice with assignments that reinforce the writing concepts addressed in ENG 105. By taking ENG 145 with ENG 105, you can move forward with writing coursework and gain two general elective credits. If you qualify for this option, you must complete both ENG 145 and ENG 105 successfully with a passing grade to continue to the next writing class, Composition II (ENG 106).

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Which Path Should You Take?

Deciding which path to take depends a lot on if you have the credits, desire, and money needed to take two writing classes at the same time, which is the 145/105 option, or whether you want to focus on one class at a time, which is the ENG 061 option. If you choose the 145/105 option and do not pass, then you can retake both classes or take 061 alone, waiting to take ENG 105 after you pass 061.

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​​​What Should You Do Next?

  1. Study for the placement exams, Reading and Writing exams. Study guides and practice tests are available online at the ACCUPLACER site. You can take a practice test at home and bring your responses to the Academic​ Achievement Center Reading Lab or Writing Lab ​​to review with an instructor before taking the test.​
  2. Get a good night’s sleep, eat a healthy meal, and take the exams.
  3. Based on your exam results, talk with an advisor to see which class you qualify to take, and register for that class. If you are unhappy with the exam score, you can retake the test after waiting two weeks. In that time, study and seek assistance in the Academic Achievement Center.
  4. When you begin classes, attend every class session to help you move forward with writing.

Choosing success means talking with advisors when registering for classes and your instructors when needing help. Using DMACC’s support services like Academic Achievement Centers and the Library Professionals will also help you succeed in college​.

For questions regarding placement, contact an academic advisor.

  • Ankeny 515-964-6200
  • Boone 515-432-7209
  • Carroll 712-792-1755
  • Newton 641-791-3622
  • Urban 515-244-4226
  • West 515-633-2408

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