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Tips and Tricks for Passing the TSIA2

Updated: May 24, 2023

The Texas Success Initiative Assessment 2.0 (TSIA2) was created by the College Board to help students determine their readiness for college. The TSI assessments are multiple choice and are aligned to the Texas College and Career Readiness Standards. Texas state law requires all entering college students to be assessed for college readiness in reading, writing, and mathematics, unless the student meets exemption guidelines or demonstrates college readiness through successful completion of college-level coursework.

Before taking the TSIA2, students participate in a pre-assessment activity (PAA). The PAA takes about 10-15 minutes to complete and provides you with an excellent overview of the TSIA2 and a focal point for your preparation steps.

These assessments test three general academic areas: math, English/language arts and reading (ELAR, sometimes called the Multiple Choice/MC), and an essay.


College-ready ELAR scores:

Your ELAR score indicates your college readiness if 1) you score between 945 and 990 on the MC test AND score five or higher on the Essay, or 2) you score below 945 on the MC test, receive a five or higher on the Diagnostic test, AND score five or higher on the Essay test.

College-ready Mathematics scores:

If you score between 950 to 990 on the Math Multiple Choice, you are determined to be college-ready. If you score below 950 on the MC, you are routed to the Diagnostic test. If you score above 6 on the Diagnostic test, you are considered college-ready.

PLEASE TELL YOUR STUDENT TO NOT GIVE UP IF THE TEST PUTS THEM IN THE DIAGNOSTIC PORTION. I see it every day. Students fail the multiple choice but manage to still pass by scoring high enough in the diagnostic.


English Language Arts and Reading

The English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) portion of the TSIA2 consists of up to three tests: a 30-question multiple-choice CRC test, a 48-question multiple-choice Diagnostic Test, and a one-prompt essay question. How well you perform on the MC test determines if you are required to take the Diagnostic Test. There is no time limit for the MC or Diagnostic tests, but once you start the essay prompt, you must finish it in one sitting.

The MC test consists of 30 questions addressing two content areas: reading and writing. Reading-focused questions evaluate your comprehension and analysis of written texts, including literary, informational, argumentative, and paired passages. Writing-focused questions measure your skill in editing and revising sentences, paragraphs, and early drafts of written work. A benchmark score of 945 to 990 indicates your college readiness on the ELAR MC. If you obtain the benchmark score, you are directed to the essay portion of the ELAR. If your score falls below the benchmark, you are directed to the Diagnostic Test.

The Diagnostic Test is an additional way to evaluate your readiness for college-level courses. The 48 questions on the Diagnostic Test are divided between Text Analysis and Synthesis (reading) and Content Revision and Editing for Conventions (writing). Other types of texts, such as workplace documents, are the subjects covered in the Diagnostic Test. If you score a diagnostic level of 4 or higher, you are directed to the ELAR essay portion, though you must get a 5 to be college ready. A diagnostic score of 4 or less indicates you are not college-ready and you will not get an essay prompt.


The Essay evaluates your ability to write a 300-600-word essay in response to a randomly selected prompt. The Essay examines your ability to form your thoughts in a cohesive and orderly manner, using correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling, while using critical thinking that demonstrates a reasoned relationship among ideas. You are provided scratch paper; references and resources are not allowed. There is no time limit for the Essay test, but it must be completed in the same session once started.

The Essay test is a part of the ELAR assessment but scored individually. The score you receive on your essay is a part of your ELAR score from the CRC test and Diagnostic test (if indicated). The Essay's score range is one to eight, with five the minimum required to be considered college-ready.


The Mathematics portion of the TSIA2 consists of two tests: a 20-question multiple-choice test and a 12-question multiple-choice Diagnostic Test. How well you perform on the MC test determines if you are required to take the Diagnostic Test. Personal calculators are not allowed, but an on-screen calculator is available. There is no time limit for the CRC or Diagnostic test.

Both the CRC and Diagnostic tests cover four content categories:

Quantitative Reasoning - apply basic mathematical skills to analyze and interpret data; use calculations to solve ratios, proportions, and percentages; and identify, manipulate, and interpret linear equations and expressions.

Algebraic Reasoning – solve equations, variables, and functions, and solve algebraic problems in context.

Geometric and Spatial Reasoning – use concepts, processes, and tools to solve space and spatial relationships; apply right angle trigonometry; and perform transformations.

Probabilistic and Statistical Reasoning – connect one concept to another, classify data, interpret probability, and describe measures of center and spread of state.

Sample Essay Passage and Prompt:

An actor, when his cue came, was unable to move onto the stage. He said, “I can’t get in, the chair is in the way.” And the producer said, “Use the difficulty. If it’s a drama, pick the chair up and smash it. If it’s comedy, fall over it.” From this experience the actor concluded that in any situation in life that is negative, there is something positive you can do with it. Adapted from Lawrence Eisenberg, “Caine Scrutiny.”

Prompt: Can any obstacle or disadvantage be turned into something good?

Sample of an essay that would score an 8, the highest possible score:

In times of desperation, it is often difficult to see the positives in a situation. More often than not, our survival instinct demands that we obliterate any obstacles in our path, without heeding the potential consequences. However, I believe, using Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and early American history, that it is indeed possible to use these apparent disadvantages as a means to improve yourself.

The hero of Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff, was by any account, a man of humble origins. Not only was he an orphan without a last name, but he was also abused and tormented by other children‐such as Hindley‐of his new household. Constantly frustrated at every turn in life, Heathcliff as a boy could not marry Catherine‐who he loved‐partially because of his lowly social status. After Catherine left to marry her new husband, Heathcliff undertook a journey, in which he amasses a good deal of money and seemingly elevates his place in society.

Although these changes are superficial, Heathcliff, used the adversity facing him as a boy as motivation to improve himself, to marry Catherine; thus his early obstacles were turned into something good (at least for him). From Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, it is evident that obstacles can be transformed into motivation, a very positive emotion.

In the 1770’s, America was under the rule of a tyrant in England. Legislation, such as those that were called the “Intolerable Acts” that forbid such practices as forming a militia in Massachusetts, and the infamous “Stamp Act”, which was essentially a tax forced on Americans to gain revenue for the British Empire, were passed continuously against Great Britain’s colonies in America. The Quartering Act forced Americans to allow British soldiers to live in their homes, which resulted in many fights and the situation was not good. However, the early American political leaders used these dire times to rally the American people. The country, incensed by British practices, joined those rebellious leaders, such as Patrick Henry, George Washington, and John Adams, to fight in the Revolutionary War against a corrupt monarchy. If the American people had not suffered through these indignities leading up to the Revolutionary War, the United States of America probably would not exist today.

Clearly, when one is faced by obstacles at every turn, it is extremely difficult to try to twist negative experiences into positive ones. However, if one takes the model shown by Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights and America’s early political leaders, one can use these bad experiences to totally change one’s life for the better.

Notes on essays:

A computer is grading your essay. So note that you need to be clear on hitting all the points in your response. I suggest being more wordy than concise. Aim for 5 paragraphs.

1. Demonstrate a point of view, answer what side of the argument are you taking? SELECT ONE SIDE. You are not being scored on your opinion, so it does not matter which you choose. You can bring up the other side of the argument if you choose to outline why it is wrong, otherwise just keep it out of the response.

2. Keep the introduction paragraph on the brief side (as well as the conclusion)

3. Use a few examples that support why you choose the side of the argument. You can even use examples from your real life experiences.

4. Progress through the ideas

5. Language, use words and synonyms for those words, add diversity to the response. Make the vocabulary interesting to read.

6. Sentence structure: Do not start your sentences the same way every time!

Use transition words:

Agreement Words

· in the first place

· not only … but also

· as a matter of fact

· in like manner

· in addition

· coupled with

· in the same fashion / way

· first, second, third

· in the light of

Opposition Words

· in contrast

· different from

· of course …, but

· on the other hand

· on the contrary

· at the same time

· in spite of

· but

· (and) still

Causation Words

· in the event that

· for the purpose of

· with this intention

· with this in mind

· in the hope that

· in order to

· If

· … then

· in case

Example Words

· in other words

· to put it differently

· for one thing

· as an illustration

· in this case

· for this reason

· to put it another way

· that is to say

· with attention to


Math Topics Covered

o Elementary Algebra and Functions

o Linear equations, inequalities, and systems

o Algebraic expressions and equations

o Word problems and applications

o Intermediate Algebra and Functions

o Quadratic and other polynomial expressions, equations and functions

o Expressions, equations and functions involving powers, roots, and radicals

o Rational and exponential expressions, equations and functions

o Geometry and Measurement

o Plane geometry

o Transformations and symmetry

o Linear, area and three-dimensional measurements

o Data Analysis, Statistics and Probability

o Interpreting categorical and quantitative data

o Statistical measures

o Probabilistic reasoning

Excellent Free Math Practice Exam:

Free Math Practice Websites:

ENGLISH/Language arts (Multiple Choice) Practice:

Your college testing center likely has practice tests.

TSI prep Boot Camps.

TSI Sample Questions from College Board:

Check your library - online resources like LearningExpress for free prep/practice tests.

Free Mometrix YouTube Videos:

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