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Technical Writing DSST
A Free Study Guide!

Free Technical Writing DSST Study Guide

Name of Exam: Technical Writing DSST

Number of Questions: Around 100 (varies) + 1 Optional Essay

Time Limit: 120 Minutes

ACE Recommended Passing Score: 46

Practice Test Available?: No

Cost: $80 + Sitting Fee (Usually no more than $20) at your testing site. Military can take DSSTs for free with Tuition Assistance. Check with your Educational Officer!

Difficulty 1-5 : 2
(One being the easiest, and five being the hardest)

Exam Description:

The Technical Writing DSST covers what a student would learn during a single semester of a Technical Writing college class.

A few of the specific topics you'll see see are: Elements of various technical reports, Analyzing the Audience, Manuals, and Page Design.

Important! - Check with your school to see if the essay portion is required. If it is, you'll have to write a technical paper on a given subject. In the words of Cookderosa on the IC forums, remember: "Technical writing is here to inform, not to persuade."

Personal Thoughts:

I haven't taken the Technical Writing DSST because I never could work it into a degree plan. There are so many elective credits available that it never caught my eye. Now that I'm making this study guide, I suppose I'll have to go take it just to have an informed opinion. :P

Until that magical day comes, I'm going to base my opinion off of other's feedback. Using that as yardstick, I can tell you that the general consensus is the Technical Writing DSST is not that hard of an exam. There will be some specific terminology that you'll need to know, but most of the exam can be boiled down to common sense.

Exam breakdown:

Make sure you check out the Official DSST Fact Sheet for this exam.

Pay attention to the bottom of the fact sheet. It contains some sample questions that closely mimic the type of scenario-based questions you'll see on the actual exam.

The Technical Writing DSST is broken down as follows:

31% Purpose, content, and organizational patterns of common types of technical documents
31% Elements of various technical reports
28% Technical Editing
10% Theory and practice of Technical Writing

Areas of Study

I'm going to list some specific topics that you'll need to study.

Though there are different versions of Technical Writing DSST, you'll most likely see some of the following on your exam:

  • Manuals
  • Graphics
  • Ensuring the validity of data and resources
  • Feasibility reports
  • Process descriptions
  • page design
  • Abstracts
  • Establishing goals
  • Tone
  • Conclusions
  • Resumes
  • Supplements (glossary, footnotes, appendices, indices)
  • Research/Laboratory Reports
  • Functional Analysis
  • Tables
  • Letters
  • Sentence Restructuring

Recommended Free Study Resources

  • Purdue Online Writing Lab - This is the Professional, Technical Writing portion of the Purdue Online Writing Lab. I'd go through all of the links on this page except for the first one (Workplace Writers). You'll need to know this information and it doesn't take long to read.
  • Online Technical Writing - A great overview on Technical Writing from MIT along with some outstanding tips.
  • WikiUniversity - Technical Writing - I really like this. Check out the Writing Level 1 and Level 2 on the right side. Some really good explanations if you follow those links.
  • Different types of resumes - I'd know the different types of resumes.
  • Memorandum - Just know what it is, you'll probably be asked to identify what makes it a memo.
  • Proposal (Business) - A really great article from Wikipedia. Make sure you know how the system works, and what a RFP, RFQ, and IFB is.

Recommended bargain-priced study resources

Always check your library first! You may be able to find some of these for free. You don't have to buy the officially recommended resources all the time. If you're the type of person that prefers to study from a textbook source however, then please see below.

The Handbook of Technical Writing, Seventh Edition - One of the suggested materials from the Official Fact Sheet. You can pick it up extremely cheap (around 8 bucks right now) from one of the 3rd party sellers. Check your library and you may be able to find it for even cheaper. ;)

InstantCert Academy Technical Writing Specific Exam Feedback - There are four pages of posts for the Technical Writing DSST and as always it's full of feedback. As in... "I just got back from my exam and you'd better know A, B, and C when you take yours." They also have more suggested study resources in this thread. A great value.

If you don't know what InstantCert is, then click here for the scoop as well as a discount code: **InstantCert Academy**

You'll find an InstantCert link for every exam here if that gives you an idea of the amount of information they have available. It's an outstanding resource.

Closing Thoughts

From all accounts, the Technical Writing DSST is an easy one. I'd look over the material to identify the terms you aren't familiar with, but as long as you have a firm grasp of grammar and composition you should be fine.

Another little motivational bump - The military pass rate is over 50% for this particular exam. That's rather impressive since most of the other exams average around a 30-40% pass rate. Respect the exam, but don't fear it. Study for a few days and pick up another 3 credits.

You can do it!

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