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CSUN Upper Division Writing Proficiency Exam


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Phone: 818-677-3303
Fax: 818-677-3632

The Writing Proficiency Requirement

The Trustees of the California State University have directed that "all students entering the CSU System . . . be required to demonstrate their proficiency with regard to writing skills as a requirement for graduation."

The Trustees further specified that writing proficiency must be demonstrated after a student earns 56 semester units and that a lower division course, such as freshman composition, may not be used to fulfill the requirement. Within these constraints, each CSU campus determined the means to meet the requirement.

After careful consideration, the CSUN faculty decided that on this campus students would meet the requirement by writing an acceptable test essay. The faculty rejected two other methods for meeting the requirement: passing a short-answer test of editing skills (rejected because taking such a test differs markedly from composing and writing acceptable prose) and passing a writing course (rejected because instructors inevitably reward other aspects of a student's knowledge and behavior besides writing ability). The faculty agreed that writing a test essay would be the most direct, impartial, and reliable demonstration of a student's writing skills.

While the exam process used at CSUN more than meets the recommendations of the CSU Graduate Writing Assessment Requirement Review (GWAR), the committee recommends that "each campus should review GWAR writing prompts to ensure that they will elicit the skills expected of graduating students rather than the proficiencies of entering students." The task must enable students "to demonstrate the advanced writing skills of analysis, synthesis, and summarization." The GWAR committee believes the writing tasks in the GWAR assessment should address these competencies.

Students are expected to read a short text (up to one page) about a current topic of interest. They will be asked to briefly identify the main points of the text, and then argue the extent to which they agree or disagree. They will be asked to support their position with reasons and examples from their own reading, observations, and experience.

The University Catalog describes the CSUN Upper Division Writing Proficiency Requirement and the procedures by which it operates:

The University has implemented the Trustee Policy for a Writing Skills Graduation Requirement for all upper division students who will graduate Spring 1982 or thereafter in the following manner:

Students who have completed 56 units and have met the lower division writing requirement shall be required to take an essay examination.

  • Undergraduate students are encouraged to take the Writing Proficiency Examination (WPE) as early as possible after (a) above has been met, but must take the WPE no later than the semester in which 75 units are completed. Students who have not attempted the WPE by the completion of 75 units will have a hold placed on their subsequent class registration and may delay their graduation.
  • Students who fail shall be permitted to repeat the examination. Students are strongly urged to make an appointment with a writing consultant at the Learning Resource Center by calling (818) 677-2033. This service is offered at no cost to students. Consultations may be available during the summer (from June to August) on a limited basis.
  • The examination shall consist of an essay on an assigned topic evaluated by the faculty.
  • The criteria of evaluation shall include (1) a demonstration of analytic skills, (2) use of relevant evidence to support an argument, (3) effective organization, (4) use of standard English grammar, diction and mechanics.
  • Administrations of the examination will be announced in the Schedule of Classes as well as in other official University publications.
  • The examination will be scheduled at least five times within an academic year.
  • Registration cards are available at University Cash Services and at the Testing Office.
  • Certification of graduation writing competence shall be transferable from one CSU campus to another, but students must pass the WPE at the campus at which they are enrolled.
  • California State University, Northridge at 18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330 / Phone: 818-677-1200 / © 2006 CSU Northridge