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.