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Frequently Asked Questions

Students are subject to completion of TWO writing requirements before graduation:

  1. The LOWER DIVISION WRITING REQUIREMENT is satisfied by completion of first year composition.
  2. The UPPER DIVISION WRITING REQUIREMENT is satisfied by passing the Upper Division Writing Proficiency Exam.

Students are NOT eligible to take the Upper Division Writing Proficiency Exam until they have completed the Lower Division Writing Requirement AND completed at least 56 units, thereby attaining Upper Division student status. 

All students must pass the WPE to graduate.

If you have failed the WPE, contact the Learning Resource Center for a consultation appointment (818) 677-2033. Graduating seniors who have not yet passed the WPE should contact Admissions and Records (818) 677-3700 regarding graduation holds.

1. Who has to take the test?

All students who plan to graduate from CSUN, including students seeking a second undergraduate degree, must take the exam. A student is eligible to take the test any time after completion of BOTH 56 semester units AND the lower division writing requirement (freshman composition).

Students must pass the WPE at the campus where they are enrolled; however, if you satisfied the GWAR at another CSU campus and have since transferred to CSUN to complete your undergraduate degree, we will accept an official verification of your passing score from that campus. Please check with Admissions and Records to ensure that your records reflect completion of the requirement well in advance of filing for graduation.

2. Do graduate students have to take the test?

This depends on which program you are in. Many graduate students must pass the WPE in order to attain classified status (unless they have passed it previously as undergraduates); usually, they must do so during their first semester of residency. Please check with your department for specific requirements.

3. What is the test like?

Students are allowed 120 minutes to read a text and write an essay which responds to the topic and evaluates whether the reading's conclusions are supported by the evidence. The essay must also include an assessment of the quantitative evidence given in the article, and explain whether or not further information is needed. Finally, the essay must discuss what research strategies you would use to find additional sources of information to evaluate the claims in the text. 

4. Can I fulfill the requirement by passing a course instead of taking a test?


5. When and where is the test given?

The paper-based UDWPE will be given seven times during the 2018-19 academic year. A limited number of computer-based UDWPE test sessions will be offered (please see Question #19 for more information). Registration closes when capacity has been reached. Students will register and pay for the exam online, and when finished, they will print their Admission Ticket which will give them important information regarding when and where to report for the test. You must print and bring this Admission Ticket with you on the day of the exam. Check Important Dates for this year’s schedule.

Please be aware that identification is required for admission to the test:
In order to be admitted to the test, you must have a valid Admission Ticket for the test date and time and two types of acceptable ID. First, all test takers must have one current, valid (not expired) government-issued ID containing a recent and recognizable photo and signature. The first and last name on the ID must match exactly the name on Admission Ticket (no exceptions will be allowed). The second type can be a CSUN school ID. If you do not have acceptable ID, you will not be permitted to take the test.

6. How do I register for the test?

You must register online. Please follow the links for the UDWPE at www.csun.edu/testing/reg. Have your CSUN user ID, password, campus email address, and a VISA/Mastercard or checking account number ready as you will be asked to pay a $20.00 fee before completing your online registration. You will print your own Test Admission Ticket after registration: click on "Admission Ticket." You must bring this on the day of the exam to be admitted.

If you miss the WPE for which you registered, the fee cannot be rolled over to another exam date. You will have to re-register and pay another $20. 

7. When should I take the test?

As soon as you have earned 56 units and fulfilled the lower division writing requirement - and certainly before you have earned 75 units. If the test reveals that your writing does not satisfy college standards, you will have ample time to improve your writing skills.

You must pass this examination to graduate.

Graduate students should take the test during the first semester of residency. You must pass this examination to achieve classified status.

8. How can I prepare for the test?

Because this test measures a skill that takes time to develop, there is no quick and easy way to prepare for it. The best preparation is to have done a considerable amount of reading and writing, and to have taken writing seriously throughout your high school and college career. For students uncertain of their writing skills, CSUN provides several writing courses, as well as a number of tutorial services and writing workshops. (These courses, labs, and workshops are listed below under Question 16.)

9. Why do I have to pay to take this test?

Although the Trustees mandated the demonstration of writing proficiency as a graduation requirement, they provided no funds in the budget for this purpose. The campus was left with no choice but to make the test self-supporting. The fee represents the per-essay cost of conducting the testing program, and, consequently, it must be charged each time a student takes the test.

10. Are special provisions made for students who are non-native speakers of English?

Non-native speakers of English will be scored on the same basis as native speakers using the same rubric. While some provision is made for minor variances in syntax and usage, faculty readers apply the same standards with respect to the major considerations of purpose, critical thinking, logic, and development.

11. Are special provisions made for students with disabilities?

Yes. In some cases the test is given to students with disabilities by individual appointment. Please call Disability Resources and Educational Services at (818) 677-2684. 

12. How do I find my score?

Go to www.csun.edu

  1. Go to www.csun.edu and log into the Portal
  2. From the Homepage, click on the "Academics" tab.
  3. Scroll down to the box on the left side of the page - "Tools for Academic Success"
  4. In the right column of red circle buttons, click on "Check Test Scores"
  • Scores are available through SOLAR within 3 weeks of the testing date.
  • Scores are not provided over the phone or via email.
  • Each essay is read and evaluated by at least two faculty members in a carefully planned and supervised reading. Each reader scores an essay on a scale of 1 to 6, and the two scores are combined. 12 is the highest possible total score. A score of 8 or above is passing.

13. Can I take the test twice on the same day?

No. This violates the 120 minute time limit. If a student takes the test twice on the same day, neither test will be scored, you will not be given for attempting the exam, and the exam will have to be taken again. 

14. If I do not pass, can I take the test again?

Yes. However, if you fail the test, we urge you to make an appointment with a writing consultant at the Learning Resource Center. See the next question for more information.

15. If I do not pass the test, can I talk to someone about my essay?

Yes. After each test administration, you may seek an individual consultation with an experienced writing consultant in the Learning Resource Center. To make an appointment call (818) 677-2033. This service is offered at no cost to students. Consultations may be available on a limited basis during the summer (from June through August) and over winter break.

16. Where can I get help with my writing?

Individual consultations and writing workshops are available at the following places:

  • Learning Resource Center (677-2033) Oviatt Library, 3rd Floor, Suite 300 
  • Chicano Studies Tutorial (677-7881) JR 148 
  • Pan-African Studies Writing Center (677-2084) SH 273 

English 090 is especially recommended for students who have failed the test two or more times, and it is offered each term, including summer. This course is designed for those students who need intensive writing instruction.

Other departments throughout the University offer writing courses. Contact the individual departments.

17. If, after counseling, I believe that my essay was wrongly scored and I should have passed the test, is there an appeal procedure?

Yes. The consultant will explain the appeal procedure to you.

18. How do I get a registration hold released?

The WPE office does not place or remove registration holds; you should contact your major department. If you need to apply for more time to complete the WPE requirement, you can submit a request to the Office of Undergraduate Studies (click link). Any further questions about that process should be directed to that office at 818.677.2969.

19. What are the differences between the computer-based UDWPE and the handwritten UDWPE?

During the computer-based UDWPE, your essay topic will be displayed on the computer screen and your response will be typed on the computer. Starting with the September 2019 computer-based UDWPE, proctors will provide students with:

  • a hard copy of the essay topic;
  • one page of scratch paper for notes and/or an outline;
  • earplugs, upon request (test takers will not be allowed to bring their own earplugs).

As in the written exam, you are allowed 120 minutes to write an extemporaneous essay on the assigned topic. Spell/grammar check will NOT be available during the computer-based exam and you will not have access to the internet.

IMPORTANT: You must have your CSUN username/ID and password to take the computer-based UDWPE. We suggest that you double-check your CSUN username and password at least 2 days before taking the exam.

Please contact the LRC Testing Lab directly if you have questions regarding the computer-based UDWPE. You may contact them at (818) 677-7019.

20. How can I get my WPE score sent to my new university?

If you took and passed the WPE at CSUN and have since transferred to another CSU to complete your undergraduate degree or to get a master's degree, and you need verification of your score sent to your new school, please send an email to the UDWPE office at (please, do not call). Please include your CSUN ID#, your current mailing address, and a scanned copy of your driver's license. We will check your records and send the verification to you at home; when you receive it, deliver it UNOPENED to the proper department at your new institution.