GWAR Directive

wording: The Graduate Writing Assessment Requirement GWAR

CSU seal with wording -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 brief article about a current topic of interest which also includes some data in the form of graphs, charts, or statistics. They will be asked to evaluate the reading’s topic and conclusions and explain whether they believe those conclusions are supported by the evidence presented. The exam will also ask students to assess the quantitative evidence in the article, and discuss what research strategies they would use to find additional sources of information on the topic to evaluate the claims.

Though the scoring of the "new" UDWPE measures four core competencies, only one of them—Written Communication—will be used to determine whether or not a student has passed the exam.  The other measurements will provide data to drive improvements in student learning, but student scores on them will not affect whether they pass or fail the exam.

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) and during winter break on a limited basis.
  • The examination shall consist of an essay on an assigned topic evaluated by the faculty.
  • The criteria for evaluation shall include (1) demonstration of written communication skills; 2) evidence of critical thinking; 3) demonstration of quantitative literacy and information literacy skills; and 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 seven times within an academic year.
  • Registration is available at www.csun.edu/testing/reg.
  • 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.