Writing Placement Exam

Writing Placement Exam

Certain students may be required to take the Writing Placement Exam to ensure that they are adequately prepared for the challenges of College Writing (L59 111-120), the University’s first-year writing requirement. Our sole objective in requiring this exam is to ensure that all students who take College Writing have the skills and support they need to do well in the class. 

The Exam

The Writing Placement Exam asks students to produce one essay in response to a short reading. Students will also complete a self-assessment form, on which they can provide some contextual information about their previous training in writing, strengths and weaknesses, etc. This timed exam is administered through Canvas via email invitation. Students will be notified of their placement within 14 business days of completing the exam. If students miss the online opportunity, the Writing Placement Exam will be administered on campus before classes start in the fall.

Placement

Before taking College Writing, some students may be required to take one or more preparatory courses. Students placed in preparatory courses must successfully complete those courses by earning a C- or better in successive semesters before they may take College Writing. To find out when these courses are offered, consult online course listings.

Please note: Students who are required to take the exam and who fail to do so will be automatically enrolled in the lowest preparatory course in the sequence and will not be allowed to attend College Writing on the first day of fall classes.

The resulting placement of this exam is not meant to disrupt your academic plans at Washington University. Instead, the placement measures your strengths in writing and figures your best sequence of writing courses to fulfill the University's first-year writing requirement. If you are dissatisfied with your writing placement after your online exam, you may retake the exam on campus.

person sitting on ledge, reading a book

Preparatory Writing Courses

L59 1001. Fundamentals of Academic Writing

This course is required of some students before they take College Writing (L59 111-120) (placement to be determined by the department). Students explore various aspects of the writing process, attending to matters of style and developing their skills of analysis and critique. They consider the choices writers make in relation to audience and purpose and examine the strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of various argumentative strategies. Particular attention is paid to reading comprehension, critical thinking, and organization of ideas. The course does not by itself satisfy the University Writing Requirement, and must be taken for a letter grade. Credit 3 units.

L59 199. Language Support for English Composition

This section is a one-credit, small group writing tutorial for undergraduate students enrolled in Fundamentals of Academic Writing (L59 1001).

L59 1511. Critical Reading and Analytical Writing

This course focuses on developing the reading and writing skills needed to excel at the college level. Students apply principles of logical argumentation in order to critically read argumentative writing. They then develop analytical essays in response to these arguments. Students write four main papers of two drafts apiece. At the same time, the course addresses the clarity and accuracy of students' written English through ample written feedback, occasional lessons devoted to language issues common among course participants, and occasional individual tutorial meetings. To ensure that all students achieve strong reading and writing skills, the University requires undergraduate students to pass L59 CWP 1511 with a C- or better. Students who receive a D+ or lower are required to retake the course and earn a C- or better before advancing to the next course in the sequence. Credit 3 units.

Taking the Placement Exam

This timed exam is administered through Canvas via email invitation. The exam opens June 1st and closes August 4th. Students will be notified of their placement within 14 business days of completing the exam.

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. After logging into Canvas, using your WUSTL key and password (Chrome or Firefox web browsers recommended), select the course titled Writing Placement under your Dashboard. The following module will appear:

2. Please note that you must complete the steps of the Writing Placement in order. Click on Academic Integrity Statement to begin.

3. Select Take the Quiz to complete the Academic Integrity Agreement. You will have three attempts to answer the Academic Integrity questions correctly. In this section, you may also save your answers and return to the survey later. You cannot proceed to the Writing Placement Exam until you answer every question correctly. When you’ve completed the Statement, select Submit Quiz, then Next.

4. The next section is the Writing Placement Exam. Please note that once you select Take the Quiz you have one, uninterrupted attempt (2:15) to respond to the prompt. If you close the browser or log out of Canvas, the attempt will be submitted and you may not return to, revise, or resubmit your response.

5. After you select Take the Quiz, your essay question will appear. Select the hyperlink to the article that Question 1 asks you to read. Please note: When you select the title of the article (appearing in red) a pop-up box will notify you: “You’re about to navigate away from this page. Continue anyway?” Select OK, and a PDF of the article will download to your computer.

6. As you take the exam, Canvas will auto-save your response. Be sure to type directly into the text box, and do not select Submit Quiz until you are finished. Again, if you close the browser or log out of Canvas, the attempt will be submitted and you may not return to, revise, or resubmit your response. After submitting the quiz select Next.

7. The Self-Assessment survey is the last step and helps us evaluate your writing sample by providing to us a summary of your background and experience. Select Take the Survey and answer each question. You may review your answers when you are finished. Once you have completed the Self-Assessment, select Submit Quiz, and your exam is complete. You may log out of Canvas.

If you attempt the exam and submit by Friday of any week during the submission period, you will be notified via email of your placement within 14 business days. Only then, and after your advisor's approval, can you enroll in College Writing (L59 111-120), Language Support for English Composition (L59 199), Fundamentals of Academic Writing (L59 1001), or Critical Reading and Analytical Writing (L59 1511).

Writing Placement Exam FAQs

Why didn't I receive an email about the placement exam?

Not all incoming students are required to complete the Writing Placement Exam. We send multiple emails and reminders to students who are required to take the exam, so you'll know if it's required of you. If you are not required to complete the placement exam, you're approved to enroll in College Writing.

How do I complete the Writing Placement Exam?

If you're required to complete the exam, you'll be able to access it through Canvas. Full instructions can be found on the Writing Placement Exam page.

Can I submit a writing sample instead of taking the placement exam?

No. Unfortunately we don't evaluate student writing from high school or prior experience to determine writing course placement. The best determiner will be the Writing Placement Exam.

I took AP English, shouldn't that place me in College Writing?

No. While we appreciate that you successfully completed the AP exam, unfortunately we don't offer exemptions based on AP scores. Taking the exam will ensure your proper writing course placement.

I have a high ACT/SAT Writing score, why do I have to take the exam?

Please contact the College Writing Program at collegewriting@wustl.edu.

My exam submitted before I was finished writing, what do I do?

Please contact the College Writing Program at collegewriting@wustl.edu.

How do I know which writing class I should enroll in?

You will be notified via email of your placement within 14 business days of completing the Writing Placement Exam. If you are not required to complete the placement exam, you're approved to enroll in College Writing.

How do I receive disability-related accommodations for the placement exam?

Students seeking disability-related accommodations for this exam need to contact Disability Resources in advance.

Will the Writing Placement Exam interfere with Orientation?

No. The placement exam should be completed online during the summer prior to arriving on campus. If you need to attend the on-campus exam in August, we assure you it will not conflict with other examinations or events. Should you be scheduled to move into the residence halls during this time, please contact Residential Life to make other arrangements.

What if I don't agree with my writing course placement?

If you take the exam online over the summer, you may retake the exam on campus before classes begin. If you take only the on-campus exam, your instructor will administer a writing diagnostic in the first week of classes to ensure proper course placement. You are always welcome to discuss your placement with your instructor or College Writing Program administration.

I'm in engineering. Why am I receiving different information about the exam?

Engineering students take a different exam than students in the other schools and should contact the McKelvey School of Engineering about their English Proficiency Requirement.

How was it determined that I needed to take the placement exam?

Students who may benefit from preparatory course work before enrolling in College Writing are required to take the Writing Placement Exam. These individuals are identified from standardized test scores, English language status, recommendations from a program or academic advisor, etc. The resulting placement of this exam is not meant to disrupt your academic plans at Washington University. Instead, the placement measures your strengths in writing and figures your best sequence of writing courses to fulfill the University's first-year writing requirement.

My exam submitted before I could copy my writing over from Word, etc. What now?

It's recommended that stduents type their response directly into the text box. As you take the exam, Canvas will auto-save your response. If your exam submitted without any text because you were writing your response in another program, please contact the College Writing Program at collegewriting@wustl.edu.

How do I fix the formatting of my writing I copied over from Word, etc.?

It's recommended that stduents type their response directly into the text box to avoid formatting issues. In making placement decisions, we consider grammar, punctuation, word choice, sentence structure, and paragraphing. We also look for: clarity and development of ideas; statement of argumentative purpose; structure and organization; coherence; the ability to support claims by providing evidence from a text; the ability to analyze / comment on the significance of that evidence; and the integration of source material into your own writing. Minor formatting issues will not be counted against you.

What do I do if I have trouble accessing the exam outside of the United States?

We understand that Canvas may not be fully accessible in some countries. You can wait to take the exam when you're on campus before classes begin.