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The Writing Proficiency Exam


  • General InformationThe Writing Proficiency Examination is designed to assess your writing ability. Read carefully “The Principles of Effective Writing” (below). This information should serve as both a checklist and a reminder for you: the effort you are making today is very similar to writing an essay in freshman English. That is, you simply need to say SOMETHING, to DEVELOP and ORGANIZE your ideas, and to meet MINIMUM STANDARDS OF CORRECTNESS. So, relax; take a bit of time to think through the topic you select, prepare the outline, write the theme, and proofread carefully. Work closely with your chosen topic. Your theme should be a clear response to it.The readers of your paper will use these “Principles …” as a scale for evaluation, but they will also remember that they are reading student writing that has not been polished. They will, however, expect you to be satisfied with nothing less than your BEST effort.


    To submit your theme, write your student number on the scale and fold it around your paper. The results of your WPE (credit or no credit) will be posted on line and on the bulletin board in Ward Hall in about three weeks. This amount of time is required for the faculty to read all of the papers twice; some papers receive three readings.

  • Instructions
    • Write only on regular, loose-leaf notebook paper.
    • Use only blue or black ink. Do not use a felt-tip pen.
    • Write on only one side of the paper and follow acceptable manuscript form. Spend your time revising the paper, not recopying it.
    • Make sure you write legibly.
    • Write your student number on each sheet of paper. DO NOT WRITE YOUR NAME ON ANY PART OF THE PAPER.
    • You are free to use a dictionary, thesaurus, and / or grammar handbook.
    • When you have completed the theme, fold the paper vertically; write your student number on the outside.
    • As you leave, hand your paper and theme topics to the person in charge. Do not leave until your name has been checked.
  • Assignment: Select your subject from the topics listed on the sheet given you. You are to write one six-hundred word theme.


  • Assessment: The criteria below are listed in an order of descending importance: readers will mark particularly strong aspects with a plus (+) and particularly weak aspects with a minus (-). Your essay will be graded on a credit / no credit basis.
    • Purpose, Audience, and Thesis
      • Addresses an assigned topic with intelligence and maturity
      • Has a specific audience’s interests and questions in mind
      • Has a clear, purposeful thesis
    • Paragraph Level
      • Has paragraphs that reflect the stages of a logical and unified argument
      • Thoroughly develops topic sentences with specific, unified, and convincing support (detail)
      • Has effective organization within paragraphs
    • Sentence Level: Organization and Development
      • Has well-constructed sentences
      • Uses effectively varied sentences
      • Avoids serious grammatical errors (run-ons, fragments, comma splices, and agreement problems)
      • Contains precise and vivid word choices
    • Editing
      • Is accurately and effectively punctuated
      • Avoids misspellings and a distracting number of minor errors

If you have any questions about the Writing Proficiency Examination, please contact Bill Hays.



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