The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Upper Division Writing Proficiency Exam gets a facelift

All CSUN students must take the Upper Division Writing Proficiency Exam in order to graduate. Students are eligible to take the exam after completing a total of 56 semester units and after completing the lower-division writing requirement.

Last year, the format of the UDWPE was changed after an assessment of the previous exam was made by the Chancellor’s Office. CSUN’s UPWPE Coordinator Dr. Pamela Bourgeois said it was determined that the exam was similar to an entrance level exam.

“A sample of the (new) exam was given out last spring to students, and most liked the new prompt better,” Bourgeois said. “(Students) liked this one because they don’t have to make things up; they only have to construct an argument.”

In the past, students were given a question, which prompted them to write an essay consisting of an introduction with a clearly stated thesis statement, three body paragraphs and a conclusion about a certain subject.

“(Students will) look at an article and argue the point based on the article,” Bourgeois said.

Students will now be expected to read a short text, an article or journal up to one page long, about a current topic of interest. They will be asked to briefly identify the main points of the text and argue the extent to which they agree or disagree. Students will also be asked to support their position with reasons and examples from their own reading, observations, and experience.

The sample exam given last spring was “The Debt Debate,” adapted from an article focused on credit card debt in middle class families. Students were asked to identify the arguments presented, explain whether or not they think credit card debt is a problem in America, and to defend their position.

In addition to changing the format of the exam, 15 minutes has been added so students can read the article or journal that will prompt the direction of their essay.

“My question was to describe an invention that helped change the world. I kept thinking, what am I going to write about, and I decided to write about asthma medication because my grandmother died of an asthma attack,” said health administration major Akia Wilburn, who took the exam before any changes were made.

Wilburn, a senior, passed the exam with a score of eight.

Each essay is read and evaluated by at least two faculty members. Each reader scores an essay on a scale of zero to six. The two scores are then combined. Twelve is the highest possible total score. A score of eight or above is considered passing.

“The current pass rate is between 80-85 percent,” Bourgeois said. “The passing rate crept up with the older test and we consider the new test to be more difficult.”

Bourgeois said faculty is recruited from across the campus, and professors who grade the exam are not all English professors.

There are free workshops available to help students prepare for the exam in the Learning Resource Center located in Bayramian Hall Room 408. In the workshops, students take a sample exam and receive a score the same day.

Samples of passing exams are available so students can see what the university considers a passing essay. Students can also make appointments to meet with a writing consultant by calling (818) 677- 2033.

“If a student fails the exam then they have to take English 90, which prepares them to retake the test,” Bourgeois said.

The registration deadline for the March 3 exam is quickly approaching. The deadline is Feb. 23, and registration must be made in person at the cashier window in Bayramian Hall’s first floor. Students must fill out the registration card and pay a $20 fee.

If a student misses the scheduled exam date, they have to re-register for the next available date, and pay another $20 fee. If students are unable to make it to that exam, there are two more dates this semester: April 21, with an April 13 deadline, and June 2, with a May 25 deadline.

Bourgeois said the reason there is a fee for the exam is because the test is not funded by the university.

“The (tests) have to be developed, we have to pay the readers, the proctors, the workshops and the consultants who prepare the students,” Bourgeois said.

The UDWPE has been required at CSUN for 25 years.

“It is an exciting thing to reawaken the campus (to) writing essays,” Bourgeois said.

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