Entry Level Writing Requirement


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The Requirement

ALL STUDENTS who will enter the University of California as freshmen must demonstrate their command of the English language by fulfilling the Entry Level Writing Requirement (formerly known as Subject A requirement).

Students can meet this requirement by scoring:

  • 30 or better on the ACT Combined English/Writing test; or
  • 680 or better on the College Board SAT Reasoning Test, Writing section; or
  • 3 or above on either Advanced Placement Examination in English; or
  • 5 or above on an International Baccalaureate Higher Level English A: Literature exam (formerly known as Higher Level English A1 exam)
  • 6 or above on an International Baccalaureate Standard Level English A: Literature exam (formerly known as Standard Level English A1 exam)
  • 5 or above on an International Baccalaureate Higher Level English A: Language and Literature exam
  • 6 or above on an International Baccalaureate Standard Level English A: Language and Literature exam

The requirement can also be met by earning a grade of C or higher in an acceptable English composition course offered by a college or university.

Analytical Writing Placement Examination

All incoming California students who have not met the Entry Level Writing Requirement by April 1, must take the UC Analytical Writing Placement Examination. The exam will be administered the morning of the second Saturday in May, at testing centers throughout the state.

In early April, students will receive a letter directing them to the test center at which they must take the test.

In mid-June, students can log in to their campus's admission website to check whether or not they have passed the exam. Results of the exam will not affect a student’s admission to the University. Those who do not pass the examination can still satisfy the Entry Level Writing Requirement before enrolling in the university by achieving a satisfactory score on one of the tests listed above or by completing an acceptable college course in English composition with a grade of C or better.

Students who have not satisfied the Entry Level Writing Requirement at the time they enroll in their classes must take a writing course designated by their campus.

The Universitywide Requirement and Examination: Its Place in the University Curriculum

More than a century ago, the University of California first defined the competence designated as Subject A (now Analytical Writing Placement Examination). In the list of admissions requirements in the 1897-98 "Register," Subject A, (then called "Oral and Written Expression") was defined as the ability to use English "correctly, clearly, and pertinently on all the lines upon which . . . thought is exercised."

From the university's earliest days, competence in Subject A was understood to be the result of regular reading and writing assignments in all subjects, not just in English. In 1919, satisfaction of the Subject A requirement was changed from an admissions requirement to a prerequisite for enrollment in many courses that require substantial writing, including courses in freshman composition. University of California composition courses are designed to help students write effectively in other university courses and later in their professional lives.

University writing demands the ability to read carefully, to analyze what is read, and to draw conclusions about those data for both general and expert audiences. As a result, freshman composition courses at the university require students to read and understand extended and often difficult texts, sometimes literary but often not, and to write substantial essays -- usually longer than 1,000 words -- about issues raised in those texts. Freshman composition courses focus on helping students develop the command of argumentative strategies and the control of voice that will enable them to present their ideas cogently and persuasively.

Analytical Writing Placement Examination: Design and Expectations

The Analytical Writing Placement Examination provides students with a prose passage of some 700 to 1,000 words. This passage concerns an issue accessible to all freshmen, although it may include some perspectives or information that will be new to them. The passage is of the level of difficulty encountered in beginning university courses, and may be drawn from any of a number of disciplines. Frequently it presents a point of view with which there can clearly be disagreement — a viewpoint, that is, about a truly arguable issue.

After reading the passage, students write an essay responding to a single topic based on the passage's content. The topic is one of two general kinds: one focusing almost exclusively on the reading passage itself, and the other encouraging students to draw upon their knowledge and personal experience.

The first kind of topic requires students to analyze the passage in one of several ways — for example, by considering its treatment of a key concept, by comparing its use of a key term to another definition or perspective, or by arguing for or against a particular point of view about its contents. This kind of topic does not require any specific information beyond that provided in the reading passage and the topics themselves, though of course it requires students to use their own ideas in formulating their responses.

The second kind of topic encourages students to draw on knowledge and experience from outside the reading passage. It asks students to explain the passage's thought on an important point and to respond to that thought by evaluating it in light of their own experience or observation, by comparing it with their own reading, or by testing the writer's assumptions against their own.

Both kinds of topics ask students to read thoughtfully and to provide reasoned, concrete, and developed presentations of their points of view, not unsubstantiated statements of agreement or disagreement. Passing essays may substantiate their points of view by any means appropriate to the task, but must demonstrate their writers' understanding of the passage, maintain their focus on the task assigned, and lead readers to understand their points of view, if not to accept them. They must also demonstrate their writers' ability to control a range of vocabulary appropriate for beginning college students, to manage varied syntax accurately and appropriately, and to observe the conventions of standard written English.

Administration and Grading of the Analytical Writing Placement Examination

The Analytical Writing Placement Examination is administered the morning of the second Saturday in May at test centers throughout California. Each year more than 16,000 students write the exam.

Exam essays are evaluated in early June. Most of the readers are faculty members drawn from the English departments, writing programs, and ESL programs on all nine University of California general undergraduate campuses. To encourage university faculty communication about student writing with their colleagues in other parts of California's educational system, about 20 percent of the readers are high school and community college teachers recommended by Writing Projects on university campuses.

Each essay is scored independently by two readers, who measure it against the scoring guide. Papers whose scores are two points apart are read a third time, as are those scored 3/4. Papers whose composite scores are 8 and higher satisfy the Entry Level Writing requirement; papers whose composite scores are 6 and below do not.