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Writing Placement Assessment (WPA)

CSU Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR)


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the format of the WPA?
A: The format of the WPA focuses on your ability to read and analyze written arguments. It measures your ability to express yourself clearly, logically and specifically and to organize and develop your ideas well. In addition, it assesses your ability to write coherent paragraphs and appropriately structured sentences. Finally, it checks your mastery of punctuation, spelling, mechanics, capitalization and proofreading.

You will be given a short reading in the form of an argument and asked to write an essay that responds to a series of questions that relate directly to the reading selection. The questions you will be asked to address in the essay will focus specifically on analysis of the argument presented in the reading rather than a personal response. You will be asked to assess the argument's structure, to explain how the author uses rhetorical strategies to persuade an audience, and to evaluate (using evidence from the reading itself) how convincing the argument is. Extensive personal writing (your opinions, your experiences) will not be necessary or appropriate for this exam. You will be allotted two hours to complete the exam.

Q: How should I prepare for the WPA?
A: There is no preparation necessary. However, during the exam you should pay close attention to reading the selection, planning/organizing your response, writing your essay and reviewing and editing what you have written.

Reading--Make sure you give yourself ample time to read carefully the selection and the questions relating to the reading. It is important that you understand what you are being asked to do. Fifteen minutes is an appropriate amount of time for reading the selection.

Planning/Organizing--After you are sure you understand the reading and the questions, plan how you will structure your essay, making sure you have addressed all the points in the questions. Once you have created a tentative structure for your essay, you might reread the prompt questions to make sure you are on course. Although there is more than one appropriate response to most analytical questions, you need to focus very specifically on what each question asks you to provide. Ten to fifteen minutes is an approximate amount of time to plan.

Writing--Spend the bulk of the time actually writing your essay. If you have planned well, this should go smoothly. If you get "lost," look back to the questions to make sure you are addressing all the points. You must show from the beginning of your response that you have read the writing selection and that you are answering the questions. Papers that do not address the written argument and the specific questions will receive a score of zero.

Reviewing/Editing--It is important to save time, perhaps fifteen minutes at the end of the test period, to review and edit your work. Do this carefully. Try to "hear" what you have written; use your ears as well as your eyes to check your work.

Q: When do I take the WPA?
A: Continuing students must take the WPA during the semester in which they are completing 60 units or in the semester immediately following. Transfer students are eligible to take the WPA once they have received an offer of admission. They must take the examination by the end of their first semester at SDSU, but they are strongly encouraged to take it prior to enrollment at SDSU.

Q: How many times can I take the WPA?
Students are allowed to attempt the WPA twice within the time frames and restrictions described in the question above.

Q: What happens if I don't take the WPA during the required time frame?
Students who do not take the examination by the end of the required time frame will not be able to register for future terms.