Writing Competency Exam

  • The Writing Competency Exam (WCE) is part of the General Education requirements of St. Francis University. The exam is designed to “assess ability to write a clear, developed, and organized essay”. Passage of the exam is a requirement for graduation. 

    The WCE tests your ability to write a coherent, well-developed essay demonstrating critical thinking ability. Essays are evaluated according to a rubric that addresses the following criteria:

    • Do you present a strong thesis?
    • Do you completely answer the question?
    • Do you present relevant, detailed, and convincing support for your thesis?
    • Is your essay composed in logically-sequenced paragraphs?
    • Does your writing display an appropriate use of words, tone, sentence structure, correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation?

    Students are enrolled in the WCE (listed in Registration materials as "EXAM 301) during the first semester of their Junior year. Students who do not pass the WCE are automatically re-registered for the exam until they pass it or until they earn 96 credits, whichever comes first. Students who have earned 96 or more credits who have not passed the WCE (regardless of whether they have taken it or not) are no longer eligible to enroll in EXAM 301; instead, they are automatically enrolled in CORE 199, the Senior Intensive Writing Workshop. This course is a five-week, zero credit, intensive workshop designed to help prepare students to pass the WCE; students take the WCE at the end of the workshop, and receive a "P" for CORE 199 if they pass the WCE. For the purposes of the graduation requirements, a "P" in CORE 199 fulfills the WCE requirement (since, in order to pass CORE 199, a student must pass the WCE). The exam will be waived for students who pass ENG 199: Argumentative Writing with a C or better. For more information, consult the St. Francis University catalog.

    Each WCE presents writers with two prompts, of which students are to select one for their response. Each prompt consists of two passages (each about 500 words long) detailing opposite positions on a particular issue; the writer is required to consider the arguments presented in each passage, and take a position on the issue based on which side presents the most persuasive argument, and explain the reasoning behind the position taken. 

     All WCEs are scored by members of the faculty at St. Francis University. Faculty use a rubric developed by the staff of the Office of General Education and the Director of the Writing Center that reflects the criteria that have been established for judging the quality of exams. Copies of the rubric are available from the Office of General Education and the Writing Center.

    All exams are coded before they are given to the readers to ensure that they are anonymous. Any exam that receives a “Fail” in the first read is given to a second reader with a pack of exams that have not yet been scored, to ensure that readers are unaware of the first result. Exams that receive a split grade on the first and second read are given a third read. The grade of “Fail” is submitted only in cases where at least two faculty graders have determined that a student’s exam does not meet the basic standards for passing the WCE. The same process is followed for exams that are graded “High Pass.”

    Students who fail the WCE are encouraged to contact Dr. Brennan Thomas at the Writing Center to arrange an appointment to go over their exams and the graders' comments. Students who fail the WCE will be automatically enrolled in EXAM 301 for the following semester, unless they have earned 96 credits or more. Students who have earned 96 or more credits who have not passed the WCE (regardless of whether they have taken it or not) are no longer eligible to enroll in EXAM 301; instead, they are automatically enrolled in CORE 199, the Senior Intensive Writing Workshop.

    For more information, contact the Office of General Education, Scotus 213.