Writing Proficiency Exam (WPE)
2013-2014 WPE Dates
- Fall 2013: Saturday, October 5th, at 9:10 a.m.
- Winter 2014: Saturday, January 25th, at 9:10am
- Spring 2014: Saturday, April 5th, at 9:10am - This is the first Saturday of the Spring quarter. REGISTER EARLY to avoid long lines at the Cashiers window.
- Fall 2013: September 5th - October 3rd
- Winter 2014: January 2nd - Janurary 23rd
- Spring 2014: March 6th - April 3rd
Pay the $35.00 registration fee, cash or check only, at the Cashier’s Office in the Administration Building. The Cashiers Office is open M-F 9:00am-4:00pm.
WPE workshops are scheduled before each exam. Verify dates, times and locations on the reverse side of the WPE space reservation form.
Note: There is no scheduled exam at the end of each quarter. Please contact the Writing Skills Program regarding polices for off-campus Writing Proficiency Exams for students who have left the Cal Poly area before completing their GWR.
The WPE is one of two ways to meet the GWR. The WPE is a two hour expository (“giving and explaining information”) essay that tests your ability to organize and develop ideas, make and support generalizations, and use language at the level expected of and appropriate for a college graduate. The WPE asks you to respond to a specific topic based on a short reading, usually by agreeing or disagreeing with the author's position. WPE essays are expected to be 500 - 800 words (3-5 pages in length).
- When should I take the WPE?
- When is the WPE offered?
- How do I sign up for the WPE and how much does it cost?
- What are the deadlines for the WPE sign-ups?
- Once I pay the fee, may I get a refund?
- May students with disabilities request accommodations for the WPE?
- What if I'm a Multi-lingual or ESL student?
- May I have extra time to take the WPE?
- What do I need to bring on exam day?
- What will the exam be like?
- What type of topic may I expect to write on?
- What resources are available for WPE preparation?
- How will I find out if I passed?
- How will my exam be graded and by whom?
- What happens if I do not pass the WPE?
- Can I retake the WPE if I fail?
- May I have a copy of my exam?
Taking the WPE Answers
When should I take the WPE?
Undergraduate students are eligible to take the WPE after completing 90 units of course work, usually during their junior year. It is best to take the exam immediately after completing 90 units of course work. Graduate students should take it during their first quarter of residency and must meet this requirement before applying for candidacy within the Master’s Program.
How do I sign up for the WPE and how much does it cost?
Make your space reservations by signing up at the Cashier's Office in the Administration Building. The $35 fee may be paid there. The deadline for signing up for the WPE is generally one week before the exam is given. It is best to reserve a seat for the WPE as soon as possible. The cashier will give you information about the exam and the workshops that will help you prepare accordingly.
What are the deadlines for the WPE sign-ups?
The deadline for WPE sign-ups is one week before the test. Spaces are guaranteed for everyone who pays by the deadline. However, if you sign up late, your spot for the test will be based on available space.
Once I pay the fee, may I get a refund?
You will receive a full refund only if you request one before the deadline to sign up - the Friday of the second week of the quarter. Between the sign up deadline and the administration of the test you will receive a partial refund. If for some reason you miss the administration of the WPE, half the fee will be refunded.
May students with disabilities request accommodations for the WPE?
Yes. Students who have been authorized to receive alternate testing accommodations through the Disability Resource Center (DRC) should first pay the $35 exam fee at the University Cashier's Office, then take a copy of their VISA (Verified Instructional Services & Accommodations) to the University Writing and Rhetoric Center Office , Building 10, Room 130, to request alternate accommodations for the WPE. Requests for accommodations must be submitted by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, one week before the scheduled exam. Late requests will not be honored.
What if I'm a Multi-lingual/ESL student?
All students must take the WPE initially. However, if you are unable to pass the exam because of second language interference, and a WPE counselor verifies that, you may be able to receive more time on your next attempt.
May I have extra time to take the WPE?
Some students, such as a multi-lingual/ESL speakers or someone registered with the Disability Resource Center (DRC), may need extra time to write a 500-word essay. Arrangements must be made with Writing Skills.
- One black pen
- Your Cal Poly ID
- Another signed photo ID, usually your driver's license
- Your WPE receipt
You may not bring any sort of aids with you (dictionary, grammar book, etc.). All paper for notes and outlining will be provided at the time of the exam. You will receive an exam booklet.
WPE Preparation Answers
What will the exam be like?
The WPE contains a reading passage of 350-500 words, along with a question for you to consider. Generally, you will be asked to summarize the passage, consider its argument and respond to it, taking into consideration opposing viewpoints. The WPE will draw upon your background as an upper-division student, your life experience, and your knowledge. You do not need to learn any new information to respond to the topic; however, you should be aware of general and news-worthy events. You will have two hours to plan your essay and answer the question. All students receive the same topic; off-topic essays receive no credit.
What type of topic may I expect to write on?
WPE reading passages highlight general topics, often essays from the LA TIMES, the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, etc. They cover current societal problems of some complexity, asking you to argue a position, to persuade the readers to appreciate your analysis of a problem, perhaps to give a solution. Pleae read the sample topics below.
- Sample topic 1: "Make Election Day a National Holiday"
- Sample topic 2: “Why It's Time To Legalize Steroids In Professional Sports”
- Sample topic 3: “A Grace of Silence”
What resources are available for WPE preparation?
Please visit our WPE Preparation Resources page.
Exam Scoring Answers
How will I find out if I passed?
Your score will appear on Poly Profile, under "Milestones Completed", about three weeks after the exam. Students who completed a self-addressed envelope will also receive their results at that time. A score of eight or higher is passing.
How will my exam be graded and by whom?
Two faculty readers score your test on a scale from six (highest) to one (lowest). These scores are then combined. A total score of 8 or more reflects the two readers' agreement that the essay is passing. A score of 6 or less reflects the readers' decision that an essay does not pass. If the test has a pass-fail split (a 4 and a 3), the exam is reviewed carefully by a third reader, and his or her decision determines the final passing or failing score.
The exams are read holistically: the score is based on the total impression the essay conveys through its organization, development, and expression. Readers do not mark on the exams. Readers will follow the WPE Scoring Guide.
Readers are chosen from all disciplines at Cal Poly and are trained specifically for these reading sessions. During the scoring session, the previous score is never seen by the second reader. The scores are totaled by the University Writing and Rhetoric Center Office
For more information, see the WPE Scoring Guide.
What happens if I do not pass the WPE?
Appointments for a free ½ hour, private counseling session are available through the University Writing and Rhetoric Center. Phone appointments are available for students no longer attending Cal Poly AND living outside the San Luis Obispo area. A writing counselor will review your essay with you and help you to understand your writing strengths and weaknesses. In addition, the counselor may explain several strategies to help you improve your writing skills in order to fulfill the GWR. Please take this opportunity to discuss your writing.
If students fail the exam twice, they are eligible for English 115. In this course, students have a number of opportunities to practice argumentative writing, to work on reading comprehension skills and to hone their grammar and punctuation skills. English 115 is a four-unit CR/NC course. To fulfill the GWR in this course, students must receive a CR. Student GWR milestones are updated to COMPLETED after the final grades are posted. Contact the Writing Skills Office for a permission number to register.
Can I retake the WPE if I fail?
Yes, you can. In case you have a bad writing day or the topic stumps you, you will have many other opportunities to pass the exam. Students can take the WPE as many times as necessary to receive a passing score. There is a $35 fee for each exam.