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Basic Writing FAQ

Does Basic Writing fulfill the General Education writing requirement?
No. The only course that fulfills the CW writing requirement is College Writing (ENGLWRIT 112). 

I received a letter saying that based on my performance on the Writing Placement Exam, I have to take Basic Writing (ENGLWRIT 111) before I can take College Writing (ENGLWRIT 112). What does this mean?
The essay you wrote for the Writing Placement Exam was read and evaluated by three trained essay scorers who have taught first-year writing at UMass Amherst. They determined that your essay had characteristics of essays written by students who have benefitted from an extra semester of writing instruction before taking College Writing. In practical terms, this means you have to pass Basic Writing before you can enroll in College Writing.

Can I take Basic Writing and still be in Commonwealth Honors College or a RAP?
Students in RAPs and Commonwealth Honors College do take Basic Writing. Contact your advisor if you have questions.

I got an A in English in high school. Why do I have to take Basic Writing?
Your high school English classes may have focused on different things than Basic Writing and College Writing do. For example, many high school English classes in the United States focus on reading and analyzing fiction, poems, and plays; Basic and College Writing focus on reading and writing non-fiction essays in a variety of academic genres. Many students – including students who took A.P. English courses or earned A’s in high school English – find that the expectations for writing at UMass Amherst are different from the expectations in their high schools. Basic Writing can help you become more familiar with writing here at UMass Amherst. If you have questions about your placement, contact

I’m not confident of my English skills. Is Basic Writing the right course for me?
Basic Writing can help you practice the kinds of reading and writing you’ll do in College Writing and at UMass Amherst more generally. Through the course, you’ll learn about the writing process, and you’ll have opportunities to reflect upon your strengths as a writer and to identify areas where you’d like to improve. You can expect to do a lot of reading and writing in the course, but there will also be time in class to discuss readings and to work on your writing.

If you are learning the English language, you might consider taking a course through the English as a Second Language (ESL) Program. The ESL Program offers for-credit courses in academic writing, speaking, grammar, and vocabulary. Some students find it helpful to take an ESL course before they take Basic Writing, and some students enroll in an ESL course while they take Basic or College Writing. You can contact the ESL Program at for more information.

I already took College Writing, but I still want to work on my writing. Can I take Basic Writing? 
Yes, but you may want to talk to your advisor first and see if other writing intensive courses (including your Junior Year Writing course) fit your schedule. Basic Writing is primarily designed for first-year students who haven’t taken College Writing yet. If you enjoyed the main activities in College Writing (drafting, revising, peer response, etc.) and you’re interested in the course topic, you’re welcome to take Basic Writing. If not, you may find that another writing intensive course would be a better fit for you.