The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Writing Placement

Incoming students complete a questionnaire that introduces them to practices they will use in first-year writing classes so that they can make an informed decision about which first-year writing class or classes they'd like to take. Based on this questionnaire, students can choose to take College Writing (ENGLWRIT 112) or a sequence of two courses—Writing, Identity, and Power (ENGLWRIT 111) and then College Writing (ENGLWRIT112)—to fulfill the University of Massachusetts Amherst College Writing (CW) requirement. The questionnaire takes about 45 minutes, and students have up to two hours to complete it. Students can access the questionnaire through OWL. (The questionnaire is called the Writing Placement Exam in OWL, and you may see that name in other places. You do not have to take an additional writing exam or test; UMass used to have students complete an essay exam, and some systems on campus still use the old name [Writing Placement Exam] for the new questionnaire.)

Who Needs to Complete the Questionnaire

If a student...

  • Scored a 4 or 5 on the AP English Language and Composition Exam OR
  • Has approved transfer credit fulfilling the CW General Education requirement OR
  • Took the SAT before March 2016 and scored 1460 or higher on the combined Critical Reading and Writing sections 

They should not take the Writing Placement questionnaire. They have fulfilled the CW General Education requirement. They do not have to take College Writing.

Everyone else must complete the Writing Placement questionnaire. (In response to COVID, some students who enrolled in Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 were able to enroll based on SAT/ACT scores. We are no longer using these scores for placement because we have a new placement tool that is shorter and helps prepare students for their writing classes. If you enrolled at UMass before Spring 2021 and want to sign up for Englwrit 112 based on your SAT/ACT scores, please contact writingplacement@umass.edu. All new students—including students whose first semester at UMass will be Fall 2021—should complete the placement questionnaire through OWL.) 

Writing Placement Access
The Writing Placement questionnaire is offered online along with the math and foreign language placement exams. To access the Writing Placement questionnaire, students need to log in to OWL, select Assignment List from the Course Home Page, and choose Writing Placement Exam. (The Writing Placement questionnaire is not an exam; this is an old name from when students used to have to take an essay exam before signing up for writing classes.) If you have problems accessing the questionnaire, you should submit a help request in OWL. If you can't log in to OWL, select Login Help.

Deadlines and Results

Students may take the Writing Placement questionnaire at any time, and they will receive a score in OWL when they finish. Students who score between 90 and 124 are encouraged (but not required) to start with Englwrit 111 before taking Englwrit 112. Students who score between 125 and 180 are encouraged to consider taking Englwrit 112 only. 

Technical questions about the exam should be submitted as help requests through OWL. If you cannot login to OWL, select Login Help.

For more information about writing placement at UMass Amherst, please contact writingplacement@umass.edu.