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Writing Placement Exam

The Writing Placement Exam determines the path students will take to fulfill the University of Massachusetts Amherst College Writing (CW) requirement. Based on this exam, students will either take College Writing (ENGLWRIT 112) or a sequence of two courses — Writing, Identity, and Power (ENGLWRIT 111) and College Writing (ENGLWRIT112) – to fulfill the CW requirement. Some students may be invited to apply for a waiver of the CW requirement based on their performance on this exam, and some students may also be eligible for an exemption from the CW requirement based on standardized test scores. Students can access the exam through OWL

About the Exam
The Writing Placement Exam involves choosing between two topics, reading the three articles provided, writing an essay (typical length: 700-1,000 words), and answering a short reflection question (typical length: 250 words). Students have 72 hours from the time they start the exam in OWL to submit their work.

Who Needs to Take the Exam

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 Exam. They have fulfilled the CW General Education requirement. They do not have to take College Writing.

If a student...

  • Took the SAT in March 2016 or later and scored 620 or higher in the Evidence of Critical Reading and Writing section OR
  • Scored 25 or higher on the ACT English section

They do not have to take the Writing Placement Exam. They need to take College Writing to fulfill the CW requirement, but they can sign up for the class without taking the Writing Placement Exam. (They can choose to take the Writing Placement Exam if they want to be considered for a waiver from the CW requirement. Very few waivers are granted each year, and students should still plan to take College Writing. See FAQ for more information.) NEW STUDENTS WHO MEET THE SAT/ACT REQUIREMENTS AND HAVE SENT THEIR SCORES/TRANSCRIPTS TO UMASS DO NOT NEED TO TAKE ANY ADDITIONAL STEPS TO OPT OUT OF THE WRITING PLACEMENT EXAM. 

If a student... 

  • Scored below 620 on the SAT Evidence of Critical Reading and Writing section OR
  • Scored below 25 on the ACT English section (not the ACT Reading section)

They must take the Writing Placement Exam. They need to take College Writing to fulfill the CW requirement, and they need to take the Writing Placement Exam before they can sign up for a writing class. 

Exam Access
The Writing Placement Exam is offered online along with the math and foreign language placement exams. To access the Writing Placement Exam, students need to log in to OWL, select Assignment List from the Course Home Page, and choose Writing Placement Exam. Contact owl-it-help@it.umass.edu with any problems logging in or accessing the exam.

Deadlines and Results

Students may take the Writing Placement Exam at any time, but exams are only scored at set times throughout the year. For upcoming deadlines, please see Events.

The Writing Placement Exam is evaluated by trained UMass Amherst writing instructors who have experience teaching Writing Program courses. Placement results will be emailed to students at their official UMass Amherst accounts or the email provided to New Students Orientation. Please check both accounts, including spam folders.

Technical questions about the exam should be directed to owl-it-help@it.umass.edu.

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