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Writing Placement FAQ

What do the scores mean?

Students who score between 90 and 124 are encouraged (but not required) to take Englwrit 111 before Englwrit 112. Students who score between 125 and 180 are encouraged to take Englwrit 112 only. That being said, if you feel strongly that one course or the other would better support your growth as a writer, you should take that course. A score below 90 means your exam is incomplete or there was a technical issue. Contact writingplacement@umass.edu for help.

I have AP scores or transfer credits and don't have to do writing placement, but OWL still says it is required. What should I do? 

The assignment list for placement testing in OWL is not customized for individual students. It lists writing placement as required because it is required for most students. If you are exempt, you can ignore what it says in OWL. You can tell your advisor that you have already fulfilled the CW requirement when you meet. (To graduate, you'll need to have your AP scores or transfer credits in SPIRE, so when you are on campus in the fall or spring, you can check your ARR to make sure UMass has your scores. You do not need to do this before you come to campus, and submitting AP scores or transfer credits will not change what it says in OWL.) You do not need to confirm your exemption with the Writing Program.

OWL has a writing placement exam but not a questionnaire. How do I get to the questionnaire?

The questionnaire and the exam are the same thing. It’s called the Writing Placement Exam, but it’s more like a questionnaire than a formal essay exam. Clicking on “Writing Placement Exam” in OWL will take you to the questionnaire.

I have a technical issue. How can I get help?

You should log in to OWL and submit a help request. Students who cannot log into OWL should select Login Help.

When should I do writing placement?

New students should follow the instructions from New Students Orientation about when to take placement exams. Current students who haven’t completed writing placement should do it as soon as possible. 

How should I prepare for writing placement?

You do not need to study or do any special preparation for writing placement besides setting aside time to do it. It might be helpful to have access to paper and a pen or pencil or a word processing program when you take it.

Should I wait to do writing placement until I am a better writer?

No. Completing writing placement will help you plan your courses at UMass Amherst. Students are encouraged to take College Writing in their first three semesters here, and you need to take College Writing before you take your Junior Year Writing course. Waiting to do writing placement can make planning your courses very difficult. Completing it will help you take courses that will help you grow and improve as a writer.

I have a lot of college-level writing experience. Can I waive the College Writing requirement?

Yes! You can apply to waive the CW requirement, which means you wouldn't need to take College Writing to graduate. To apply, follow these steps:

  1. Take the Writing Placement Exam.
  2. Email writingplacement@umass.edu and request waiver application instructions. Your email can be short: "I have completed writing placement and would like to request information about waiving the CW requirement."
  3. Write an essay and reflection following the waiver application instructions.
  4. Submit your application through the form provided in the instructions.
  5. Email writingplacement@umass.edu to let us know you've submitted an application. 

It can take us several weeks to read applications, so please submit at least two weeks before you will need information about your waiver status.