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Writing Placement: Tips for Students

The purpose of the Writing Placement Exam is to place you into an appropriate course or sequence of courses that will help you write more effectively in college. You can only take the exam once, so take care to give a good indication of what your academic writing is usually like.

We recognize that there are as many writing processes as there are writers, and we will not ask you to write in any specific manner. However, here are a few tips for writing your essay:

  • You’ll have up to 72 hours from the time you start the exam in OWL to read three articles and write your essay and reflection. You don’t have to use the entire 72 hours to work on your essay, but you can use the time to take breaks and to revise your work. Choose a time to take the exam when you’ll have computer access and some uninterrupted time to think and write.
  • After choosing the topic you want to write about, take some time to read the articles. You may want to print them and take notes. You may also want to do some informal writing (an outline, a web, notes, etc.) to brainstorm ideas and plan your essay.
  • The exam asks you to respond to readings about a topic and to share your own perspective on the issue. As you plan your essay, keep in mind that you should incorporate at least two of the articles as well as your own thoughts, opinions, or experiences.
  • Consider writing drafts of your essay. You might find it helpful to work on your essay, put it away for a while, and come back to it a few hours later or the next day.
  • Be sure to save your work regularly by clicking on the “Submit/Resubmit Answer” button. You might find it useful to save a copy of your essay in a word processing program. OWL does not have an auto-save feature, and typing does not count as activity in the system. You need to save your work or click on "Submit/Resubmit Answer" frequently.
  • You should proofread and edit your work. If you copy/paste your essay from a word processing program, make sure that the text appears the way you expect it to.