University Writing Requirements

This page contains an overview of university-wide undergraduate writing requirements, some of which are satisfied by taking English courses and some of which are satisfied by taking courses in the major or by other means. Please see the University Catalog for complete details.

All students must demonstrate competency in writing skills as a requirement for graduation. At CSULA, students demonstrate competency by

  1. Successful completion of a First Year Writing course (ENGL 101) or an approved equivalent
  2. Successful completion of a second course in writing (ENGL 102) or an approved equivalent
  3. Successful completion of the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR), either through taking and passing the Writing Proficiency Examination (WPE) or by successful completion of a course alternative to the WPE (UNIV 401)
  4. Successful completion of an upper division writing course in the major

The First Year Writing Requirement (ENGL 101)

Who must take ENGL 101?

Transfer students usually satisfy this requirement by taking a transferrable CSU A2 Written Communications course prior to entering CSULA.

All entering freshman students must take ENGL 101, though, some might be required to enroll in a pre-baccalaureate writing class prior to taking ENGL 101. By state mandate, students entering a CSU school are required to take the English Placement Test (EPT). Those scoring at the state-mandated cutoff of 151 and above are placed directly into ENGL 101. Students scoring from 146-150 must take ENGL 101S, the same course as ENGL 101 but linked to ENGL 100, a one-unit supplemental workshop coordinated by the University Writing Center.

For students scoring below 146 on the EPT, the English Department offers two pre-baccalaureate courses: students scoring between 137-145 begin with ENGL 096, and students scoring 136 and below begin with ENGL 095. Approximately 60% of first-year students at CSULA begin their composition sequence with ENGL 095 or 096.

Please note that under certain conditions, some students may qualify for an exemption to the EPT through a sufficiently high score on an alternative test; interested students should consult the University Catalog or contact the Office of Admissions for details.

First Year Writing Courses (ENGL 095, 096 and 101)

Composition classes at CSULA are taught by a dedicated cadre of faculty. In all courses, students receive detailed personal attention and guidance and ample opportunity to revise and edit their papers based on instructor feedback. Faculty commonly make use of peer review, individual writing conferences, and portfolios and maintain a close relationship with the University Writing Center, which offers one-on-one writing tutoring to students.

ENGL 095/096: The main goal of ENGL 095 and 096 is to develop students' writing skills to a level where they are ready for the challenges of college-level reading and writing in ENGL 101 and in other university baccalaureate courses. Classes are kept small to allow individualized attention. Moreover, to ensure that students are given the maximum opportunity to demonstrate their proficiency, students are evaluated on a portfolio of their work which is scored by a minimum of two readers. These courses are offered on a credit/no credit basis.

In ENGL 095, students begin to develop strategies for reading texts critically and draw on their reading and on personal experiences or observations for essay content. In ENGL 096, students extend their ability to read critically and must analyze their experiences with reference to outside texts. In both courses, students write four or more essays of 2-3 pages, submitting two of them for inclusion in their final portfolio, along with a final in-class essay.

Both ENGL 095 and 096 are designed to provide an opportunity and guidance for students to explore, interpret, and communicate information about themselves and their lives; use writing as a tool to learn and to discover; develop critical reading strategies; develop a sense of purpose and audience; develop their ability to reduce sentence-level errors in their writing; and increase their ability to use writing to accomplish their own goals in the university and society.

ENGL 101S/100 and 101: ENGL 101S and ENGL 101 are the same course. They are numbered differently to ensure that students who are supposed to enroll in ENGL 101S also enroll in ENGL 100, a once-a-week small-group workshop run by the University Writing Center. Students placed into ENGL 101S/100 benefit from the extra support that comes with the small group work facilitated by trained Writing Center tutors.

In both ENGL 101S/100 and ENGL 101 students move beyond ENGL 096 by focusing on analytic writing based on critical reading of texts. These courses are offered for a letter grade only. In both ENGL 101S/100 and ENGL 101, students write thesis-driven arguments that make use of external evidence. Although students may draw on their personal experiences and observations for examples when relevant, essay topics are based on texts that are discussed in an analytic framework. Students write 3-4 essays of 3-4 pages. Students must earn a grade of C or above to pass either ENGL 101S/100 or ENGL 101.

The Second Course in Writing Requirement (ENGL 102)

In ENGL 102, students extend their ability to interpret and analyze a range of texts, write longer and more sustained essays, carry out independent research, and integrate multiple sources into their essays; as part of the research component, many sections now incorporate training in information literacy skills in partnership with library staff. Instructors are encouraged to organize their course around a broad-based theme of their own choosing that will elicit discussion and analysis from several different perspectives. In all sections, essay topics ask students to explore intellectually compelling issues that will help them develop the analytical and critical writing practices used in academic discourse. Students usually write three essays of 4-6 pages.Students must earn a grade of C or above to pass ENGL 102.

The Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR)

Students satisfy the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement either by taking and passing the Writing Proficiency Exam (WPE) or by taking and successfully completing a course alternative to the exam. The WPE is offered each quarter. The test is designed much like the essay portion of the EPT, so the format should be familiar to most students. Students are allowed 90 minutes to write a persuasive essay on an assigned topic of general interest. For example, students might be asked to evaluate the effects of technology on education or to suggest ways to improve the experiences of students at CSULA. The WPE requires no outside reading or research.

Students must complete the GWAR after passing ENGL 101 and 102 but before completing 135 quarter units. To avoid potential registration holds, students should plan on completing the GWAR as soon as they are able. For information on registering for the WPE, contact the University Testing Center. For information on the course alternative to the WPE (UNIV 401), contact the University Writing Center.

Students are also encouraged to visit the University Writing Center, which offers free orientation and workshops and maintains a detailed WPE information page, with sample essays and scoring guides.

The Upper Division Writing Requirement

Students are required to take and successfully complete an upper division writing course in their major degree program. Successful completion of the GWAR is a prerequisite to the upper division writing course in the major. Students should contact their individual departments for more information on the courses that satisfy the upper division writing requirement in their majors.