Myth: Most engineering majors don’t pass the Graduation Writing Test on their first attempt.
This is false.
California college students must show competency in writing skills to graduate. At Cal Poly Pomona, this is assessed by the Graduation Writing Test, which is offered once a quarter to students who have reached junior status (90 units). They are given an hour and 15 minutes to write one essay on an assigned topic that would be familiar to anyone, regardless of major.
Although it’s often heard that most engineering students lack the ability to write an essay, this is nothing more than a myth. Last spring, 86 percent of the engineering students passed the GWT on their first try. This compares favorably with all undergraduates, who had a first-time pass rate of 89 percent.
The university is concerned, however, about the students who don’t pass the first time. Of those students, who come from all majors, only 30 percent passed on their second attempt. The pass rate for students who have already failed the test twice and are taking it a third time is even lower — just 22 percent.
Though the GWT may be taken an unlimited number of times, help is available for students who are struggling with it.
“Cal Poly Pomona is committed to helping our students reach this milestone,” says Allison Douglas-Chicoye, director of academic support & learning services. “Toward this goal we offer free specialized tutoring and workshops through the Learning Resource Center/University Writing Center in preparation for the test.”
Students also have alternatives to the GWT. Those who have failed the test at least twice may take a class instead. The class, CPU 401, focuses on organization, thesis development, revising and proofreading strategies. Students in the class will write five essays and submit three as part of a portfolio for review by two independent readers. Passing CPU 401 is equivalent to passing the GWT.
Graduating seniors who are unable to meet the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirements (GWAR) through one of the above means may apply for a waiver. Waivers are rare and have restrictions attached.
To find out more about the GWT, visit: https://www.cpp.edu/~academic/tes0tcenter/test_gwt.shtml.
For more information about all of these options, visit https://www.cpp.edu/~lrc/uwc.shtml.
First-time pass rates for students by college:
- College of Agriculture – 94 percent
- College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences – 97 percent
- College of Business Administration – 85 percent
- College of Education and Integrative Studies – 97 percent
- College of Engineering – 86 percent
- College of Environmental Design – 89 percent
- College of Science – 89 percent
- Collins College of Hospitality Management – 83 percent