English Competency Exam

Once a semester on a specific date (see below) students may attempt to satisfy their lower-division or upper-division Core writing requirements by examination. Please note that successful exams must satisfy rigorous, challenging and objective criteria for evaluation. They are not easy to pass. The lower-division exam has a pass rate of 15 percent, and the upper-division exam has a pass rate of 25 percent. It is not recommended that students attempt an exam during a semester immediately prior to their planned graduation date. Students should attempt an exam early enough to allow time to take the required core course in the following semester in case they do not pass.

Only students who first enrolled at the University of San Diego prior to the 2020-2021 catalog year are eligible to attempt the Upper-Division or Lower-Division Competency Exams.

Students should be aware that, in general, it is more difficult to pass the competency exam than to take and pass a course at the equivalent level given that in a course there are multiple grade components (homework, presentations, quizzes, participation, etc.), and one's strengths in some areas may compensate for weaknesses in others. The core writing competencies will be evaluated in a single essay. Therefore, we recommend that only students confident in their level of proficiency consider taking the competency exam. 

Lower-Division and Upper-Division Exams

Registration for Examination:

  • Pay the registration fee ($25) by the appropriate deadline- Contact Tim Randell (trandell@sandiego.edu) for instructions on how to complete the transaction remotely.
  • Email a copy of your receipt to Tim Randell (trandell@sandiego.edu) with the following information:
    • Your contact information (email and cell phone number) and,
    • The exam you wish to take (upper-divison or lower-division).

Dates and Information:

The Fall English Competency Exams will be administered on Blackboard using Respondus Lockdown Browser. Once students pay the fee and send to Tim Randell (trandell@sandiego.edu) a copy of the receipt and their contact information (phone number and USD email) and specify the exam they wish to attempt (upper-division or lower-division), they will be enrolled in the English Competency Exam Blackboard website. To access this site, examinees will login to Blackboard and click on the Blackboard link called English Competency Exam. 

 
On the day of the exam, examinees should arrive early and click on the Zoom link provided to receive further instructions. Once the exam materials have been made available, examinees will complete the exam using Lockdown Browser. It is mandatory to stay visible on camera while taking the exam. If an examinee leaves the frame of the camera or otherwise becomes unobservable during the exam, the exam will end for that examinee. Examinees must not use any electronic devices or any other sources while completing the exam.  All other materials will be provided.
  • Exam Fee Deadline: Monday, September 14, 2020 (email Time Randell for instructions).
  • Sign-Up Deadline: Monday, September 21, 2020. To sign up for the lower-division or upper-division exam, email your fee receipt (to provide proof of payment) to Tim Randell (trandell@sandiego.edu) with contact information (email and phone number)  and the exam you wish to take (upper-devision or lower devision)

On the day of the exam:

  • Please be on time. If you are late, you will not be allowed to take the exam.

Time and Place of Lower-Division and Upper-Division Exams

Day: Saturday, September 26, 2020
Time: 2-4 p.m.
Place: Blackboard (ole.sandiego.edu) - You will be 'enrolled' to gain access to the exam remotely.

About the Exams

Passing essays shall demonstrate specific, accurate, sustained and ordered college-level thinking.

Lower-Division English Exam

You will be asked to write a response to a short text and to respond briefly to a couple of questions concerning writing. Evaluation of your essay will be based on evidence of your ability to do the following.

  • Directly and convincingly address the prompt in an organized, coherent and logical manner
  • Demonstrate alert reading and comprehension of the text
  • Identify and develop a cogent interpretive thesis
  • Use specific, convincing and relevant support for your thesis with accurate and convincing evidence from the text
  • Organize your essay with well-developed and logical paragraphs, adequate transitions, a variety of sentence structures, satisfactory (college-level) grammar and syntax, parallel structure, appropriate word choice and well-integrated quotes
  • Generate original ideas, convey depth of insight, avoid summary and cliché and form a developed, focused, sustained, convincing and interesting response appropriate for college-level writing
  • Use conventions specific to writing about various discourses/genres, possibly including literature

Upper-Division English Exam

You will be asked to write a response to a short text. Evaluation of your essay will be based on evidence of your ability to fulfill the following criteria.

  • Directly and convincingly address the prompt in an organized, coherent and logical manner
  • Demonstrate alert reading and comprehension of the text
  • Write a convincing response that includes specific, convincing and relevant examples
  • Organize your essay with well-developed and logical paragraphs, adequate transitions, a variety of sentence structures, satisfactory grammar and syntax, active voice, parallel structure, appropriate word choice and well-integrated quotes
  • Generate original ideas, convey depth of insight, avoid summary and cliché and form a developed, focused, sustained, convincing and interesting response appropriate for upper-division writing
  • Display nuance and the ability to fashion an interesting piece of writing
  • Display evidence of voice in writing

Questions? Contact:

Department of English
Email: englishcompexam@sandiego.edu