First-Year Writing Placement Exam, Summer 2019


The following information addresses many of the questions you may have about the First-Year Writing Placement Exam you are required to take during Summer Orientation at the University of Scranton. If you have additional questions that are not addressed in the FAQs below, please contact the project coordinator for the exam, Melissa Eckenrode ( She will field your questions to the appropriate orientation personnel.

You must bring your
Royal ID number(R#) and current my.scranton password
to access and submit the exam. 

Frequently Asked Questions about the First-Year Writing Placement Exam

1.    What is it?

You will be asked to write a 450- to 650-word essay responding to an article chosen by members of the First-Year Writing Program.  Your performance on this essay will determine which writing course(s) you will be required to take over the next two semesters. If you performance indicates you would benefit from two semesters of formal writing instruction, you will be advised to register for WRTG 105 in the fall and WRTG 106 in the spring. If your writing indicates that one semester of formal writing instruction should prepare you for success in college-level writing, you will be advised to register for WRTG 107 in either semester of your first year. If your essay demonstrates that you have already achieved college-level proficiency in both writing and argument, you will be excused from having to fulfill the University’s General Education Eloquentia Perfecta Level 1: Foundational First-Year Writing requirement, which means that you will not be required to take a first-year writing course. It is imperative that you write to the best of your ability during the exam so that we place you in the course(s) that will best serve your needs.

2.    Where can I get this article?

You can find the article on the University of Scranton website here:

First-Year Writing Placement Exam article 

Discussion Questions for exam

The original article can be accessed here: Alexa, Should We Trust You?

Your task is to read carefully "Alexa, Should We Trust You?" by Judith Shulevitz from the November 2018 issue of The Atlantic.  You may want to follow along as you listen to the article read aloud via the Soundcloud link provided, as well. Soundcloud Audio ("Alexa, how will you change us?")

3.    Can I print out my own copy of the article?

Yes.  You can also download it to a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Please note, however, that you will not be able to consult your own copy of the article while you are taking the placement exam. We will have hard copies of the article available for you at the testing location.

4.    Am I allowed to do additional web research on the topic?

Yes.  However, because you will not be able to consult your own notes, your copy of the article, or any of your own electronic devices during the test, this research should be focused on background information and ideas that you can paraphrase rather than on statistics or facts that you may not be able to recall accurately. When you write your exam, you will not be required to provide a formal “Works Cited” list, but you should identify in your essay the source of any words or ideas that are not your own, including references to the provided article. Integrate others’ words or ideas into your own writing using phrases like “According to Shulevitz...” or "Shulevitz explains that ...” to indicate the source of the information.

5.   Is that the best way to prepare for this exam?

The best way to prepare for the exam is to set aside time to read the article carefully at least once (but more than likely more than that) before you arrive for Orientation, to identify key aspects of the author’s argument with which you will engage in your response, to articulate your own opinion on the issue and support for that opinion, and to organize these ideas into a coherent argument. Pre-writing and planning exercises such as brainstorming, idea mapping, outlining, and drafting will help. Doing additional research on the topic may help to make your own response more coherent and more articulate but is not mandatory. 

In addition, you will discuss your response with your peers at Orientation the day before you write the exam.

6.    How much time will I have to write this essay? 

You will be given an hour to draft and revise your essay.  We recognize that this isn’t much time, but you have many other things that you need to get done during Summer Orientation.  Because you won’t have much time for this specific activity, you should make sure that you pre-write and plan BEFORE it’s time for you to take the exam.

7.    What are you going to do with my essay after I turn it in?

Each essay will be read by faculty who teach in the First-Year Writing Program.  Readers will recommend that you should either a) register for WRTG 105 (the first half of a two-semester writing course sequence that fulfills the Eloquentia Perfecta Level 1: Foundational First-Year Writing requirement ), or b) register for WRTG 107 (a single-semester writing course that  fulfills the Eloquentia Perfecta Level 1: Foundational First-Year Writing requirement), or c) be exempted entirely from the Eloquentia Perfecta Level 1: Foundational First-Year Writing requirement.  Please check your email Mid-July to determine if your Fall 2018 schedule needs to be changed based on the results of this exam.

If you are required to take a first-year writing course, your instructor in that course will use this placement exam as the starting point for one of your major assignments in WRTG 106 or WRTG 107.  You will be asked to revisit the essay you write for this exam and reflect on your experience, then to build on that experience to produce a more developed argument in relation to the issues raised in the article.

8.    What if I have AP credit or I'm in the Gonzaga or SJLA program?

We ask that all students who attend Orientation take the placement exam, regardless of other possible placement methods, for a number of reasons: (1) Some students may attend Orientation thinking they are part of a program or have earned credit for WRTG 107 previously, but they may find after that this is not the case. (2) Some students enter the university in a particular program, but later they decide to withdraw from that program and need to fulfill the FYW requirement another way. (3) We like to have a sample of your writing from your first day on campus to compare to other samples later in your time here. (4) It's a way for us to evaluate our writing instruction across the curriculum.  (5) Students who take a first-year writing course will be asked to revisit this exam for one of their major assignments.

If you scored 4 or higher on the AP Language & Composition or Literature & Composition exams, you will earn credit for WRTG 107 and therefore fulfill your FYW requirement in the GE. If you are part of the Gonzaga program, you will be placed in the WRTG 105/106 sequence. If you are part of SJLA, you will fulfill your FYW requirement by taking PHIL 217J: The Trivium in your sophomore year.

But again, regardless of these factors, we still ask that all students attending Orientation take our placement exam. 

9.    Do I have to take the writing course assigned to me after the placement exam?

Basically, yes. If you feel strongly that you have been placed into the wrong course, you may contact the Director of First-Year Writing, Dr. Teresa Grettano, at to discuss your placement. 

You must bring your
Royal ID number(R#) and current my.scranton password
to access and submit the exam.