WEPT Overview

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You can click here to access the WEPT Book, a printer-friendly document containing all the WEPT information listed on this website (except the schedule).

The Essay

This writing exam is similar to tests used on many other campuses in the CSU system to assess writing competence and for a number of professional certifying exams such as CBEST, MCAT, CSET, and LCAT. In the test, you will be asked to respond to a single topic of general interest. Usually, the task assigned will be to write to a specific person or group of people asking or advising that a specific action or point of view be undertaken. This is the sort of writing you will find yourself doing as a person active in business, government, and civic affairs. You should write from a first person point of view (do not hesitate to use the pronouns I or me), and you may include some personal experience or observation to support your ideas and to avoid over-generalizing. Remember, though, you will be stating and explaining ideas, not writing a chronological account of your past experience.

Your objective in the test is to demonstrate your ability to address an audience appropriately, focus on a topic, express ideas clearly and coherently, provide an orderly sequence of ideas, and display your knowledge of standard written English.

You will have two hours to write your essay, so you can use your time to plan what you will write as well as edit your writing before handing it in. Do not approach the test cavalierly; use as much of the two hours as you need to do the best job you can. The readers of the essay, however, do understand that what you will present for evaluation is essentially first draft writing, so they will accept some errors in the writing. Your essay does not have to be faultless in order for you to pass.

As noted above, you may take with you a dictionary and a thesaurus to use when you are writing, but you cannot bring other books or materials into the testing room. And again, you will not have access to either spell or grammar check when taking a computer test.

Passing essays

  • address their audience appropriately
  • are focused
  • use specific examples
  • have sentence and word variety
  • are relatively free of spelling, grammar, and other errors in language use

Scoring Procedure

All of the essays from a single test administration (normally meaning a full “WEPT week”) are usually read and scored at the same time. A group of faculty from English and other disciplines gathers to do the evaluations of the essays. In most cases, they are experienced readers, having read WEPT for several years; those who are new will have been trained prior to the reading. Before beginning the reading, readers review the test topic and the scoring guide and examine and discuss sample essays taken from the test administration.

Each essay is read by two readers, each of whom marks a score of 1 to 6, according to the scoring guide. The first score is covered so that the second reader does not know the score of the first reader. Scores are then added to make the total score. Thus, the highest score is 12. If a discrepancy occurs, the essay is read by a third reader, and this score is doubled to make the final score. A discrepancy occurs when there is a two-point or more difference between the two scores (e.g., a 2 and a 4). A discrepancy also occurs when scores of 3 and 4 are given to an essay—such a score means that one reader felt that the essay passed and the other reader did not, and therefore a third reading is necessary. A total score of 8 is necessary to pass.

Evaluation Criteria

WEPT readers perform what is called "holistic" evaluation of the essays. Perhaps the best way to describe this type of evaluation is to compare it to "analytic" evaluation of writing. Students are most familiar with this latter type of evaluation since it is the method most commonly used in the classroom: the teacher reads an essay, marks errors in the writing with a circle or symbol, and makes numerous comments in the margins of the essay—in other words, analyzes the writing. Here the reader/teacher is looking for specific errors or writing problems in order to bring them to the attention of the writer.

In holistic evaluation, the reader focuses upon the total impression the essay makes and does not mark the essay. The reader looks for the central ideas in the essay, expects them to be clearly expressed, supported or explained with specific examples and presented in a logical sequence. He allows for occasional lapses in the writing, but does not expect his reading to be interrupted by unclear language, misused words, or frequent or gross errors in punctuation, spelling, or grammar. The specific criteria used by the readers is contained in a scoring guide, provided at the end of this handbook.