Writing Proficiency Exam rates hit new high

This spring’s Writing Proficiency Exam had a pass rate of 77 percent,  which according to exam coordinator Associate Professor of Writing and Literature Tyrone Shaw, is a record.

“We found the results certainly gratifying, especially considering nearly 200 students took the test during the Sunday and Thursday sittings,” said Shaw.

Pass rates for the exam have been climbing steadily during the past decade, according to Shaw, who attributed the trend to a variety of factors.

“There’s no one single thing we can identify,” he said. “Certainly tying the exam more closely to the Exposition and Analysis course has helped a lot, and including the exam itself as a common element in all sections of Expo places the test in a more organic context.”

He also noted the increase attendance at the eight prep sessions offered during the weeks leading up to the exam as a possible factor as well.

New this spring was a quicker turnaround for the exam, which in the past has taken three weeks.  Thanks to an intensive one-day session with all six exam readers, the process went far more quickly, and exam results were posted the following week.  “It’s a much better way to do this,” said Shaw. “Harder on the readers, for sure, but much better for the students, who need the results prior to fall registration.”
Shaw acknowledged  the exam remains a major source of stress for many students, something he hopes to lessen with changes to the exam itself.

“There are ways to improve the exam and we are considering a lot of possibilities,” said Shaw.  “Certainly we can revise  it so that it elicits less anxiety in students. I am troubled by the disequilibrium it seems to inspire.”

Shaw stressed that Staff Assistant Sandy Noyes remains an essential part of administering the exam.
“It’s a complicated process,” said Shaw, “and I hope I never have to find out what it would be like to be exam coordinator without her.”

The Writing Proficiency Exam is Johnson State College’s means of meeting the Vermont State College’s mandated graduation standard in writing.