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WPE pass rate down slightly for fall 2017

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The fall 2017 Writing Proficiency Exam, taken by 139 students, had a pass rate of 72 percent, a decline of 5 percentage points when compared with spring 2017. However, it represented a modest increase of 2 points from the fall 2016 exam.

“Pass rates fluctuate from semester to semester,” said Associate Professor of Writing and Literature Tyrone Shaw, who is the exam coordinator. “It’s tempting to read something into this that isn’t really there, but at the same time looking at pass rates over the past five years presents some interesting data.”

According to Shaw, spring 2016’s pass rate of 82 percent marked the high point in the exam’s history. “Still, looking at exam stats over a period of 10 years, we’ve seen an overall increase in the pass rate from the low to mid 60s from 2007 to 2010. We saw rates as low as 53 percent in fall 2009.”

Part of the upward trend, according to Shaw, can be attributed to linking the exam more closely to the Exposition and Analysis class. “Given that course’s emphasis on critical thinking and the structure of persuasive writing, we would expect to see some kind of improvement in the pass rate when students take the exam as part of Expo,” Shaw said.

Each exam is read by at least two readers, and when their scores are inconclusive, the exam will go to a third.

This fall, out of 139 exams, 37 had to go to a third reader, which meant that 73 percent of the time readers agreed on a pass or a fail.

Out of the 39 who failed the exam, 35 were taking it for the first time, and four failed for the second time.

According to Shaw, the exam is the college’s way of assuring that its students meet the Vermont State College System’s mandated graduation requirements in written communication.

“It’s important for students to understand that the earlier in their careers they take the exam, the
better,” Shaw said. “Clearly going into the exam, the odds are in students’ favor as far as passing it. The jeopardy is very low unless you wait until the last year, in which case failing the exam could definitely hinder timely graduation.”

The spring 2018 exam is already scheduled for March 18 and March 22 and is listed in the catalog as ENG 3999.

Students, as always, can choose between taking it on a computer or by hand. “Be sure you know which one you’re signing up for,” said Shaw, who added a word of advice. “Take a prep session with me if you can. I usually offer seven or eight of them prior to the exam itself. They’re fun. They’re free.”

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The student news site of Johnson State College
WPE pass rate down slightly for fall 2017