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Writing Placement

The Writing Placement Assessment (WPA) is a one-hour timed essay designed to assess your English reading and writing proficiency. The assessment is used to place you in the level-appropriate English course. We do not want to place you in a course that is too easy because you have come to college to be challenged, to learn and to grow. However, we do not want to place you in an English course that is too hard because we want to support your success at Otis College.


Who has to take this assessment?

All incoming first-year and transfer students will take the exam unless:

  • Have prior bachelor’s degree (BA/BS) from an accredited institution where instruction was in English, OR
  • Earned an A or B in an accredited college-level writing course, OR
  • Scored 24 or higher on the ACT ELA, OR
  • Scored 529 or higher for the SAT Critical Reading (pre-March 1, 2016), OR
  • Scored 590 or higher on the SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section (post-March 1, 2016), OR
  • Scored 4 or 5 on the AP English Language and Composition or AP English Literature and Composition exams, OR
  • Scored 6 or 7 on IB English A/B HL, OR
  • Earned a C or better in English A Level

Graduate students and visiting exchange students are waived from taking the WPA.

I have transfer credit. Do I still need to take this assessment?

If you earned an A or B in an accredited college-level writing course, or meet any of the criteria above, you are exempted from taking the exam. Contact to obtain the waiver.

What are the classes I can place into?

These courses will focus on popular culture and what it means to communicate in today’s technological and media-rich world.

  • Writing in the Digital Age (ENGL 107)
  • Writing in the Digital Age - Honors (ENGL 107)
  • Writing in the Digital Age + 1 (ENGL 107 and 1 unit Writing Lab)

These courses will focus on helping you develop more writing skills and fluency with English.

  • English as a Foreign Language (ENGL 020)
  • Developmental English I (ENGL 050)
  • Developmental English II (ENGL 090)

How is the essay evaluated? Is there a rubric?

Faculty will read the essay and assess it according to the WPA Scoring Guide (PDF) to determine your placement.

What is a good strategy for taking this assessment?

A proctor will call time after 60 minutes. Be sure to spend the entire time on the essay. Use blank scratch paper to draft your response. Spend 5-10 minutes outlining how you want to approach the question, 40-45 minutes writing your essay, and 5-15 minutes proofreading. It helps us better assess your writing level if you develop your ideas as fully as possible. The more you write, the more we have to assess your writing skills.

Do you expect my essay to be perfect?

No. We know it is a timed exam and that you would revise it if you had more time.

Can I use a dictionary?

Yes. You can consult handheld dictionaries during the exam. Spellcheck, online dictionaries, and auto-translation tools are not allowed.

What else do I need to take the WPA?

You need to present a current photo ID whether you take the WPA in person or online. The ID must include the student’s name and a recognizable photograph. Acceptable forms of photo identification include:

  • Driver’s license
  • State-approved ID
  • High school ID
  • College ID
  • State or federal ID card
  • Passport
  • Tribal ID card
  • Naturalization card or certificate of citizenship

Is the assessment online?

Yes. To prevent cheating, the test sessions are recorded using a webcam. Headphones are not allowed. If possible, take the exam in a quiet, private room.

What is Examity?

Examity is an online proctoring service. Otis College is using it to administer the WPA online. Once you have deposited, you will be able to access Examity through the Dashboard. Check the Admitted Students Guide for more information. Here is the Examity Student Quick Guide (PDF).

How much does it cost to take online?

Otis College pays for the proctoring service. However, if a student does not show up for 2 appointments, they will need to pay any additional fees.

Can I take it on campus instead?

We will also offer appointments to take it on campus on select Fridays during summer 2019. Check the Admitted Students Guide for more information. There will also be opportunities to take it during O WEEK. However, the earlier you take the exam, the more choice you will have over your classes and schedule.

What if I need special accommodations?

If you need them, contact Students with Disabilities Services at 310-846-2554.

When do I get the results?

You will find out your placement when you are advised.

I've been placed in the wrong course. What can I do?

If you think that your placement does not reflect your writing ability, you can appeal your assessment. Complete the appeal process (PDF) before or during the first week of school.