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General Information about the Writing Placement Process


Washington State University offers four variations of the first-year composition course, as well as two variations of a course that teaches students the foundations necessary for first-year composition. None of the six options are remedial, as students earn WSU credits for each option and the cost of each course is the same as all other WSU courses. The placement of students into these individualized courses is one of the hallmarks of the WSU Writing Program.

All incoming students who have not yet fulfilled the WRTG requirement (i.e. English 101) are required to participate in the Writing Placement Process prior to enrolling in any of the first-year composition courses. Please see theĀ Exam Credit Chart or the Transfer Clearinghouse page for information on English 101 fulfillment routes.

Students may be placed into English 100 or 104 (for multilingual students), English 101+102 or English 105+107 (for multilingual students), or English 101 or English 105 (for multilingual students). The 3-credit courses (i.e. English 100) are facilitated by the English department; the 1-credit courses (102 and 107) are facilitated by the Writing Center.

The placement essays are read by the instructors of the first-year composition courses after regular training by the Writing Program Assessment Coordinator.

General Information about the University Writing Portfolio


The University Writing Portfolio is intended as a diagnostic aid. It is meant to identify students whose writing ability puts them at risk in managing the requirements of upper-division courses that assign writing. However, the University Writing Portfolio is also a graduation requirement; if students delay this evaluation, it becomes a last-minute hurdle they must clear before graduation.

Students are required to begin the process of submission after attaining 60 credit hours (2002 WSU Catalog, p. 40). Ideally, students should complete this requirement prior to enrolling in their Writing-in-the-Major courses. Transfer students entering with more than 60 credit hours must initiate the University Writing Portfolio during their first semester on the WSU campus.

Students will receive registration holds as reminders to submit the Portfolio. Students will receive a hold two times: upon the first hold, a student should complete one half (the timed essay or the packet) and upon the second hold, a student should complete the other half (the packet or the timed essay). These holds ensure the Portfolio remains a mid-career assessment rather than an exit exam.

Process for Completing the Portfolio

The Writing Portfolio consists of two parts:

  • The Packet (three samples of college-level writing)
  • The Timed Essay (a two-part, impromptu essay)

All students are required to complete at least one of the two parts the semester after reaching 60 credits (60 credits is junior standing). The other half needs to be completed the following semester. Transfer students are held to the same requirement. In other words, all students, upon reaching 60 credits or transferring to WSU with 60 credits, will have a total of two semesters to complete the requirement. At least one half must be completed the first semester.

Sample writing for the packet may be any college-level writing. At least one paper must be signed by the instructor certifying it was written for their course by the student and that it is written at an acceptable level (emails from instructors are also acceptable if they aren’t available to physically sign the cover sheet). Students should try to collect a signature on writing during the semester in which they write it for convenience for both student and instructor.

Each campus hosts timed writing sessions for their students; the Pullman campus schedules a minimum of 15 timed writing sessions each semester. Pullman students must register before taking the timed writing portion so they know where and when the session will take place. The Submission Guidelines page has registration information.

Portfolios are read in their entirety by faculty members from across the university. Readings are led by the Writing Assessment office, and readers are trained by the Assessment Coordinator.

Portfolio Results

Students will receive one of three results on their University Writing Portfolio: Completed with Distinction, Completed, or In Progress.

If readers designate the Portfolio as Completed or Completed with Distinction, that designation is entered in the student’s records, and the student has fulfilled the Portfolio requirement.

If the Portfolio earns an In Progress rating, the student will need to complete additional course work to satisfy the requirement. In some cases required work will be a three-hour writing course; usually it will be a one-hour writing collaborative–WRIT 302–to be taken concurrently with an upper-division writing-intensive course in the student’s major (M-course). Upon fulfillment of the required course, transcripts will show the milestone as completed.

Please note: The results are shown as “holds” but do not impede a student’s ability to register for classes. The results are indicators that the student has additional coursework to complete before graduation.

Call the WSU Writing Assessment Program with questions at 509-335-7959 or e-mail the office at

Additional Notes Regarding the Writing Portfolio:

The University Writing Portfolio is a requirement for students who entered an institution of higher learning in Fall 1991 or later. Since this is an upper-division graduation requirement, it applies even to transfer students who come with an AA degree. There is only one exception to the portfolio requirement: Students with a WSU recognized four-year degree from another institution are not responsible for the requirement.

Hours transferred from non-accredited institutions will not figure in establishing date of matriculation, e.g., “A level” work from international institutions and Advanced Placement earned in high school. In problematical cases, check with the WSU Admissions Office at 509-335-5586.

Writing Assessment Contacts for Non-Pullman Students

Contact the representative of your campus if you have questions about the Writing Placement Exam, the University Writing Portfolio, and/or releasing a registration hold related to the University Writing Portfolio.