Placement FAQs

Who has to take the Writing Placement Test?

All students who submitted English-language proficiency test scores (such as TOEFL scores) to Admissions are required to take the Writing Placement Test before taking a CAS WR course. This applies to both international and domestic students.

The presence of an English-language proficiency test score on your BU record is the only thing that determines if you have to take the test or not. Other information about your background (ex. you attended an American high school, you took AP classes, you got high TOEFL scores, you weren’t required to submit scores) will be considered later in the placement process after you test.

Transfer students are exempted from testing if they received enough WR transfer credit to fulfill their BU college’s writing requirements. If you won’t need to take any CAS WR classes because of transfer credit, you don’t have to test.

Classes at my high school were taught in English. I have high TOEFL scores or other high test scores. I’ve lived in the United States for a long time. Do I still have to take the test?

The Writing Program only considers two factors when determining if you are required to test: if you submitted English-proficiency test scores to Admissions and, if you are a transfer student, what WR transfer credit you have. If you are a freshman who submitted test scores to Boston University or a transfer student who did not receive high enough WR transfer credit to be exempted, you are required to take the test.

After you take the test, you are welcome to meet with a Writing Program director to discuss your placement and to present any other information you would like us to consider like your test scores or educational background.

Transfer students are exempted from testing if they were approved for enough WR transfer credit to fulfill their college’s writing requirement. Transfer students who received no or lower level WR credit and those who have not received their credit evaluation results yet are required to take the placement test.

I am not sure if I need to take the test. How do I find out if I need to take it?

Your advisor or the advising office for your BU college should be able to tell you if you need to take the test. You may also email or call the Writing Program at 617-358-1500.

Do I need to register for the test in advance?

You do not need to register for the test. If you are an incoming freshman or transfer student, your advising office will send you the test session dates when the online test will be available for you to take and test instructions. You will be assigned a week to take the test, and you can take it any day or time during that week. You can also see the test session dates on the Placement page of the Writing Program website.

If you are a current BU student or you are unable to take the test during the test session that is assigned to you, you may take it at any of the other test sessions. If you can’t take it at any of the sessions, please submit a Test Help Form to request a different time.

How long is the test?

You will have 60 minutes to take the test. You will need to read some instructions before you begin the test as well.

What is the format of the test?

It is a 60-minute, timed, online test. It is one essay question. You will read a short, college-level text. You will be asked to write a short academic essay responding to that reading that includes summary and analysis.

Is there a length requirement for my essay response?

No. Your essay can be as long or as short as you want. We recommend that you write at least a paragraph, however, to give the graders a better sense of your writing ability.

Can I practice or prepare before the test?

We do not offer practice tests or materials.

Can I retake the test?

No. Students are allowed one test attempt only. You are welcome to speak to a Writing Program director about placement questions or concerns after you take the test. You can also provide additional information about your writing skills and background at that time.

What if I have a technical problem with the test?

If you have a technical problem, please submit the Test Help Form. Please describe what happened in as much detail as you can.

What should I do if I need special accommodations for the test?

If you have a learning or medical condition or other circumstance that may qualify you for test accommodations (like a longer testing time or taking the test on paper instead of online), please contact the Office of Disability Services. They will help you arrange the appropriate test accommodations with the Writing Program and can also provide you with other useful resources on campus.

What are the possible placements? 

Starting in Fall 2018, you will be placed in WR 111, WR 112, or WR 120.  If you place into WR 111, you are required to take and pass WR 111 and WR 112 before taking WR 120. If you place into WR 112, you are required to take and pass WR 112 before taking WR 120. If you place into WR 120, you should register for WR 120 first and do not need to take any other WR classes before it.

Students who place into WR 120 may receive a recommendation to register for a WR 120 ESL section if possible. Those are WR 120 sections that spend extra time addressing common ESL writing challenges in addition to the material covered in standard WR 120 sections. WR 120 ESL sections are taught by instructors who have experience working with non-native English speakers. WR 120 ESL sections fulfill the same writing requirement as other WR 120 sections.

How will I find out my placement?

Your advisor or college’s advising office will contact you to notify you of your placement. Placements will be available about a week after the end of your test session. If you don’t receive your placement, please submit a Test Help Form.

What should I do if I have concerns or questions about my placement?

If you have questions or concerns about your placement, you may submit a Test Help Form to request a review of your placement. We also offer 10-minute meetings to discuss placement in the Writing Program office (100 Bay State Road, 3rd floor) at the last orientation session in August. In the form or at the meeting, you are welcome to provide additional information about your educational or personal background that relates to your writing skills. The Associate Director of ESL will review your test and consider the additional information. She may change your placement, or she may ask you to attend the class that matches your original placement and to take the writing diagnostic explained below.

I attended the WR class level where I was placed, but it seems much too easy or much too hard for me. What should I do?

The final step in the placement process is an in-class writing diagnostic given in the first meeting of a WR 111 or WR 112 class. Please complete the diagnostic to the best of your writing ability. That will give the Writing Program another sample of your writing in addition to the test. Please also speak with your WR instructor about your concern as soon as possible. 

Your WR instructor will review your diagnostic carefully. If the instructor believes you belong in a higher WR level, the instructor will recommend to the Writing Program that you be moved up. The Associate Director of ESL will review all instructor recommendations. If she approves the recommendation, your placement will be changed, and you can change your WR registration. If she does not approve the recommendation, you will stay in your current WR class.

Because the deadline to change or add WR classes is one week from the first day of classes (a week earlier than the deadline for other classes), please contact the program or speak with your WR instructor as soon as possible the first week of classes if you have any concerns about your placement. If you are approved to switch levels, it is best to do it as soon as possible so you do not miss as much work in the new class.

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Writing Consultants are available for all CAS WR classes. Appointments can be booked online.
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WR Transfer Credit

Did you take or are you planning to take a writing class at another school? You may be able to receive WR transfer credit for it.
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CAS Alumni Awards for Writing Excellence