Writing Proficiency Exam
This exam, currently given at the end of WSC002 or at special sessions for transfer students, is intended to show the writing proficiency of Hofstra students through the composition of an essay based on materials provided by the coordinator of the exam. Passing the exam is a graduation requirement for all B.A. students at Hofstra. For those who do not pass the exam, the department offers supportive instruction leading to re-testing.
Tips for Passing the Proficiency Exam
The Proficiency Exam asks students to do a particular kind of writing, namely, concise argumentative prose (as opposed to narrative, for example). Graders generally expect a successful Proficiency Exam essay to have the following five traits.
- A clear thesis statement: Tell us clearly in your first paragraph what position you will be arguing concerning the question at hand.
- Clear logical organization:
- Include at least three major ideas to support your thesis.
- Develop one major idea in each paragraph.
- Use a topic sentence to announce the main idea of each paragraph and to explain how each paragraph relates to your essay's thesis.
- Arrange paragraphs in a sequence that makes sense and clarifies the relationships between your major ideas.
- Effective evidence and/or arguments:
- If you are developing a paragraph by means of examples, make sure that the examples are specific; explain how they relate to your major idea or thesis.
- If you are developing a paragraph by means of detailed arguments, make sure that they explain and support your major idea or thesis.
- Competent grammar and usage: You may make some errors in a timed exam; however, those errors should not be so severe or recurrent that they obscure your argument or reduce your authority as a writer.
- Awareness of a topic’s complexity and of other points of view: Let the reader know that you are able to discuss possible objections to your thesis.
Some or all of the following steps may help you to write a clear, coherent, substantial essay.
- Prewriting: Do not start writing the essay immediately.
- Brainstorming: Ask yourself how and why you think your thesis is true. Use some space in your bluebook to jot down phrases that capture the ideas that you have generated.
- Clustering: Once you have allowed some time for brainstorming (maybe five minutes), review your notes, looking for patterns or relationships among the ideas that you have jotted down.
- Outlining: Sketch out an outline with
- An introduction and thesis statement
- At least three major points, and
- A conclusion pointing out what your essay has demonstrated or implied.
- Writing: Refer back to your outline to organize your essay.