Writing Studies & Rhetoric

Writing Proficiency Exam

The Proficiency Exam is an essay examination intended to ensure that Hofstra students display competence as writers, no matter what their major is or how many exams they have taken. In the exam you will have two hours to compose a focused and well-organized 750-word response essay (based on a short reading and an essay you have written for a college class) that develops your point and incorporates specific references to both texts as support.
  • Successful essays have an explicit thesis developed through coherent paragraphs that support assertions with quotations from both texts. 

  • While your essay should include enough context to enable your readers to follow your points, it should not merely summarize nor should it be just a personal narrative. You are making an original argument using support from both the provided reading and your text.

  • The essay will be graded on how well you express your argument and support your assertions with evidence from the text.

How to Register for the Proficiency Exam

Registering for the Proficiency Exam is just like registering for any other Hofstra course. See instructions here. The course code for the Proficiency Exam is PROF. If you select it, you should see your exam options.

Tips for Passing the Proficiency Exam

Grading Criteria



3 (PASS)

2 (FAIL)

1 (FAIL – 2A)


The essay takes an insightful position that demonstrates critical engagement with the required reading and the Uploaded Essay.

The essay takes a supported position and consistently develops it with references to the required texts.

The essay tends to summarize or merely to assert that there are differences and/or similarities among the required texts.

The point of the essay may be difficult to determine.


Claims and textual references are integrated into the paragraph in rhetorically compelling ways.

Claims in the paragraphs are tied to explicit textural references.

Claims in the paragraphs are often unclear or unsupported.

Claims in paragraphs are unfocused.


The essay demonstrates mastery of a citation system (MLA, APA, etc.). Work Cited is not required in Response Essay.

Quotations are responsibly handled and effectively integrated into the essay.

Quotations are frequently mishandled (i.e., merely “dropped” into paragraph without adequate context or explanation).

The essay may rely entirely upon quotation, or it may exclude textual references altogether.

Grammar and Mechanics

The essay displays a command of grammatical and stylistic principles. The sentences are well structured and rhetorically effective. 

The essay displays occasional grammatical errors, but the majority of the sentences are correct.

The essay displays a pattern of grammatical error in one or two critical areas (e.g., sentence boundaries, agreement, punctuation, word choice).

The essay displays a pattern of grammatical error in several critical areas (e.g., sentence boundaries, agreement, punctuation, word choice).