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Graduate Writing Test FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions:

Who is exempt from the GWT?

Exemptions from this requirement are granted only to students who (1) do not plan to receive a degree at Cal Poly (e.g., enrollment in a credential or certificate program) or (2) submit documentation certifying the student has passed an equivalent writing-competence exam at another CSU campus to the Test Officer for approval.

When will I be required to take the GWT?

Although you may not register for the test until you become a junior (90 quarter units completed), we recommend that you take the test after you reach junior status. You must register for the GWT by the quarter following your completion of 120 quarter units. If you are a graduate student (classified or unclassified), you are advised to register for the GWT upon admission to the university. You mustregister for the GWT by the quarter following your completion of 8 units.

What will happen if I do not take the GWT by the appropriate date?

A hold will be placed on the records of all continuing students who have failed to take the GWT as required.  While the student's record is on hold, registration may not be allowed, nor will transcripts be released. To have the hold removed, you MUST register and pay for the next GWT before the registration deadline.

Will there be a fee for the test?

Yes, an $30 fee is required at registration. If you have to take the GWT more than once, you must pay each time you register for the test.  The fee covers cost of developing the essay question, administering the test, and scoring your paper.

When will the GWT be given?

The GWT is given once each quarter, including summer. Test dates are posted in the Test Center, Class Schedule, and website

How and when may I register for the GWT?

Registration for the GWT is a two step process.  You must login to BroncoDirect and choose a date and time under the Online GWT Registration link.  Once this is completed, you need to pay the $30 test fee via BroncoDirect (click here for detailed instructions) or at the Cashiers Office by the registration deadline (please click here for GWT registration/payment deadline information).  You must pay this test fee for each test date you register for.  Any hold for the GWT will not be removed until you have choosen a date and time in BroncoDirect and paid the $30 test fee and registered for the GWT.  It may take up to one business day to remove the hold.  PAYMENT WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED ON THE DAY OF THE TEST. Test fees will not be refunded except for university-recognized emergencies that can be officially documented (serious accident, serious illness, death in family, etc.).

Where is the test given?

The GWT will be administered at building 5.  Please report to building 5 at the first floor entrance near the patio for check-in.

When should I arrive and what if I am late?

Check-in will begin approximately 30 minutes before the test time. Late arrivals will forfeit their registration and test fee. Additionally, late arrivals will not be accepted to any other test times for that test date.

What should I bring to the test?

To be admitted, you must bring one of the following forms of photo identification: Bronco ID Card, California Driver's License, or California State ID. Please bring two sharpened #2 pencils and two pens.

How will my essay be scored, and what is the passing score?

Your essay will be independently read by two faculty members trained in reliable essay scoring, and they will use the following set of standards.

6     The "6" essay demonstrates superior writing ability although occasional faults may be present.  The essay:

  • Has a clear thesis which addresses the topic and responds effectively to all aspects of the task
  • Is logically organized and divided into well-structured paragraphs
  • Is fully developed with specific details, examples and arguments that cogently support the author’s thesis
  • Has an effective, fluent style marked by sentence variety and a clear command of language
  • Is largely free of errors in grammar, punctuation and mechanics

 5     The “5” essay demonstrates strong writing ability.  The essay:

  • Responds to all or most aspects of the topic with a clear thesis (implied or explicit)
  • Is organized clearly
  • Is developed with details, evidence, examples and arguments that are relevant to the thesis
  • Has a readable style with effective word choice and some sentence variety
  • Is generally free of errors in grammar, punctuation and mechanics

 4       The “4” essay demonstrates adequate writing ability.  The essay:

  • Provides a thesis that responds to all or most of the topic at least implicitly
  • Is organized in sequential (if not always logical) manners that are consistent with paragraph conventions
  • Offers some supporting evidence/reasons and attempts to elaborate with some details
  • Is written in correct sentences, and word choices are correct, although possibly vague and/or repetitious at times
  • Demonstrates basic control of grammar, punctuation and mechanics so that sentence level errors, if present, do not confuse the reader

3     The “3” essay demonstrates marginal writing ability with one or more weaknesses. The essay may:

  • Provide a weak or unclear thesis and/or an inadequate response to the topic
  • Use an improper or confused organizational structure
  • Provide general, superficial, sparse or irrelevant supporting evidence/reasons
  • Contain confusing sentence structure and vague or imprecise word choice
  • Demonstrate limited control of grammar, punctuation and mechanics through distracting or confusing errors

 2     The “2” essay demonstrates weak writing ability with more than one serious weakness. The essay may:

  • Respond with a weak or no thesis, or the writer appears to misunderstand the topic
  • Provide very little organizational structure
  • Offer little or no supporting evidence or only evidence that is irrelevant to the topic
  • Be difficult to read or understand due to problems in sentence structure and word choice
  • Contain numerous errors in grammar, punctuation or mechanics that interfere with meaning and suggest a lack of control of written English conventions

1     The “1” essay demonstrates very weak writing ability with severe weaknesses. The essay may:

  • Demonstrate little or no understanding of the topic
  • Have no discernible organization and appear random in thought
  • Include no evidence or reasons and may only repeat the central idea
  • Demonstrate an inability to form sentences or choose correct vocabulary
  • Contain numerous errors in grammar, punctuation or mechanics that suggest a lack of familiarity with written English conventions

The highest score possible is 12 (a score of 6 from each reader), and the lowest possible score is 2. To pass the GWT, you must receive a total score of 7 or higher. Please see the GWT Study Guide for an explanation of the scoring criteria and sample passing and failing essays.

If I take the test and don't pass it, can I obtain a copy of my essay for study purposes?

Yes, you may request a copy of your essay at the Test Center any time during the four-week period after test results are posted. No corrective marks or notes will be made on your paper, because the holistic scoring model used by the readers does not permit marking the essay. Essay books will be held in storage for one year and then destroyed.

How can I prepare for the GWT ?

Click here to view the GWT study guide.  For free GWT test preparation resources (i.e. tutoring, workshops, practice tests, student guide and ten steps to GWT success), please visit the University Writing Center for additional information.

Accommodations needed?

If your disability would in any way affect your ability to test under normal conditions, the Test Center, in consultation with the Disability Resource Center (DRC), will arrange for special test accommodations. Register in person at the Test Center for the available test date. Please note that accommodations are not provided on Saturday. To receive accommodations, you must notify the Disability Resource Center at (909) 869-3333 no later than the registration deadline.    Click website link for additional information.

If your religious convictions prevent you from taking the GWT on the scheduled test dates, you must request special arrangements by providing a letter on official letterhead from an appropriate religious authority to the Test Officer.

What if I transfer to another CSU campus?

Each campus has its own method of assessing writing competence. If you pass the GWT and then transfer to another CSU campus, you will not have to meet the writing requirement at that campus. Cal Poly will not accept any certification of writing competence isssued by another campus unless documentation is submitted and approved by the Test Officer.

When will I receive my score?

Your score will be available on Bronco Direct (view my test summary) four weeks from the date of the test.