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Graduate Writing Test (GWT)

Instructions to register for the GWT                          Instructions to pay for the GWT online

Test Dates

GWT Test Dates

Registration* and Payment Deadline

October 11, 2014

September 26, 2014

January 17, 2015

January 5, 2015

April 11, 2015

March 27, 2015

July 11, 2015

June 25, 2015

October 10, 2015

September 25, 2015

*Your GWT registration must be submitted by 4:45 pm on the deadline date. The cost of the GWT is $30.00

For free GWT test preparation resources (i.e. tutoring, GWT workshops, grammar workshops, practice tests, helpful tips, and study skills for writing), please visit the Learning Resource Center for additional information.

All students subject to degree requirements listed in the 1977-78 and subsequent general catalogs must demonstrate competency in writing skills as a requirement for graduation. Based on action taken by the Academic Senate in 1978, writing competence at Cal Poly Pomona is assessed by means of a written test.

All persons who receive undergraduate, graduate, or external degrees from Cal Poly Pomona must pass the Graduation Writing Test (GWT). Credential students may waive the GWT, but will need to pass it to be admitted to the master's program. Contact the Test Center for further information.

Students who have passed the GWT in undergraduate status at Cal Poly Pomona will not be required to take the test again when they change to graduate student status. The passing score for the GWT is 7 or above. 

Students who did not pass the GWT in undergraduate status and had the test waived (either for continuous enrollment or by special consideration in order to receive their bachelor's degree) will be required to take AND pass the GWT before a graduate degree may be awarded. The GWT cannot be waived for a second time. The waiver in undergraduate status applies only for the baccalaureate degree.

Exemptions from the GWT requirement are granted only to students who:

  • Do not plan to receive a degree at Cal Poly (e.g., enrollment in a credential or certificate program).
  • Submit documentation certifying the student has passed an equivalent writing-competence exam at another CSU campus. This documentation must be submitted and approved by the Test Officer.

If you are unable to pass the test after two attempts, you may apply to enroll in CPU401, a class in which your writing is assessed on a portfolio basis. For the application please click here. The GWT may also be petitioned with a waiver in some extreme cases. You may contact the Learning Resource Center for further information at (909) 869-3502. 

GWT Study Guide

A Study Guide to the Graduation Writing Test

Table of Contents

The Test in brief

You will be asked to write one essay on an assigned topic, and you will be allowed 75 minutes to complete your essay. The essay topic will be within the experience of every student, regardless of background or academic major; it will test how well you write rather than how much you know. The topic will call for an essay in which you try to convince the readers to accept a particular argument or point of view. You will be expected to assemble and organize examples, facts, and details to make your argument or point of view clear and convincing. You may draw upon personal experiences and observations to support your points. The following is a topic from a former test administration:

Sample topic

We sometimes say or think: "There needs to be a change." On the freeway, we think: There needs to be a change in the way people drive. There needs to be a change, we say, in attitudes about racial difference; in graduation or financial aid requirements; in eating habits. We think there needs to be a change in working conditions at our job; in how our condo is managed; in the way baseball players are traded; in the way children are taught to read; in the way certain books or movies are priced or marketed; and so forth.

Write an essay that shows how there needs to be a change in one particular thing. It need not be any of the examples given above. Explain as fully as possible why this change is needed. Support your idea with as many reasons, details, and examples as possible.

Your essay will be independently read by two faculty members trained in reliable essay scoring, and your total essay score will be sum of the two readers' scores. Your essay will be scored according to a carefully developed set of standards (see last page), and a total score of 7 out of a possible 12 is required to pass. Essays that receive high scores will exhibit the following characteristics:

  1. They will adhere to the assigned topic and will develop it as specifically and thoroughly as time permits.
  2. They will be organized, clear, and coherent; the readers should be able to follow the writer's train of thought from beginning to end.
  3. They will demonstrate competence in grammar, punctuation, diction, and style.

An essay that fails to meet one or more of these standards will be scored lower. For example, if the writer treats the subject superficially or vaguely or includes serious errors in grammar and punctuation, his or her score will be lowered.

To do well on the essay, you should keep the following points in mind:

  1. The time limit will be adhered to strictly. You will be allotted a total of 75 minutes to think about, plan, and write your essay. This time limitation means that you must work efficiently and distribute your time wisely. Students occasionally run out of time because they take too long to think about the topic or spend so long on one portion of the assignment that they are unable to complete other portions. You will probably not have enough time to rewrite your paper, so try to make each sentence as clear, concise, and free or errors the first time around.
  2. Read the essay topic carefully before you begin writing, paying special attention to key words in the directions like describecompare, and explain. Be sure to do everything the assignment asks of you. The sample essay topic, for example, asks you to explain as fully as possible why a change is needed. It also asks you to support your idea with as many reasons, details, and examples as possible.
  3. Organize your thoughts before you begin writing. Again, look carefully at the essay topic; the way in which it is structured may suggest the way in which your essay might be organized. It will be helpful for you to sketch an outline, but be sure to allow yourself enough time to write the essay. Most students find it sufficient to jot down a few key phrases or the topic sentences of their paragraphs before they begin writing their essays.
  4. You should try to be as precise and specific as possible. Support your points with specific illustrations, facts, and details. Draw upon your own experiences and observations whenever possible. Remember that it is almost impossible to be too specific and detailed.
  5. Spend some time rereading your essay before turning it in. Correct any errors in grammar, punctuation, diction, and spelling.
  6. Do not limit yourself arbitrarily to five paragraphs. You may have been taught to write essays consisting of an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. Although such essays are certainly acceptable on the Graduation Writing Test and may receive passing scores, you should not feel restricted to such a rigid structure. Use as many paragraphs as necessary and as time permits to develop your argument. Also, you should remember that the degree to which each paragraph is developed is more important than the mere number of paragraphs you have.


Test and Student Conduct

Cal Poly Pomona reserves the right to cancel any test score if the test taker engages in misconduct or if there is a testing irregularity. The test administrator is encouraged to report each instance of academic dishonesty to the Director of Judicial Affairs and appropriate action will be taken.  For additional information, please view the Judicial Affairs website.

Article 1.1, Title 5, California Code of Regulations, states that students may be expelled, suspended, placed on probation or given a lesser sanction for one or more of the following campus-related causes:

a. Cheating or plagiarism: Exam cheating includes unauthorized "crib sheets," using any prohibited material, copying from another, looking at another student's exam, opening books when not authorized, and obtaining advance copies of exams. Plagiarism is intentionally or knowingly presenting words, ideas or work of others as one's own work. Computer-assisted plagiarism is still plagiarism.

b. Forgery, alteration or misuse of campus documents, records, or identification or knowingly furnishing false information to a campus. This includes falsifying signatures and forging another student's signature.


Test Preparation

For free GWT test preparation resources (i.e. tutoring, GWT workshops, grammar workshops, practice tests, helpful tips, and study skills for writing), please visit the Learning Resource Center for additional information.

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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.

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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 must register for the GWT by the quarter following your completion of 8 units.

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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.

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Will there be a fee for the test?

Yes, a $30.00 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.

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When will the GWT be given?

The GWT is given once each quarter, including summer. Test dates are posted at the top of this page.

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How and when may I register for the GWT?

Registration for the GWT is a two-step process. You must login to BroncoDirect/People Soft and choose a date and time under the Online GWT Registration link. Once this is completed, you need to pay the $30.00 test fee via BroncoDirect or at the Cashier's Office by the registration deadline. Test Dates and Registration Deadlines can be found at the top of this page. You must pay the test fee for each test date you register for. Any hold for the GWT will not be removed until you have chosen a date and time in BroncoDirect and paid the $30.00 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.). Click here for GWT Registration Steps.

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Where is the test given?

The GWT will be administered at building 163. Please report to building 163 at the entrance near the patio for check-in.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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How can I prepare for the GWT?

For free GWT test preparation resources (i.e. tutoring, GWT workshops, grammar workshops, practice tests, helpful tips, and study skills for writing), please visit the Learning Resource Center for additional information.

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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 next 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.

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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 issued by another campus unless documentation is submitted and approved by the Test Officer.

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When will I receive my score?

Your score will be available on Bronco Direct (View My Test Summary) from four to five weeks from the date of the test.

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