Frequently Asked Questions

What is the GWE?

The GWE is a one-hour examination in which students write an extemporaneous essay responding to a specified topic given to them when the test is administered. The topics are screened and pre-tested to ensure that they function well for the purposes of this examination.

What should students bring to the examination?

Students should bring the GWE Admission Ticket and their student ID card. If they do not have a student ID card, then they should bring positive photo identification (e.g. valid driver's license, passport, citizenship card (with photo), or a military ID). Students should also bring two black or blue pens and/or pencils with dark lead. Students also may bring a dictionary and/or a thesaurus. Electronic dictionaries and thesauruses are acceptable as long as they do not plug into the wall, emit sounds or have a grammar/style-check. A blue book will be provided at the time of the test. Please note that you will not be admitted to the examination without your GWE Admission Ticket.

How many times can the test be taken?

TWICE. Students who do not pass after two times must take one of the certifying courses: ENG 350 or IDS 397 and 398. If a student attempts to take the test for a third time, the score for said third test cannot and will not be entered into the student’s records. A student who took the GWE twice in the past as an undergraduate may take the test twice again as a graduate student, if necessary.

Can one prepare for the test?

Students cannot prepare for the GWE in the same manner that they prepare for an essay examination in a course. Writing skills are acquired and refined over a period of time through instruction and practice. To get a better understanding of the GWE itself and what is expected of a passing essay, students can sign up for the preparation workshops at the time they register for the exam. Workshops are given a week before each exam. Students also can benefit from a review of grammar and mechanics as found in any standard English handbook.

Is the student's attitude important in taking the test?

Definitely. All tests cause anxiety to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the individual. Everyone, including seasoned professional writers, experiences a certain amount of "writing anxiety." However, with a constructive attitude, students can often channel this anxiety into creative energy. The worst thing to do is to "fight the test" or to resist the requirement. Our advice is to attend a workshop, get a good night's sleep before the day of the test, try not to worry about it or to anticipate its topic, and come with a positive outlook, confident of a successful performance.

When should the test be taken?

Undergraduates who began their baccalaureate program at Dominguez Hills should take the test within two semesters after completing the English Composition section of the Basic Skills requirements of General Studies (or after completing 72 semester units total, whichever comes last). Upper-division transfer students should take the test within two semesters of their transfer to CSUDH. Graduate students should take the test within the first nine units. Candidates for Teaching Credentials who are not seeking graduate degrees are not required to satisfy the GWAR at this time and need not take the GWE. Candidates having met the GWAR at another CSU campus in 1984 or later before enrolling at CSUDH also are not required to take the GWE, but must file and have approved a Petition for Fulfillment of GWAR with the Testing Center.

What does the GWE evaluate?

The GWE Scoring Guide defines the standards or criteria that the readers use to evaluate each test. In general, the GWE is designed to measure the student's ability to follow directions and complete specified tasks of the assignment, to compose an organized essay, to support ideas with specific examples, to use correct grammar and mechanics, and to use language effectively. Since the essay is essentially a first draft written within a limited amount of time, perfection is not expected, even for the score of 12.

How are students notified of the results of the test?

By mail, usually six (6) weeks following the examination. Students should not call for results. If students have not received their results after six (6) weeks, they should contact the Testing Center, North Library 5705, (310) 243-3909 or at

Is there counseling for students who do not pass the GWE?

Students who do not pass the test may request a GWE Advisement by completing the Essay Advisement Form and submitting it to the Testing Center in North Library 5705.The student must submit a request for advisement within one year of the writing of the essay because essays are destroyed after one year.

What happens if students have registered but miss the test date, or if students have paid for the test but do not need to take it?

Effective January 1, 2017, refunds will not be given for missed exam dates. Refunds will not be given for requests made on the day of or after the test dates. Refunds will be honored for those who request the refund 2 weeks prior to the exam date. Refund requests must be made in writing via email to Name, student id number, and test date must be included in the requests.

Exam dates cannot be changed, nor can fees be rolled over to future test dates. Students who know they will not be able to take the exam on the registered date should contact the Testing Center no later than 2 weeks before the exam.

What is the Composition Cooperative (Comp Coop)?

In each course that satisfies the GWAR, students write an essay on a common topic near the end of the course. The instructors in the course meet to read the essays in what is called the Composition Cooperative. Each essay is read independently by two scorers using a modified form of the GWE Scoring Guide. No instructor reads essays from his or her own class. Students who have questions about their scores should consult their course instructors.

When should the certifying course be taken?

Undergraduate students who opt for a course should take it as early as possible, at least within two terms of reaching junior status and after completion of the lower-division composition requirement. Graduate students who opt for a course should take it in their first or second semester of graduate school. In this way, both undergraduate and graduate students will receive instruction that will help them with their writing assignments in upper-division or graduate courses and avoid delaying graduation.

Can certification of writing competency be transferred from another institution?

Yes. If prior to being admitted to CSUDH a student has completed GWAR at another CSU campus in 1984 or later, he or she can submit a Petition for GWE Exemption through the Testing Center.

Are other kinds of exceptions to the requirement other than those listed in the handbook and/or University Catalogue ever granted?

No. All undergraduate and graduate students at CSU Dominguez Hills are bound by the requirement. Portfolios of papers written at Dominguez Hills or elsewhere, or testimonials or letters of recommendation are not, by university policy, taken as evidence that an exception should be made. Only those items listed on the petition are considered in the petition process.

If my check or money order is returned unpaid, can my score or grades be withheld?

Yes. When a check or money order is returned unpaid for any reason, GWE scores will be withdrawn and not released until all Testing Center debts are cleared.