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Questions about the Critical Reading and Writing Skills Test

The test of critical reading and writing skills (CRWS) may spark some anxiety—especially if you have not attended school or taken a test in several years. Most students find the test well within their abilities.  If your academic writing is a little rusty, don’t worry. The graders will offer you a suggestion for an appropriate writing course to take that will sharpen up those skills. You also have the option to register for the alternative writing course instead of taking the test.

The following commonly asked questions about the CRWS test offer insight into the test’s structure and how you can complete this requirement successfully. 

Why is the CRWS test required?

The test is required to help ensure you have the skills to succeed in courses with heavy academic writing demands.  In addition, when your test is reviewed, the readers will offer you course selection advice on the most appropriate writing course to take given your current skill level. This advice is shared with you to support your academic success.

What should I expect?

The CRWS test—taken online—measures your reading comprehension and writing skills.  You have 60 minutes to complete the test.  You read a brief passage from a text of the kind that you might encounter in a course at Extension.  You answer five multiple choice questions about it. Then you write a brief essay in which you summarize the main ideas of the text and make an argument, supported by evidence from your own experience, about its main claim.

Note that there are at least a dozen different exams at any given time and we regularly change the exam passages.  You will be assigned a topic at random. No specialized knowledge is required for the exam.  It’s not necessary—or even possible–to study for it.

How should I prepare for the CRWS test?

The best strategy for success is to dedicate an uninterrupted, focused hour to working through the questions and writing the essay.  Don’t take the test on a phone, in a car, or at work. Take it at home or in another quiet space where you have a strong internet connection. Take the test seriously. Don’t rush through it. Plan to use the entire hour to develop your essay and revise your work. Finally, do not use any outside sources when taking the exam. Submit only your own work.

If you submit work that is not your own, there will be severe disciplinary consequences, including permanent rustication from the Extension School.

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What is needed to pass the CRWS test?

There are two possible results: “Pass” and “Did not pass.” Tests are graded holistically, not on a points scale, so there is no minimum grade expectation. Readers assess a test knowing what is required for a student to succeed in our courses. If you don’t pass, don’t worry. The graders will offer you a suggestion for an appropriate writing course to take to sharpen up those skills.

Who scores my test?

The readers are all Extension School instructors who have taught the courses that require the test as well as the courses that serve as alternatives to it.  They assess each test using their deep knowledge of what is required for students to succeed in the courses they wish to take here.

How do I access the results?

Test scores are posted to your online services account (see the CRWS test page for the test results announcement schedule).

All CRWS exam results are thoroughly vetted by the Writing Program’s team of expository writing instructors and are final. It is important to remember that CRWS is a placement test for our writing courses; as such, it does not allow graders, instructors, or administrators to offer comprehensive feedback on students’ writing strengths and/or weaknesses. Admissions advisors are available to help students who are interested in pursuing degree programs to understand course sequencing and degree requirements based on their CRWS results, but they cannot respond to why a student passed or did not pass the test.

What happens If I do not pass the test?

You may take the test one time for a term (fall, spring, or summer). If you do not pass your first attempt, you may take it again during the following term. We advise students who do this to complete the recommended course before attempting the test for the second time.

For all programs, you have two chances to pass the test; if you do not pass the test after two attempts, you will not be allowed to attempt the test again.

Are there any alternatives to the test?

Yes, and we encourage you to consider the alternatives, which are expository writing courses taught by highly trained faculty members. With small class sizes (15-18 students), you’ll receive expert individual attention on your writing. Everyone can improve their writing and a course is the best way to help ensure academic success. See the alternatives to the test on the CRWS test page.

Does the CRWS test fulfill the English proficiency requirement?

Passing the CRWS test does not satisfy the English proficiency requirement.

In fact, if your native language is not English you must meet the English proficiency requirement before you can take the CRWS test.