Writing Proficiency Requirements


All Saint Mary's students must demonstrate proficiency in college-level writing. Such proficiency is a requirement for graduation. On a less legalistic level, it is also a requirement for successful college work. Meeting the requirement is known around Saint Mary's as "getting the W." The sooner in your college career you become proficient enough to get the "W," the better able you will be to deal with all college-level courses in which papers, lab reports, etc., are required.

Getting the "W"

The "W" is given by a committee of evaluators for demonstrated proficiency. Simply enrolling in or satisfactorily completing a course does not automatically guarantee the "W." The instructor may find that you have made good progress, mastered the course material, and done satisfactory work in many regards, but that you cannot yet write at the required level of proficiency. You will then have the opportunity to take another "W" course. Failure to get the "W" in any given course is not recorded on your transcript; only when you do succeed will the "W" be recorded. Be realistic in your expectations of yourself; if you have had little or no experience with writing in high school, it may well take more than one semester for you to develop college-level competency in writing.

Portfolio Review

At various points throughout the semester your teacher will inform you of your progress toward "W" certification. Be sure you understand what specific areas of your writing are giving difficulty. Concentrate hard on improving these weak areas; you may well want to seek help from the tutors in the writing center or from the teaching assistant in your class if you have one.

At the end of the semester you and your teacher will preview your work for the portfolio evaluation. On portfolio reading day two teachers other than your class teacher will read your complete portfolio of writings, concentrating on three sample papers: 1) a paper from any point in the semester and its rewritten version, if any; 2) a paper from near the end of the semester as originally submitted; 3) an in-class writing sample from near the end of the semester, unrevised. Your portfolio reviewers will first read through the three selected papers; if necessary, they will turn for more information to the rest of your work from the semester. They will read your papers "holistically," seeking an overall sense of your abilities as a writer. Your two readers will confer with one another, and with your teacher. If they recommend that you need to take an additional "W" class, they will return your portfolio giving you the reasons for their decision. Your class teacher will weigh the committee readers' judgments and ultimately make the final decision about "W" certification. Your teacher will explain why you did not receive the "W" so that you will understand what aspects of your writing need further attention.

You will receive your "W" if your writing is well organized and focused, logical and coherent, technically correct, and cognizant of the complexities of the issues in the content material.