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Upper Division Composition Exam Information

The examination to challenge the upper-division composition requirement asks you to read a short passage on a topic of general interest and to write an expository essay responding to it in one hour and 30 minutes. Last year, for example, examinees responded to readings about America's celebration of the self, the proliferation of "crises" in the United States, and the legal age for alcohol consumption.

If you decide to take this challenge exam, you should do so as soon as you have accumulated 70 units. Do not wait until your senior year. If you do not pass, you may make an appointment with a Composition Examination Counselor to find out why. Then, you have the opportunity to take the exam one more time.


October 25, 2014 (Registration begins on October 20 at 8:00 a.m.)
January 31, 2015 (Registration begins on January 26 at 8:00 a.m.)
April 25, 2015 (Registration begins on April 20 at 8:00 a.m.)
8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., or 2:30 p.m.


Peter A. Rock Hall (formerly known as 194 Chem)


Register online here from the Monday before each exam date until Friday at noon or until the exam slots are filled.


Cancel online here.

What to Bring to the Exam

  • Analytical Writing Placement Exam/Upper-Division Composition Exam form -- not a Blue Book
    (purchase form at the UCD Bookstore -- Hours: M-F 8:30-6:00, Sat. 12-5)
  • Photo ID
  • Pen 
  • (No dictionary or other reference materials)


Since passing the examination fulfills the upper-division composition requirement, you must demonstrate advanced writing skills--beyond technical correctness to effective development and support of an analytic argument that responds directly to the question and the reading passage. There is no quick way to develop such mastery of writing skills. To prepare for the exam, you might review principles of essay organization, paragraph development, and sentence construction in a good writing handbook, such as The Random House Handbook by Frederick Crews, and practice writing essays responding to brief articles of general interest. You may also attend a workshop on "Strategies for In-Class Writing"  through the Student Academic Success Center (2205 Dutton Hall/752-2013). On-line writing resources are listed below.


Experienced writing instructors will score the exams, assessing focus on the topic question, thesis, organization, development of ideas, logic, use of specific and appropriate evidence, grammar, usage, and sentence structure.

Failing essays tend to have one or more of the following problems: grammar errors; reliance on overly formulaic essay structures, i.e., the three point thesis; lack of development with specific evidence, beyond analysis of the text; failure to respond to the prompt.


You (and the dean of your college and the Registrar) will be notified of the results by e-mail approximately two weeks after the examination date.

Do not take this exam if you are currently enrolled in a course that satisfies the upper-division composition requirement for your college, as exam results will not be available until after the final add/drop deadline.

For information about your college's composition requirement visit /program-information/college-writing-requirements see the UCD General Catalog, or consult your dean's office.

Students with disabilities must contact the Student Disability Center (SDC) (530-752-3184) and Rachel Whitcombe (530-752-0450 or Students who need accommodations will take the exam the Friday before the standard exam. Accommodations must be made two weeks in advance of the exam date. 

Useful Links


Contact Rachel Whitcombe
116 Voorhies
(530) 752 - 0450


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