Upper Division Composition Exam (UDCE) Information

The exam 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 dishonesty, leisure time, and helicopter parenting. 

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. A student may make only 2 attempts at passing the exam. If you do not pass your first attempt, you may make an appointment with a Composition Exam Counselor to find out why. Then, you have the opportunity to take the exam one more time. 

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 /about/college-writing-requirements see the UCD General Catalog, or consult your dean's office. 

How Covid-19 will Affect the Spring 2020 Exam

The April exam will be online, through Canvas. Students must register for the exam (see below), accept the invitation to the Canvas page, read the announcements on the Canvas page, and arrange a quiet room with a computer and strong internet from 11:30-1 p.m. Students logging on late will not be given extra time. Canvas will not accept exams submitted after the due time, 1:00.00 p.m.
As with the paper exam, no sources, dictionaries, or collaboration are allowed.


Students who miss the registration window will not have their exams scored. Registration is required. 

October 19, 2019 (Registration begins on September 25th at 8:00 a.m. and ends October 13th at 12:00 p.m.)
January 25, 2020 (Registration begins on January 6th at 8:00 a.m. and ends January 19th at 12:00 p.m.)
April 25, 2020 (Registration begins on March 30th at 8:00 a.m. and ends April 19th at 12:00 p.m.)
Exam: 11:30 a.m. PST

We suggest logging in 15 minutes before the start time. No makeups or alternate times/dates are available under any circumstances, including emergencies or technology issues.

Students needing disability or religious accommodations must indicate so on their registration. Accommodation exam times will be arranged based on student and proctor availability. Religious accommodation exams will be administered the Friday before the posted exam date. Location TBA. 


Fall Quarter: 1100 Social Sciences
Winter Quarter: Rock Hall
Spring Quarter: on Canvas 


Register online here during the registration windows above.


Cancel online here.

What to Bring to the Exam

  • A computer with strong access to the internet during the exam window
  • Your UCD login credentials
  • Remember, no sources, dictionaries, or collaboration are allowed




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.

Students will not be able to see counselors to prep for this exam. We do not hold pre-exam workshops. Only students who are already confident in their writing ability should attempt the exam. This is a challenge exam and is therefore challenging. 

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 and practice writing essays responding to brief articles of general interest. On-line writing resources are listed below.


Students with disabilities must contact the Student Disability Center (SDC) (530-752-3184). After the SDC evaluates the accommodation need, contact Amber Harden (adharden@ucdavis.edu) to set up the exam time. Accommodations and appointments must be set up in advance of the exam dateAny items other than a computer (e.g. ear plugs) are the student's responsibility. 


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. Each exam is scored by at least two instructors, who do not see each other's score. 

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.

UDCE Scoring Rubric


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.

Useful Links

Contact Amber Harden
105 Voorhies