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Composition Exemption Exams

The English Department offers the freshman and junior composition exemption exam once per semester. It takes place the Saturday of the first week of classes from 9:45 a.m. to noon in Ellis Hall.


Students must be registered for the exam before exam day, and a student may take it only once. Students may register in the English Department on the third floor of Ellis Hall during the first week of classes between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and pick up an information sheet giving more information on the exam at the same time.

About the Exam

The exam asks students to write an analytical essay based on a text distributed when the exam begins. The essay is scored; it is not graded. No additional feedback about a student’s performance on the exam will be provided. Exams are holistically scored by at least two experienced Ohio University writing instructors. To be waived from First-Year or Junior Composition, at least one instructor must feel that the essay demonstrated exceptional writing, critical thinking, and met most of the applicable rhetorical competencies at the appropriate level. (See below.)

While a student may take the exam and receive exemption, the student’s department may still require the student to take a first-year or junior composition course regardless of the score. Students should check with their departments concerning composition requirements before taking the exemption exam.

Students who take the exam and receive exemption will not receive the credit hours for a composition course.

Students who do not receive exemption may take ENG 1510 to fulfill their First-Year Composition requirement. They may take ENG 3060J, 3080J, 3090J; HIST 3111J; ML 3270J; or REC 3700J to fulfill their Junior Composition requirement.

Online students and distance learners who are unable to come to the Athens campus to take the junior composition exemption exam may now have the exam administered by an approved proctor at a remote location. Please contact the English department for more information.

Evaluation Criteria for First-Year and Junior Composition Exemption

In order for students to be exempted from First-Year or Junior composition courses, they must demonstrate advanced writing proficiency relative to students who have successfully completed those courses. Anonymous graders will exempt only students who demonstrate excellence in the following areas:


  • The essay question is answered completely.
  • The essay is unified at the paragraph and essay levels; the essay and the paragraphs are driven by one central organizing thought or argument.


  • The writing is clear, direct, and vigorous.


  • The paragraphs of the essay connect to each other logically and fluidly, and the essay follows a clear organizational scheme.


  • The writer’s arguments are supported by detail, such as examples from the text under discussion, anecdotes, and hypothetical situations.
  • The writer demonstrates effective use and incorporation of evidence from the text under discussion.
  • The essay demonstrates that the writer has understood and analyzed the text under discussion.


  • The essay demonstrates that the writer can develop his or her own ideas.
  • The essay demonstrates that the writer understands the cultural, social, and/or political contexts addressed in the text.
  • The writer’s syntax and phrasing are varied and complex.


  • The essay demonstrates creativity and the ability to expand on conventions.
  • The writing is interesting and non-formulaic.

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