Timed Essay Exam

For most students, the portfolio option is the better approach to meeting the Writing Proficiency Requirement. If you choose to take the timed essay exam, the following important information will help you prepare.

Note that the timed essay exam is only offered in January and June (usually on the first Monday or Tuesday of each month).  

To register for the timed essay, click on the registration link to the left. Once you register, you will receive an email giving you access to the reading sets. You are expected to print out and read these carefully as you prepare for the exam.

On the day of the exam:

  • Bring your copy of the reading set to the ballroom in the Campus Center.  You may bring a hard copy of a dictionary (no electronic devices are allowed in the testing room).
  • When the exam begins, you will receive a sheet with two questions; you will answer one.   You will have three hours to write your essay. This will give you enough time to choose the question you prefer, plan your essay, draft the essay, and edit your essay. You will probably not have time to re-copy your essay, but you will not need to if you follow the suggestions below.
  • If you know what issues the readings raise and what the authors' positions are in advance, then you will save precious time during the exam because you will not have to reread the articles to find out.
  • When you have drafted your essay, reread it to make certain that you have answered the question and said what you meant. Be especially careful to mention the names of authors whose ideas you use and to place quotation marks around and carefully attribute any words or phrases taken from the readings. Place page references in parentheses after quoting. 
  • Edit your essay and check for correctness. You will not be penalized if you make corrections in your bluebook; rather, the readers expect you to edit your draft. In order to make your corrections more understandable please write on every other line of the blue book . That will leave enough space for you to insert corrections after you cross out what you want to change. Use a caret mark (^) and, if necessary, draw an arrow to your correction.
  • You may find it easier to write your first paragraph once you have a pretty good idea of what your essay will be about, but some students like to leave the first page of the bluebook blank and write the first paragraph last.

If you have any questions please phone or visit the Writing Proficiency Office. We are located in the Campus Center 1/1300; contact us by phone at 617-287-6330 or by email at We will make every effort to provide you with information, practical advice, tutoring, workshops, and support to help you meet this requirement in a timely way.