Preparing for the Writing Proficiency Evaluation (WPE)

Elements of Writing Proficiency

Your WPE paper, whether for the portfolio or for the timed exam, will be evaluated using The Elements of Writing Proficiency. You should study this information carefully to understand how your essay will be graded. You can access a brief version of the elements, or a long version.  

Advice on Reading Sets

Once you have selected a reading set, read and reread each article in the set carefully and thoughtfully. When the exam is graded, your readers are not judging your essay by your general knowledge of, or unsupported opinions about, the topic. You are expected to refer specifically and accurately to ideas and evidence in the assigned readings.

You will want to analyze precisely how the articles in a set of readings are related to each other. For most students, this means spending at least several hours a day over a period of three or four days; some students like to prepare the set gradually over the full registration period (usually 4 to 5 weeks). Adequate preparation requires that you do more than skim the articles once or twice. The articles are complex and you are expected to re-read them. Generally, the questions will ask you to focus on and analyze an important relationship between all or most of the readings in the reading set.

Critical reading starts with searching for information, but you need to write more than a book report to pass the Writing Proficiency Evaluation (WPE). Remember that your essay will be evaluated by the critical reading and writing criteria that are listed and explained in The Elements of Writing Proficiency and the WPE Evaluation Rubric. Click here for a detailed description of preparation strategies for writing the new portfolio essay or taking the timed-essay exam.


If you have any questions, call or visit the Writing Proficiency Office in the Department of Undergraduate Studies. We are located on the first floor of the Campus Center, in suite 1300; contact us at 617.287.6330 or We will make every effort to provide you with information, practical advice, tutoring, workshops, (see the workshops and tutoring page) and support to help you meet this requirement in a timely way.