Scheduling First-Year Writing Courses

Placement Recommendations

Placement in English first-year writing courses is guided by a student's score on the SAT writing exam (SAT-W) and the student's background and goals.

Placement recommendations.
SAT-W Score Placement
620-800* Schedule ENGL 15 or ENGL 30. Use the guide below and consult with an adviser.
460-619* Schedule ENGL 15.
380-459* Schedule ENGL 15 or ENGL 4**. Use the guide below and consult with an adviser.
200-379* Schedule ENGL 4** before scheduling ENGL 15.
None Use the guide below and consult with an adviser.

*Students with scores that are near placement cutoffs should use the guide below and consult with an academic adviser.

Guide to Course Selection to help students choose the most appropriate English writing and rhetoric course(s)

Guide to course selection.
Questions for Students ENGL 4**
Basic Writing Skills (0 credits toward graduation) or ENGL 15 Enhanced (3 credits toward graduation)
ENGL 15 (GWS) Rhetoric and Composition (3 credits) ENGL 30 (GWS)
Honors Composition
(3 credits)
1. What English courses did you take in your junior and senior years of high school? Fewer than two years of AP or college preparatory English Two years of AP or college preparatory English Two years of advanced or AP English
2. What type of writing did you do in your high school English classes? Infrequently wrote essays of more than one paragraph with little feedback from the teacher Frequently wrote essays of more than one paragraph in length with feedback from the teacher Frequently wrote essays that required substantial amounts of writing with feedback from the teacher
3. What were your grades in English in your junior and senior years of high school? Mostly C or less Mostly between C+ and B- Mostly B or higher
4. To what extent are you familiar with basic writing tasks such as planning, editing, composing, and revising? I am unfamiliar with these tasks or not confident I can perform these tasks with a fair degree of competence I possess the skills needed to perform these tasks with competence
5. If you had a job that required writing, how successful were your writing efforts? Need substantial improvements Moderately successful to successful Highly successful
6. Do you consider yourself a confident and competent writer? No Yes Very much so

**ENGL 4 is not available at University Park campus. In place of ENGL 4, University Park students should schedule ENGL 15 Enhanced or may consider scheduling ENGL 15 and ENGL 5.

Course Descriptions

ENGL 4 Basic Writing Skills
This is a 3-credit, one-semester course required of students whose test score and previous writing experience suggest that they need more writing practice before entering ENGL 15. ENGL 4 course details are provided by the Program in Writing and Rhetoric.

The credits earned in ENGL 4 count in GPA and computations of full-time status but do not count toward graduation requirements for a baccalaureate degree.

ENGL 5 Writing Tutorial
If a student enrolled in ENGL 4 or ENGL 15 demonstrates the need for individualized assistance, the instructor may recommend that the student register for ENGL 5, a 1-credit, structured tutorial in English writing. ENGL 5 is scheduled concurrently with ENGL 4 or ENGL 15. ENGL 5 course details are provided by the Program in Writing and Rhetoric.

The credit earned in ENGL 5 counts in GPA and computations of full-time status but does not count toward graduation requirements for a baccalaureate degree.

ENGL 15 Rhetoric and Composition (See ESL 15 for students whose native language is not English.)
This is a 3-credit, one-semester course required of all Penn State undergraduates except those who pass ENGL 30 or ENGL 137H. ENGL 15 challenges students to an ambitious semester-long inquiry into the subject of rhetoric. ENGL 15 course details are provided by the Program in Writing and Rhetoric.

ENGL 15 satisfies 3 of 9 credits required for all baccalaureate degree candidates in General Education writing/speaking skills (GWS).

ENGL 15 Rhetoric and Composition Enhanced
This course is an alternative to ENGL 4. It follows the same curriculum as ENGL 15 (3 credits) and provides developing writers with extra support through a smaller class size, weekly access to peer tutors at Penn State Learning, and guaranteed placement in ENGL 5 (1-credit), a weekly tutorial with a graduate student in the English program. ENGL 15 Enhanced gives students the opportunity to develop college-level writing experience using the ENGL 15 curriculum while also receiving extra support in meeting the course requirements. Enrollment in ENGL 5 is mandatory for fulfillment of the course requirements. ENGL 15 Enhanced is identified in LionPATH (Class Search/Schedule Builder) by "W/ENGL 5" in the "Section Info."

ENGL 15 Enhanced satisfies 3 of 9 credits required for all baccalaureate degree candidates in General Education writing/speaking skills (GWS). The credit earned in ENGL 5 counts in GPA and computations of full-time status but does not count toward graduation requirements for a baccalaureate degree.

For additional information and registration, call the Program in Writing and Rhetoric office in the Department of English at 814-863-3066.

ENGL 30 Honors Freshman Composition (ENGL 137H is an alternative for students aspiring to be in the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Paterno Fellows Program.) ENGL 30 is designed for students who are especially skillful writers, who are anxious to try sophisticated writing strategies and to be challenged with complex texts.

ENGL 30 satisfies 3 of the 9 credits required for all baccalaureate degree candidates in General Education writing/speaking skills (GWS). ENGL 30 course details are provided by the Program in Writing and Rhetoric.

English as a Second Language (ESL)

A student whose native language is not English may elect to schedule an ESL course in place of an English writing and rhetoric course. One way to determine if a student's native language is not English is to see if the student has a TOEFL score in LionPATH (Academics, Academic Background). In addition, in Academic Background, "Is English your native language?" has a field for the student's response. The ESL Advising Placement Guide, developed by the Department of Applied Linguistics provides talking points to assist ESL students in choosing English composition courses.

ESL 15 Composition for American Academic Communication
ESL 15 is designed for students who are intermediate-level non-native speakers of English. In this alternative to ENGL 15, students will become familiar with the various stages in the process of writing and develop strategies for reading and writing various models of American academic discourse. Overall, students will be able to use what they have learned in this course to participate successfully in academic reading and writing tasks throughout their university experiences in the United States. Students will participate in a variety of reading and writing tasks that will enable them to: (a) define the subject, purpose, audience, and appropriate organizational structure for written compositions; (b) revise and reshape their writing to improve ideas, organization, language use, vocabulary and mechanics; (c) identify and correct structural and grammatical errors within their written texts; (d) select sources, take notes, and acknowledge sources to support ideas, using the library to conduct library research; and, (e) become better writers in preparation for their college careers.

ESL 15 satisfies 3 of 9 credits required for all baccalaureate degree candidates in General Education writing/speaking skills (GWS).

ESL 5 Writing Tutorial (1 credit)
ESL 5 supplements ESL 15 Composition for American Academic Communication by providing focused instruction for non-native English speaking students in English composition and academic writing. This course is to be taken concurrently with ESL 15. The tutorial option focuses on helping students master the objectives and concepts associated with ESL 15. This course may not be used to satisfy the basic minimum requirements for graduation in any baccalaureate degree program, but it may be recommended for a student to promote his/her success in the Academic Writing course and in future courses.

The credit earned in ESL 5 counts in GPA and computations of full-time status but does not count toward graduation requirements for a baccalaureate degree.

Additional information on ESL 15 and the ESL 5 tutoring option is available from the Department of Applied Linguistics, 814-865-7365. Information on English writing and rhetoric courses is available from the Program in Writing and Rhetoric About page or by calling 814-863-3066.

The English for Professional Purposes and Intercultural Center (EPPIC) provides international students with free English language support services.

Writing Assistance

Tutoring is available for all students at Penn State Learning, 814-865-1841.


Last Update: May 2016

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