Undergraduate English Writing

Am I required to take the English Language Placement Exam (ELPE)?

If English is not your home language and you have not met the University of California’s Entry Level Writing Requirement (ELWR), you must take the ELPE. Below are the only acceptable ways to meet the ELWR:

  • 30 or better on the ACT Combined English/Writing test; or
  • 680 or better on the SAT Writing Test; or
  • 3 or better on the Advanced Placement (AP) Exam in English; or
  • 5 or better on the IB High Level English A exam; or
  • 6 or better on the IB Standard Level English A exam; or
  • A passing score of 8 or higher on the Analytical Writing Placement Exam (AWPE) (NOTE: Results are on your Admissions page.)

If English has been your only language of instruction and the only language spoken in your home, please arrange to take the AWPE as soon as possible.  However, if you are bi-lingual or a non-native English speaker who has been notified that you must take the English Language Placement Exam (ELPE), you will not be eligible to take the AWPE without first taking the ELPE and receiving a score of 90 or more.

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ESL Writing Sequence to meet the Entry Level Writing Requirement

UWP 21: Introduction to Academic Reading and Writing for Multilingual Students (4 units)

Lecture/discussion—4 hours per week. Provides work in reading and in writing organized, coherent, and grammatically correct paragraphs and introduces academic essays. This course must be taken for a letter grade.

UWP 22: Intermediate Academic Reading and Writing for Multilingual Students (4 units)

Lecture/discussion—4 hours per week. Prerequisite: UWP21. Provides experience in writing essays in recognized rhetorical modes. Students will also read to develop fluency and critical thinking and will study grammar needed for academic writing. This course must be taken for a letter grade.

UWP 23: Advanced Academic Reading and Writing for Multilingual Students (4 units)

Lecture/discussion—4 hours per week. Prerequisite: UWP 22. Provides undergraduate students whose native language is not English with experience writing persuasive essays related to reading passages. Students will also read for tone, style, context, and assumptions and will study advanced grammar needed for persuasive essays. This course must be taken for a letter grade.

Workload 57S

Preparatory writing course— 4.5 hours per week. Course introduces the kinds of analytical writing typically encountered at the University. Students read and discuss professional essays and write a number of papers and shorter assignments both in and out of class. Students with ESL backgrounds should plan to enroll in WLD 57S. These are specifically dedicated to ESL students. A grade of 'C' or better meets the entry level writing requirements.


I'm an international student coming to UC Davis in the fall as a freshman. What do I do now?

First of all, please see our Pre-Arrival Guide for International Students!

Secondly, start preparing now! Most likely you spent weeks or months studying for the exams that you needed to take to enter UC Davis: SAT or ACT and TOEFL. Now, you need to focus on the skills you need to succeed once you get here, primarily your academic English writing skills. Your grades at UC Davis depend heavily on your reading and lecture comprehension, but even more heavily on your writing ability. It is through your writing that you will demonstrate to instructors that you have mastered course content. For that reason, your English writing skills will be tested after you arrive in Davis, and you may be required to take English writing courses in addition to your other program requirements. In order for you to do your best on that test and in your courses, it is important to use the months, weeks and days that you have now to prepare.

Here are some strategies that will help you get ready:

Read. Select academic and scholarly articles from a variety of fields. These will be more challenging than most newspapers and popular magazines. To read what the best of what your colleagues have written, get a copy of Prized Writing and to get an early start on what the campus will be reading, visit the Campus Book Project.

Listen. Many internet sites provide lectures and speeches on academic topics - Ted Talks and ItunesU provide excellent academic materials to maintain and improve your listening skills over the summer. You can even find some online lectures from UC Davis professors, but it is important to strengthen your ear for listening to lecturers from many different language backgrounds because your professors will come from all over the world and their accents may not be from northern California.

Write. Practice summarizing the articles you read and the lectures you viewed. After the summary, write your response or reaction. If you have access to a native English speaker or to someone with excellent English skills, ask for guidance to improve your writing. But, even the act of writing without correction has a profound impact.

Consider attending Summer Start. This is a program designed to give international students the best possible start on their studies at UC Davis. While studying on your own is a good way to get ready, nothing replaces solid instruction and the academic support provided in this program. Read more about Summer Start.

Contact your advisor. The number of course options available to you at a U.S. university can be overwhelming for any first-year student, domestic or international, and making the wrong choices can cost you time and money. For this reason, each college within UC Davis has dedicated international advisors to help you navigate the policies and requirements specific to your degree. These advisors are experts at helping you find the best pathway from entrance to graduation. Locate your advisor and learn more about what he or she can do for you.

Ask your peers. Many different student groups have Facebook pages, so contact them before you start packing.

I'm a U.S. resident who has been placed in ESL. What do I do now? **
  1. As you make your course plan for fall, remind your advisor that you have been placed in ESL writing courses and need to begin those immediately. With careful planning, the ESL writing courses won’t impact your expected graduation date and when taken early will provide the skills needed to secure a higher GPA throughout your academic career.
  2. Writing classes fill up quickly, so each quarter register for the next writing course at the earliest possible opportunity. All UC Davis students have a limited amount of time to meet the Entry Level Writing Requirement. For native English speaking students, the deadline is spring of their freshman year. For non-native English speaking students, the deadline is delayed to provide time to take the required ESL writing courses. Students who place in UWP 23 are given until the end of Fall their Sophomore year. Those placed in UWP 22 are given until the end of Winter in their Sophomore year, and those placed in UWP 21 are given until the end of Spring quarter their sophomore year.
  3. Once you begin the writing sequence, do not stop until you finish your lower division writing course. One of the biggest mistakes students make is to take a break from writing. If possible, continue through the summer. If you cannot register for an ESL writing course because ALL of the seats are full, contact International and Academic English at iae@ucdavis.edu
  4. Get help early. ESL writing courses are Pass/No Pass and do not provide a final letter grade. For that reason, even the most competitive students tend to be less concerned about getting a ‘C’ on a major assignment. This is a mistake that leads many students to fail. Students must get 70% or better to earn a passing grade and it only takes a couple of ‘C’ assignment grades to jeopardize your ability to pass. If you get a ‘C’ or lower on any writing assignment, seek help. Visit the instructor during office hours and take advantage of tutoring in Dutton Hall.

** If English is your first language, contact International and Academic English (iae@ucdavis.edu).