Writing Composition Competency (English) Exam

The writing composition placement exam is optional for all students. The online exam consists of a one-hour writing exercise. You may only take the exam once.

Should I Take the Exam?

If you excelled in writing in high school, we encourage you to take the exam. To help you decide, consider what English course you’ll be placed in if you don’t take the test. This placement is based on the high school GPA reported at the time of your admission:

  • CHANCE participants: ENGL 103P
  • Freshmen with a GED: ENGL 103P
  • Freshmen with high school GPA of 2.00 to 2.99: ENGL 103P
  • Freshmen with high school GPA of 3.00 or higher: ENGL 103
  • Transfer students with no first-year composition credit: ENGL 103

If you do well enough, you could get placed into a higher-level English course than your initial placement, allowing you to meet graduation requirements faster.


If you need testing accommodations, contact the Disability Resource Center at 815-753-1303 or by email at drc@niu.edu several weeks before you plan to test.

How to Take the Exam

  1. Access the exam registration system.
  2. Under Choose a Group, select Writing Composition Exam I - Online.
  3. Complete the rest of the form, using your NIU student email address.
  4. Check your NIU email account for a link to the exam. It can take several days for the link to arrive. Be sure to check your spam/junk folder. If you don’t receive the link after 14 days, email testing@niu.edu.
  5. The link will only work one time, so don’t click on it until you’re ready to take the exam.  When ready to test, click on the link.


English faculty members will review your exam. You’ll receive your results in your NIU email account. It can take several weeks for your results to arrive. Your outcome will be one of the following:

  • Your placement remains the same.
  • Your placement changes to ENGL 103.
  • Your placement changes to ENGL 204.
  • You’re asked to take part two of the exam for further evaluation.

Part two of the exam involves reading an argumentative essay and using conclusions drawn from it to write your own essay. There is a two-and-a-half-hour time limit.

Foundational Studies Requirement

Passing parts one and two of the writing composition exam is one of the ways you can meet the Foundational Studies writing requirement for graduation. Learn more about Foundational Studies competency exams.

Contact Us

Testing Services
Peters Campus Life Building 120


8 a.m.-noon
1-4:30 p.m.

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