Computer crash causes frustration during writing exam

Lane Riggs

The Writing Proficiency Exam is required of students who have completed 60-90 credit hours to determine whether or not the students can meet minimum expectations for writing, including grammar, spelling and punctuation.

In addition to normal problems with taking any exams, students can take the test either using pen and paper or on a computer, raising, potentially other problems such as the computer crash that occurred during the administration of the test this fall.

“Anytime computers freeze, we are able to retrieve information,”program administrator Kristen Garrison said. “But some we are not able to retrieve, and the students had to rewrite. It’s the risk of having the convenience,”

There is no advantage to taking a computerized test.

“I don’t think that computerized tests are inherently better than pen and paper. I just think that the option needs to be available. Computerized tests level the field for students. Some compose better when typing, several factors may slow them down when writing,” Garrison said. “Those students who take the computerized test know of the very slight risk of losing their essay.”

Students in high school practice for what may be months in advance of a test such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, but MSU’s writing exam tests whether students will carry writing skills with them whenever they begin a job.

“The reality is that no one will get a job if they don’t know how to write correctly,”  Garrison said. “You have to be able to write memos. If your boss asks you to and you don’t know how to, they won’t be very happy.”

The two-hour exam tests that skill exactly, and can help to determine if a student is ready to enter the workforce as they write from one of two prompts, taking a stand for or against the argument presented in the prompt.

Two faculty members in the English Department grade the test, looking at everything from content development to control of syntax.