The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 64.0°F | Partly Cloudy

Freshmen Take Writing Placement

By Eva Moy
Associate News Editor

Forty-one percent of the approximately 1060 students who took the Freshman Essay Evaluation last Friday received a passing grade, according to Leslie C. Perelman, coordinator for the Writing Requirement.

The essays are good indicators of writing ability, said Perelman. "The scoring was really precise," he added, referring to the many changes to the reading and grading systems.

Under the new grading system, two percent of the tests were graded as "conditional mechanical," and 4.7 percent were "conditional sentence structure." These students must attend a workshop or a tutoring session to convert their scores into passing grades.

A "not acceptable" grade was given to 36.5 percent of the freshmen essays, and an additional 15.8 percent were judged "not acceptable/writing subject recommended," according to Perelman.

Students receiving a not acceptable rating must either submit a paper to the writing requirement office or take a writing subject that fulfills Phase I, Perelman said. These include Expository Writing (21.730), Writing and Experience (21.731), Introduction to Technical Communication (21.732), and Expository Writing I and II for Undergraduates: English as a Second Language (21.333 and 21.334).

Freshmen with a writing subject recommended grade are urged to register for a writing class first term.

A conditional mechanical rating was given for writing which is generally good but has problems with punctuation or subject-verb agreement, for example, Perelman said. Students can pass Phase I after individual tutorial sessions at the writing center with Perelman, he said.

A conditional sentence structure grade indicates prose that is awkward or difficult to understand, he said. These students need to attend a two-hour workshop teaching "techniques for writing more effective prose," he added.

Each of the essays was read by two readers, who are professional writers teaching at MIT and other area schools. The mean of the normalized scores was 70 out of 100, with a standard deviation of 10. A faculty committee decided that scores of 72 or higher would pass and chose to grant a few conditional passes, Perelman said.

"I hope the experiment succeeds, and next year we'll expand the number of conditionals," Perelman said.

Students who have not yet taken the exam will be tested on Nov. 5.

ESL exam also offered

In addition to the FEE, international and bilingual students had the option of taking an English as a Second Language test, according to Associate Professor of Foreign Languages and Literature Suzanne Flynn.

The exam is used to determine whether to "recommend that they take a class in ESL," she said.

The exam has three parts -- the FEE, listening comprehension, and a grammar component, Flynn said. The results are evaluated independently from those of the writing requirement.

The "response was good this year," she said, citing that 142 students took the exam voluntarily. She added that although statistics are not yet available, the results are close to that of previous years.