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One in Five Freshmen Pass FEE

Results On Par With Recent Years’ Scores

By Naveen Sunkavally


In a result consistent with that of previous years, 19 percent of the incoming class passed the Freshman Essay Evaluation this year.

The result is a slight decrease from the percentage passing last year but “within the normal range,” said Leslie C. Perelman, director of writing across the curriculum.

Of those not passing, 56 percent received a score of intermediate, and 24 percent received the score of subject required, Perelman said.

More students take FEE online

One of the few differences in the FEE this year from the test last year is the fewer number of students taking it in the written form. Only 114 students took the test during Orientation, as opposed to 189 last year, Perelman said.

Like last year, the percentage passing the online test was much greater than that passing the written test. 13 percent passed the test online compared to only 4 percent who passed the written test, Perelman said.

“The reason for that [difference] is that people who are weak in something tend to procrastinate,” Perelman said.

Perelman added that the online test is a more valid test than its written counterpart because it gives students time to revise content. The written test is more a measure of test-taking ability rather than writing ability in the real world, he said.

The two tests were graded on roughly the same standards, Perelman said. “Obviously, you can’t grade the two tests at the exact same standard, [but] the same general guidelines apply,” he said.

Requirement To Change FEE

This year’s freshmen will be the last class to take the FEE under the old writing requirement.

Under the new writing requirement, expected to take effect next year, students will receive only two grades: pass or subject required.

However, unlike in previous years, those receiving the score of pass will still have to take a writing or communications intensive course, for all four of their years at MIT. In addition to this stipulation, those receiving a score of subject required will be required to take a writing course their freshman year, Perelman said.

The Institute is also looking into ways to revise its Advanced Placement and SAT requirements as they apply to students taking the FEE. Currently, students can pass out of Phase One (and the FEE) with a score of 5 on the AP Literature test. In addition, students with a 750 or greater on the SAT II Writing Test or a 5 on the AP Literature test can guarantee themselves at least a score of intermediate on the FEE.

This year, 10 percent of freshmen were able to pass out of the FEE with a score of 5 on the AP Literature test.

Perelman explained the reasons for these changes in the context of MIT’s peer engineering institutions, such as the California Institute of Technology and the Georgia Institute of Technology. These institutions require freshmen to take more communications intensive courses than at MIT, he said.