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Pass Rate On FEE Hits 3 of 4

By Eun J. Lee


Three out of four freshmen who took this year’s Freshman Essay Evaluation received passing grades, up from 59 percent last year.

In addition to the MIT freshmen who took the test, students from several other colleges took the online essay evaluation this year, as the result of a project sponsored by the MIT-Microsoft iCampus Alliance.

“There’s significant national interest in the online system developed here, because it is a highly effective way for colleges to evaluate incoming students online,” said Leslie C. Perelman, director of writing across the curriculum and principal investigator for the iCampus project.

Three of four freshmen pass FEE

In total, 592 of the 816 freshmen who took the FEE, or 73 percent, received passing scores, meaning that they may take any Communication Intensive Humanities, Arts, or Social Science course (CI-H) during their freshman year.

One hundred ninety-four students received the score of “Writing Subject Required.” Each of these students must successfully complete a Communication Intensive HASS Writing (CI-HW) subject during their first year.

Thirty international students earned scores of “English as a Second Language Subject Required.” These students must successfully complete the class Expository Writing for Bilingual Students (21F.222) during their freshman year.

The passing rate is up moderately from the 59 percent with last year’s FEE, and drastically higher than the typical 20 percent of freshmen passing the FEE in prior years. This is the second year of the new Communications Requirement and an easier FEE, but unlike students passing the older Writing Requirement FEE, students receiving a passing grade on this year’s FEE must still take a Communications Intensive HASS course during their freshman year.

Students who received a score of five on either of the two Advanced Placement English examinations were not required to take the FEE, and students who neither fulfilled the communications requirement with an AP test nor took the FEE will automatically be assigned “Writing Subject Required.”

Other colleges use FEE system

This was the fifth year that the FEE has been offered online. The consortium of universities using the online essay evaluation service this year includes the California Institute of Technology, the University of Cincinnati, Louisiana State University, and DePaul University.

The number of colleges on the system will increase by more than ten by next summer, and thirty by 2004, Perelman said.

Feedback important part of FEE

Freshmen received comments and feedback on their essay submissions along with their grades.

“Students get substantive feedback on their writing,” Perelman said. “It’s the comments that make it a real educational experience.”

Whatever score they received, most students said they valued the feedback specific to their essays.

“What was nice about the online format was that you got comments on specific sentences or details on your essays to help with your writing,” said Marta M. Luczynska ’06, who passed the test.

Even students who did not pass the exam were positive about the experience. “The results of my FEE were demoralizing, but they were honest,” said William A. Reichert ’06. “I’m actually glad I have to take the writing course, because I don’t really know how to write well. I guess I’ve been able to slip through the system until now.”

FEE provides realistic situation

The online FEE is unlike other online assessment tools because it provides students with a more realistic situation in which to write, Perelman said.

The evaluation process spans the course of a week between registration and essay submission. Students must write two essays answering questions based on two reading passages. They are given three days to read the passages and another three days to write their essays after the questions are posted online.

“I like how they give you so many days to write your essays,” Luczynska said.

“The system is still growing and evolving,” Perelman said. He says that the system may eventually be expanded to cover tests in other academic fields.