At WOU, there are two required first-year writing courses: WR 121 (College Writing 1) and WR 122 (College Writing 2). Both courses are a required part of the General Education Foundational Writing Requirement. All students begin in WR 121, unless they have eligible standardized test scores (see this chart and contact me for an override) or an equivalent transfer course. 

We strongly recommend that students complete both of these courses in their first year at WOU. They are designed to help prepare you for the varied writing tasks you’ll do throughout your time here.


The Writing Challenge Exam

The challenge exam is a timed (2 hours) essay exam. Within these two hours, students will read a short passage, and then write a thesis-driven essay in response to a prompt. Your thesis should be supported with evidence from the reading and your own life experience; there’s no need to do outside research. In addition, you will write a short reflection describing what you would do if you had more time to work on your essay. 

The challenge exam is delivered online via Canvas. When students log in to take the exam, you’ll also see a scoring guide we use to evaluate the essays. Essays are scored on a scale of 1-6: 

  • A minimum of 3 is required to test out of WR 121 
  • A minimum of 5 is required to test out of WR 122

Each exam is scored by two readers to ensure that exams are fairly evaluated. If their scores are not the same (which rarely happens), then I will send your essay to a third reader. In general, students have their scores within a week of completing their exam.


Signing up for the challenge exam

Please contact me: Dr. Leigh Graziano at I’m the Director of First-Year Writing, and I would be happy to answer any of your questions.

Have ODS accommodations? No problem! If you need a disability related accommodation in order to participate in a Western Oregon University class or activity, please notify the Office of Disability Services at 503-838-8250 or at least 3 business days in advance. To request an interpreter or live captioning, please fill out the Interpreter/Transcriber/Live Captioning Request Form.


Who should take the challenge exam?

All students have the option to try and test out of one of these courses. However, it’s not recommended. The challenge exam is a great option, for example, if:

  • You are a transfer student and already have some other college-level writing courses
  • You have test scores that are close to the cut-off to begin in WR 122
  • Non-traditional students returning to college with lots of industry experience

If you are a new first-time freshman transitioning from high school to college, you should not take the Challenge Exam. You should begin in WR 121. 


What makes someone ineligible for the challenge exam?

There are two main things that make someone ineligible to take the exam:

  • If you withdraw from or fail either WR 121 or WR 122, you cannot try to challenge the class. You need to complete the course; it’s an important and valuable graduation requirement.
  • If you use standardized test scores to place into WR 122, you are not eligible to challenge WR 122. You must complete the course. Again, it’s an important graduation requirement, and, more importantly, writing is a valuable skill that you’ll need in all your college coursework.


Can I take the test more than once?

You can only take the exam once. This isn’t a way to avoid taking required courses that you need. If you try to test out of WR 121 and you score too low on your essay, then you’ll have to take the course. You cannot retake the exam.

If you try to challenge WR 121, you cannot challenge WR 122 as well.

What if I fail or drop my writing course?

Similarly, the exam cannot be used to avoid retaking a course. If you fail WR 122 or withdraw from the course, then you’ll need to retake the course. You are not eligible for the challenge exam. 

Is there any charge or fee for the challenge exam?

No, and there’s absolutely no risk in trying the exam. The exam is free, and it’s online for your convenience.


Department of English Studies

Department Head: Dr. Lars Söderlund | 503-838-8325 | or e-mail:  | Location: BELL 309

Accessibility    Public Records    Privacy    Student Consumer Information

WOU prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national or ethnic origin, age, religion, marital status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in all programs, activities and employment practices as required by Title IX, other applicable laws, and policies. Retaliation is prohibited by WOU.