Writing sample will be admissions requirement, The University of Texas at Austin announces

AUSTIN, Texas—Placing renewed emphasis on the importance of writing skills, The University of Texas at Austin announced today (Jan. 14) that high school seniors planning to enter college in fall 2006 will be required to demonstrate writing skills on an admissions test to be accepted to the university.

This opportunity to have a direct measure of student writing is made possible by changes to SATI that will be expanded to include a 25-minute writing sample and administered for the first time in spring 2005.

“We are going for a proctored writing sample,” said Dr. Bruce Walker, associate vice president and director of admissions at The University of Texas at Austin, “nothing but the student, the paper and a #2 pencil. This will be similar to a capstone experience to every school’s writing curriculum.”

Walker said the decision, made in June by the College Board, to add a writing test to the SATI was followed by the providers of the ACT admissions exam offering an “optional” writing test.

“Because The University of Texas at Austin accepts either SAT1 or ACT for admission purposes,” Walker said. “The university has decided that students must submit to the writing sample regardless of which test is taken.

“It is important that we let students know early about our writing expectations so they can prepare for this change. Also, this writing requirement sends a critical message to K-12 teachers—those who teach writing every day preparing children for college—that their work is extremely important. I fully expect that other major universities in Texas and beyond also will adopt the writing test as a part of their admissions standards.”

Walker said that for the past several years The University of Texas at Austin has required applicants to write two essays they send to the admissions office. The essays are considered in the evaluation process along with test scores. The evaluators, however, often are unsure of the nature of help the students received when writing their admissions essays and they are supportive of requiring a writing sample as a part of the admissions examination, Walker said.

“Obviously extemporaneous writing is what will be measured; the same type of writing required to be successful on an essay exam in college and for promotions in a profession,” Walker said.

“This new requirement will be a great help to us in choosing students who can succeed in engineering,” said Dr. Ben Streetman, dean of the university’s College of Engineering. “One of the most important skills an engineer has is the ability to present his or her ideas verbally and in writing. Virtually every engineering project begins with a written proposal, requires interim reports and culminates in a written summary. Professional success in engineering depends not only on the ability to apply the techniques of math and science to solve problems, but also on the engineer's ability to write those proposals and reports in a way that helps others understand the work.”

“Because the College Board has made the decision to add a writing sample as a regular part of every test, and ACT has decided to make a writing sample optional, institutions have to make a choice about whether they will require writing for every student, for example, those who submit ACT as well as those who submit SATI,” said Dr. George W. Gau, dean of the Red McCombs School of Business. “The larger issue is for us to support teachers of English in their attempt to help students understand the importance of writing. Now that writing skills will be directly measured on a standardized test used for college admission, the message will be pretty strong to both teachers and their students.”

The SATI is a college admission test taken by 1.3 million students entering colleges across the nation each fall. The test is focused on the college success skills of writing, critical reading and mathematics. The College Board has announced other changes to SATI, such as the addition of content from algebra II to the mathematics section and the renaming of the verbal section to “Critical Reading.” Analogies will be dropped from the critical reading section and discrete reading passages added. The revised test will first be administered in spring 2005.

For more information contact: Dr. Bruce Walker, Office of Admissions, 512-475-7326, or Robert D. Meckel, Office of Public Affairs, 512-475-7847.