All California State Universities require students to pass a Graduation Writing Test — a test to prove that students can effectively compose an essay and have a practical understanding of basic grammar.

Writing is a vital skill that should be taught, honed and yes, even tested.

But a timed, 75-minute essay on what one’s family mascot would be is not an accurate representation of a student’s writing ability.

(Nicole Goss | The Poly Post)

Yes, that was an actual topic on a recent Graduation Writing Test (GWT).

The student does not know the topic until that menacing timer starts. That essay should not trump a student’s GPA, the number of classes taken and passed, or the countless essays, reflections and reports written throughout the years spent in school.

Some students need more time to plan out an approach to the essay, and others need a fair amount of time to revise.

And that doesn’t speak less of ability. Think of an artist. The product of a drawing done in 15 minutes isn’t an accurate representation of that artist’s skill. There is a vast difference between a painting after half an hour, and one after a day or two.

Most careers require some form of writing, so proficiency should be expected from graduating students. But some careers don’t.

There’s an argument stating that grammar and writing skills would be used for jobs, sending cover letters, applications and emails to possible employers within any profession. And that’s true.

But who would send a first draft of a cover letter to a company they only just heard of?

Would they not research the institution, find out about who will be reading it, fine tune their résumé to adhere to that company and plan the approach all before even beginning to write something down?

This would take more than 75 minutes.

Writing cover letters or applications is never timed. It is on one’s own time to work on until it is sufficient.

Another issue with the GWT is that not all students will be required to write in the field they chose or majored in.

If universities must test their students one last time before allowing them to graduate, at least tailor the graduation test to specific majors.

Let musicians compose a piece to prove their proficiency in their own field.

Not write an essay on an unrelated topic in less than 75 minutes.

Have artists paint, draw or sculpt to prove the four years spent working toward a specific degree is enough to graduate.

Not write an essay in less than 75 minutes.

Let scientist experiment and research, engineers build, dancers create and let that be the standard of proficiency required for graduating.

Not writing an essay in less than 75 minutes.

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