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Department of English

First-Year Writing Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about Directed Self-Placement for your first-year writing class.

Getting Started

The Department of English at California State University, Fresno uses a method for placing students in writing classes called Directed Self-Placement, or DSP. With guidance and direction from counselors, faculty, the Directed Self-Placement Self-Inventory survey, and the English Department Directed Self-Placement web page, we want you to choose the first-year writing class that best meets your needs.

You have the opportunity to make an important decision about which writing classes are best for you as you prepare to read and write successfully at the university.

International students should also take the Directed Self Placement Self-Inventory survey to determine the best first-year writing course for you.

International students, though, work with the International Student Services and Programs office as well, to be placed in the class that best meets their needs. 

Multiple Measures is the system that the CSU uses to place students into first-year writing and math. It is based on several factors, such as test scores, high school grade point average, and high school coursework. You can find out more specifically about multiple measures on the CSU website.

Fresno State uses a more targeted and effective placement approach for students. You can decide to allow the university to place you according to your multiple measure OR you can use the Directed Self-Placement process to give you more specific recommendations based on your personal experiences and abilities.

Early Start English is a course that transitions students from high school English to college English. It is designed for students who are in multiple measures category IV and it is recommended for students who are in multiple measures category III.

Visit the Division of Continuing and Global Education's website for information on viewing your Early Start status and categories.

With that said, students in any category can take the Early Start English course. Also, students who are required to take the course only have to choose one Early Start course, either in Math or English.

Early Start English is a 2-week course that is either face to face or online. Students receive college credit for the course, and this course can transfer to other campuses to meet their Early Start requirements.

Since the classes are held in summer, the Division of Continuing and Global Education organizes all Early Start classes.

Visit the CGE Early Start Program page for information and deadlines, or call 559.278.0333.


Directed Self-Placement and the English 10 choice

At the beginning of English 10, your instructor will outline the kinds of work you will be doing. She or he will also ask you to do some writing and look at your writing to see if there is any indication that you are better suited to another course. If, within the first week, you believe you have not made the best decision, you may be able to switch to another course.

Such changes present challenges for the student and the University, and there is no guarantee that you will be able to make the change that semester. For these reasons, it is best to weigh your options carefully and, when in doubt, you may want to choose the English 5A/5B sequence — particularly because first-year writing is a prerequisite to many General Education courses and failing a course because it is not the right fit would put you behind. 

Depending on course availability, some students may be able to make this switch — only within the first two weeks of the semester. However, do not anticipate that this will be the case very often.

In most cases, we will encourage students who feel that English 5A is too easy to view it as additional experience. Rather than anticipating a change, we encourage you to weigh the different options as carefully as possible, based on the questions identified in the Directed Self-Placement Self-Inventory survey.



Directed Self-Placement and the English 5A/5B choice

You should consider your experiences and challenges with language as one of many factors in your decision-making process. Your ability with the English language and the conventions of grammar are one of the many characteristics of experienced college writers that both English 5A/5B and English 10 will address.

In all of the first-year writing courses, the focus on language development will focus on how to craft and revise language to address an audience and purpose. We think it is important to remember that language is simply one aspect of successful writing. Many people are very good sentence writers, but still need more practice and instruction regarding planning, organization, developing ideas, reading critically, research methods, and revision strategies.

Instead of focusing on one issue like language, we encourage you to consult the Directed Self-Placement Self-Inventory survey. 

Successful completion of English 5A is a prerequisite to taking English 5B. This means that you must receive a CR in English 5A in order to enroll in English 5B.

The credits you receive for English 5A can be applied to graduation as elective credits, and English 5B meets General Education requirements, Foundations Area A-2. Taking the English 5A/5B sequence will not delay your graduation — unless you are in a major that has no room for electives (which there are a few).

With that said, reading and writing are at the core of any kind of education and NOT having the appropriate preparation might also delay graduate. Thus, in the long-term, taking the course that is most appropriate to your experiences and preparedness will increase the chances of a timely graduation.

In most cases you will have the same instructor for English 5B who you had for 5A. Indeed, one of the benefits of the English 5A/5B sequence is that it enables you to make important connections and form "learning communities" with instructors and students who you will see in the same class for an entire year.

The demands of reading and writing are more difficult in college than in High School. There is more specialized language used, the writing is generally longer, and the reading load and complexity increases. Additionally, reading and writing are at the core of most of the work done in the university.

English 5A/5B is designed to give students strategies for being able to manage this new level of workload as well as strategies for reading and writing in new and different contexts. It might seem like a waste of time to take an extra class, but often that extra class is vital to students’ success in the university.