Proficiency Exam Q & A

Questions and Answers

What is the Proficiency Exam (PE)?

The PE is an SVA generated exam which tests reading comprehension and writing ability and may be used to place students in writing courses. Passing the exam is a requirement for graduation from SVA unless in rare circumstances a transfer student is admitted with all 30 Humanities and Sciences credits. Exams from other institutions cannot be substituted for the SVA Proficiency Exam.

What is the format of the exam?

Students are asked to read a short article and to respond with a 500-word essay that demonstrates an understanding of the topic, a solid understanding of the mechanics of attribution, sentence and paragraph logic, as well as good grammar and spelling.

When is it given?

It is given either in 1st semester Freshman English classes or on independent dates throughout the year. The exam may be taken as many times as necessary until the student successfully passes.

What happens if a student doesn't pass?

Failing the exam has no effect on a student's GPA or transcript, but students who have not passed the PE by their second semester cannot continue to take Humanities and Sciences courses until they pass the exam.
1st year students who do not pass the Proficiency Examination in their first semester may be required to take HCD-0161 and/or HCD-0162, Fundamentals of Writing I and II.
• Exception 1: Students who receive a grade of B- or better in HCD-1020 Writing and Literature I who have not passed the PE will be allowed to take HCD-1025 Writing and Literature II.
• Exception 2: Students who are taking HCI 1020 will be given two semesters in which to pass the PE.

How often is the exam given outside of 1st year English classes?

The Proficiency Examination is given approximately six times a year.

Where can I find specific information about this year's exam?

To see a sample test and view this year's dates, visit the website of the Writing Resource Center (
All questions should be directed to the student's academic advisor or Neil Friedland, Coordinator of Writing Services, at the Writing Resource Center,