School of Communication + Journalism eliminates grammar test

Hand completing a multiple choice exam.

Ceylin Arias/Staff Writer

School of Communication + Journalism grammar test has been put down in favor of more comprehensive writing classes.

Students studying communications and journalism will no longer be required to pass a grammar test to continue their major.

The Language Skills test was comprised of a multiple-choice grammar section and a writing sample. Students needed a 70 or better to pass, according to the school’s website.

Senior journalism major Mark Fitzgerald said the $75 exam was “a killer,” and had to retake the exam three times before he passed.

Students who passed could take MMC 3104C: Writing Strategies for Reaching a Mass Audience. Those who failed would have to pass MMC 3021: Grammar Workshop to be cleared to take MMC 3104C.

Fred Blevens, a professor in the Department of Journalism was part of the faculty committee that drafted the new curriculum. Blevens believes the grammar test was not the best way to judge a student’s writing ability.

“It’s an old method. None of the top schools in the U.S. have a test,” Blevens said. “Many of them quit testing and found other ways to determine students’ success years and years ago and there’s a reason for that.”

“It’s because passing a test is not a good predictor of whether you will complete the degree program,” he said. “The philosophy is that you’re going to write your way into the program rather than taking one test which is going to either say yay or nay.”

Blevens said that the new admission requirement will solve previous issues and affect two types of students: excellent students and writers who failed the test and those who can’t write but are good test-takers.

“Past issues with the grammar test was we’d have students graduating from a degree program and then they could still not write, and we had students who were being bounced out with a 3.5 GPA or higher because they couldn’t pass the test… There is no opinion that shows that [the test] was effective at all,” Blevens said. “So we knew that coming to pass the two writing intensive courses to get into the major was a much more effective way.”

Broadcast journalism alumna Cindy Arboleda holds a different sentiment about the test.

“The grammar test was a great tool for students to prepare and really learn the grammar rules that they might have forgotten,” Arboleda said.

“I remember that it was a tough exam but by taking the class and studying hard, I came out stronger having learned what makes a great writer,” said Arboleda. “I’m forever thankful because as a journalist, it’s your job to be not just ‘okay’ at grammar, you must be the best.”

Fitzgerald, however, feels that even if students studied for the exam, the test was just too complicated to pass the first time around.

“You don’t know how many people I know failed the exam the first time. In my opinion, the test wasn’t exactly practical and I remember reading that it wasn’t meant to be easy at all,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s supposed to have been doable for those that studied but even people that I know studied failed the first time.”

Planning for an adjustment to the existing curriculum began a year and a half ago, and Blevens hopes this new requirement will make classes more active and prepare students to become better writers even before they are admitted into the school.

The courses to replace the Language Skills test are IDS 3309: How We Know What We Know, and a brand new course, MMC 3123: Fundamentals of Writing. The course How We Know What We Know was designed nine years ago by Blevens himself.

Blevens said that the course will give students a global learning credit and a second level in the humanities requirement core.

“It gives them a Gordon rule intensive credit and is required to get into the school so one class does four things for the student,” Blevens said. “That is much more effective than having students retake an exam until they can finally pass.”

Both courses will require 9-10 writing assignments across the mass media experience so that every student who comes into the school will know what a news story is, how news stories are produced, how videos are done and more. This will essentially give them hands-on experience as well as exposure to intense grading that will help students to improve their writing, according to Blevens.

“Students will no longer be able to dodge writing at all through this new curriculum,” Blevens said.

And if students don’t like writing, they can find another major, he said.

 

Image retrieved from Flickr.

1 Comment on "School of Communication + Journalism eliminates grammar test"

  1. Alejandro Ramos | August 28, 2017 at 9:25 AM | Reply

    Question:

    “Fitzgerald, however, feels that even if students studied for the exam, the test was just too complicated to pass the first time around.

    “You don’t know how many people I know failed the exam the first time. In my opinion, the test wasn’t exactly practical and I remember reading that it wasn’t meant to be easy at all,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s supposed to have been doable for those that studied but even people that I know studied failed the first time.”

    I’d have liked some more detail on this. Was the problem with question wording, ambiguous phrasing, or merely a case of holding students to standards? I’ve seen the quality of writing from my fellow FIU students, and a grammar test is sorely needed. If it needs to be tweaked to make it a more fair test, fine, but scrapping it seems to be disregarding a symptom of a larger problem.

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