The English Exemption Examination

If you have been accepted to UBC and you have earned a previous degree at a North American university (where English is the language of instruction) but have not taken the equivalent of 6 credits of UBC's First-Year English coursework, you may be eligible to write the Exemption Examination. Proof of completion of a previous degree must be presented when the test is written. The department does not charge a fee for this test, but out-of-province students must arrange for the required invigilation and pay for the courier costs if they plan to write at another institution. (Applicants to the Faculties of Education and Medicine should note that they are not permitted to write this test in lieu of completing required First-Year English courses.)

Format of the Test: The English Exemption Examination is a two-hour test that requires candidates to write two essays. The first essay question (1 hour) requires the candidate to read a brief prose passage (approximately 500 words in length) and to write an essay that responds to one of several suggested topics. The topics do not require highly specialized knowledge, but the writer will be assessed according to his or her ability to form a clear thesis or argument, use evidence to support logical claims, create coherent links between paragraphs, and employ the conventional elements of style and grammar in accordance with university level standards of discourse.

The second essay question (1 hour) requires the writer to compose an analysis of a brief poem (usually fewer than 25 lines) that explains the relationship between form and meaning. This essay should not consist of a mere summary but should explain how the poem's formal elements (style, meter, rhyme schemes, figurative language, narrative structure, etc.) contribute to the shaping of its themes. If you are a candidate who has not studied poetry since high school, we recommend that you consult either Sylvan Barnett's A Guide to Writing About Literature or an introduction to poetry text from a major publishing house (Penguin, Norton, Broadview, etc.).

The examination is marked as either a Pass or a Fail, and the decision cannot be appealed. The First-Year English Coordinator will mark the exam. Results are usually announced within two weeks after the sitting of the test. Candidates who pass the first essay are granted an exemption from 3 credits of English Composition; candidates who pass the second essay are granted an exemption from 3 credits of English Literature. Those who fail one or both sections of the exam should enroll in the required First-Year English course(s).

BC students are expected to write the test in the English Department at the UBC Vancouver campus. Our office is located at the north end of campus on the third floor of the Buchanan Tower. The test must be written during our regular office hours and will be invigilated by a member of the First-Year English staff. Due to the volume of work that occurs at the beginning of a new term and during final examination periods, the Exemption Examination is not offered during the months of April and August, or in the first two weeks of January, September and December.

1.  Students should first email the First-Year English Coordinator for permission to write the test:
First-Year English Coordinator, Dr. Suzanne James,

2.  Once permission has been granted, please make an appointment for a test sitting:
First-Year Advisor/Administrator,

Candidates should fax or mail an official transcript confirming that a previous degree was granted. They should make arrangements to have the exam invigilated by a university professor or administrator at an alternate institution. Candidates will be expected to pay for courier costs for sending the examination back to UBC for marking.