Frequently asked questions about the first-stage writing portfolio

All degree-seeking students at Oxy have a Two-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement. The First-Stage should be completed before advancing to the Second-Stage requirement in your major. The portfolio system of assessment is designed to assess writing you have actually done in your First Year Seminar (FYS), and it gives you a chance to reflect on your writing and your writing process (which is key in scholarship on fair and equitable assessment practices).

Portfolios are due on March 1 by 5:00 p.m. PST. No exceptions. If you do not submit the portfolio on time or do not include all of the required materials, you will automatically receive an assessment determination of “Not Completed” and will be required to take and earn a grade of C or better in WRD 201: The Art of Essay Writing in order to complete the First- Stage Writing Requirement.

You will need to submit three essays from your FYS courses. You will also need to include a Reflective Introduction Essay (RIE) written for the portfolio. See the complete Portfolio Guidelines for more information about the criteria for the three FYS essays and the RIE.

The total word count for all of the documents in your portfolio is 5,000-7,500 words. This total word count includes the Reflective Introduction Essay (RIE), which on its own must be at least 750 words. This means you are submitting relatively short papers from your FYS courses – so keep this in mind as you select. You need to include the word count on the top of the first page for each essay submitted (including the RIE).

Start by talking to your FYS instructor. They can give you guidance on which essays reflect your most effective writing and which meet the criteria. You can also make an appointment with the Writing Programs Director, Professor Prebel, if you still have general questions about what to submit:

You will upload your materials in one PDF file to a designated Moodle site. The Moodle site will appear in your list of Moodle courses as: First-Stage Writing Portfolio in the Spring semester, about a month before the portfolio is required to be submitted.

We have designed this Moodle site to make it easy for you to upload your one PDF file. If you encounter difficulty uploading your documents, please feel free to visit the ITS helpdesk on the main floor of the Academic Commons or visit the Core Program office on the first floor of Johnson Hall.

Yes. While you may be writing papers in other classes, we need to keep the assessment as equitable as possible by reading only essays from FYS. FYS faculty have been provided with the same information as you have about the Portfolio Assessment process and offered support workshops to help with their assignment design and course planning with the Portfolio criteria in mind.

You should definitely use the first-person pronoun in your portfolio to describe your writing knowledge, your writing process, and to reflect on your strengths and areas for improvement as a writer. Remember: the reflective essay is what distinguishes a portfolio from a simple folder full of essays. It will be the first text readers will review in your portfolio, and as such it establishes a reader’s expectations of what will follow. While it is not a traditional academic essay, an effective reflection will share qualities with the best academic writing: sharp analysis, a clear sense of audience and perspective, a recognizable organizational structure, and an attention to sentence-level clarity and the mechanics of writing. By design it should be both personal and persuasive; inflated self-promotion is rarely persuasive to a thoughtful reader. We recommend that you are not too informal and that you take the RIE seriously.

You’ll need to briefly describe each of your three FYS papers and the process you engaged in writing these essays. You’ll also need to use these essays to contextualize your writing overall, your writing progress, your writing process, and your writing knowledge. There are specific requirements for the RIE in the Portfolio Guidelines – so be sure to read this section carefully.

No. Because we need to read all of the portfolios (at least twice) before advising week in spring semester (in advance of course registration for the following academic year), we cannot leave the Moodle system open for you to add or replace essays. What you submit by 5:00 p.m. on March 1st is what we will read.

Each portfolio will be read by at least two faculty members of the Portfolio Assessment Committee as we look for evidence of writing proficiency (see the Assessment Rubric in the Portfolio Guidelines). The essays you submit in the portfolio will not be graded or assessed individually; we will be reading clean copies of your work (papers with instructor comments or grades will not be accepted) and assessing the portfolio as a whole. Portfolios that receive assessments of Completed and Not Completed will be adjudicated by a third reader.

We don’t think of the portfolio assessment as a “pass” vs. “fail.” Instead, we believe that ALL student writers have more to learn. If readings of your portfolio result in a final assessment of Completed, you have fulfilled the First-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement. This determination by no means suggests that you can stop working on your writing or that writing will be simple and easy for you thereafter; instead, this determination indicates that the writing in your portfolio exhibits the baseline features and skills necessary for likely success in upper-division writing-intensive courses at Oxy. Just as a Completed assessment is not designed to indicate mastery, a Not Completed assessment is not a condemnation of your writing or thinking. Should your portfolio receive a final assessment of Not Completed, you will need to successfully take WRD 201: The Art of Essay Writing in your sophomore year. Information about WRD 201 including descriptions of the many topics typically offered can be found in the college catalog.

Yes, absolutely. You can revise your essays right up until the deadline for submitting them in the Portfolio Moodle site (though we do not recommend waiting until the last minute for a Writing Center visit). If you do bring your essays to the Writing Center, you will need to talk about doing so as part of your writing-revision process in your RIE (see RIE instructions in the Portfolio Guidelines). Look for announcements, too, about Writing Center Information Sessions where we will review the Portfolio Guidelines and answer your questions.

You will receive notification of the final assessment of your portfolio by the first day of advising week in spring semester (which is usually two weeks after spring break in March). This timeline ensures that you have information about your First-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement before registration the week after, so you can plan to fit WRD 201 into your schedule. Once the assessment process is completed, you will be able to see your “Writing Proficiency Results” in your Grades and Academic Records portal (though MyOxy).

Feel free to email Professor Prebel, Writing Programs-Center Director at, or the Core Program at