Frequently Asked Questions about DSP

  • CSUSB says all its first year writing courses are college level. What's the difference between college level writing and high school writing?

    Students who are admitted to CSUSB have successfully met expectations for high school writing. Like most first year students nationwide, incoming CSUSB students take first year composition because writing at the university is different from the writing students do in high school. Think of it this way: writing and thinking are intimately tied as you determine what you will say in a paper, as well as how you will say it, right? If, as you probably expect, the nature of thinking and learning changes as you move from high school to college, then so too will the nature and purposes of writing.

    At CSUSB, you will be entering intellectual conversations – about ideas, discoveries, and questions -- already in progress among scholars, researchers, professors, and students. Writing is used as a way of participating in these conversations. As such, university writing is not limited to the five-paragraph essay, the Schaffer essay, the research essay, or the thesis-driven essay. Perhaps the biggest shift you will find is this: the move from argument to inquiry. Yes, academics in some fields do present arguments in their writing. But they all begin with inquiry – by asking questions and considering implications before offering conclusions. This is why first year composition students at CSUSB learn approaches to university writing which may include:

    • establishing a meaningful project
    • using writing as inquiry
    • working closely with other texts
    • synthesizing the ideas of others to locate and develop your own
    • moving between abstraction and specificity
    • distinguishing popular discourses from academic discourses
    • evaluating information with respect to its rhetorical and social context.
    • revising meaningfully
    • editing for rhetorical and stylistic purposes
    • developing a vocabulary and strategies for determining how to meet the intellectual and rhetorical demands of different academic contexts for writing.
  • If CSUSB uses DSP, why did I have to take the EPT? And, if I had to take the EPT, why doesn't CSUSB use it?

    All CSU students (regardless of the campus they plan to attend) are required by the CSU system to take the English Placement Test or satisfy it by one of the system's sanctioned alternatives (like the SAT).

    The EPT was designed in the 1980s and has been used in the CSU ever since. Originally it was designed as a simple placement test to help place students into the most suitable college level writing courses for them. One could not fail this test, and it was not intended to create a category of "remedial" students. Over the years, however, this aspect of the EPT changed. The system instituted pre-college level writing courses across the CSUs and used the EPT (inappropriately, in our estimation, as it hadn't been designed for this purpose) to designate some students (actually about 50% system-wide every year!) as remedial.

    We in the CSUSB English department (along with many other CSU faculty around the state) have long found the EPT an outdated and outmoded instrument. Research in writing studies shows conclusively that the single timed writing test is not a very good indicator of students' writing abilities. Moreover, the EPT is mismatched for our writing curriculum, as we NO LONGER HAVE ANY REMEDIAL COURSES.

    This is why we have joined our sibling schools, CSU Fresno and CSU Channel Islands, who have already implemented DSP systems, and six other CSU schools who will be doing so in the next year, in creating our own self-placement mechanism. We fully believe (and studies have verified) that when students are invited to make thoughtful and informed choices for themselves, they will do so well and responsibly, feel more invested in their classes and their learning, and become more successful as a result.

    Our expectation is that in the not too distant future, as more and more campuses move to college level Stretch Composition programs (there are now six CSU campuses with Stretch programs and nine more in development) and as more and more move to directed self-placement alternatives, the EPT will be retired. Until then, our intention at CSUSB is for your DSP choice to replace your EPT score. We really do want you to select the course sequence that you believe will provide the kind of pacing, support, and learning environment that will allow you to thrive as a writer and an intellectual.

    That said, you should be aware that the larger CSU system does still invest the EPT with certain meanings. And here is the one thing that you probably should factor into your placement decision:

    For students who place 146 or below on the EPT, the CSU system requires you to complete either English 102 and 103 or 105 by the end of your first year. (Obviously, completing your G.E. writing requirement fully would also meet this requirement.)

    For this reason, when planning ahead for your first year, consider starting your chosen course sequence in your first or second quarter. This will help ensure that if you discover your chosen course moves a little too quickly or you simply have a difficult quarter, you will have time to re-DSP and select a more appropriate course sequence or to re-do the one that got away from you. And, if you plan to take 105/106, please note that you must start this in either fall or winter quarters. There are no spring quarter 105 classes.

  • What should I do if I complete the DSP Experience, make a selection, and then discover I can't get into the sequence I've chosen at registration?
    1. Report the problem:

      If you tried to enroll in your chosen first year writing course for your first quarter at CSUSB but couldn't get in because our courses are full, please let us know. You can report this by locating the "FYC Registration Problem" link on the left and following the directions. This will help us keep track of enrollment problems and allow us to contact interested students if new sections open.

    2. Decide whether to enroll in an alternate placement now or wait for a new quarter:

      Whether to choose an alternate FYC course or to wait for a new quarter to start your preferred course will involve a number of factors, including whether thinking of taking a longer course or a shorter one and how heavy the rest of your schedule is. For instance, if you originally planned to take 105 in the fall, and are now deciding between taking 107 or waiting for winter to take 105, ask yourself, "Is my schedule for fall relatively light or heavy? " If you think it's manageable and that you'd have plenty of time to dedicate to 107, then go for it. But if your schedule is heavy or you're working a lot of hours elsewhere or you have other responsibilities, consider waiting until winter for 105. Or perhaps even starting 102 in fall!

      Consider, too: is your first choice is really closed? Or just not offered at your preferred time? It may be better to rearrange your schedule and take your first choice right off the bat to give yourself a good writing foundation from the start. This is especially true if you hoped for English 102A or English 102B as our 3 quarter sequences typically only begin in fall. (English 105 is typically offered only in fall and winter.)

      Generally speaking, however, it is "safer" to go with a longer option rather than a shorter one. So if you planned to take 107, then taking 105 is likely not a bad choice. On the other hand, if you planned to take 102, then jumping up to 107 may jump up the pace of your work to an uncomfortable level. Of course, you may have found yourself fence-sitting between two possible placements after you completed the DSP survey, anyway, and so you have a "natural" second choice to consider. In this case, it is likely that either placement could be advantageous to you.

      If you'd like to reconsider all the course options before deciding what you'll do, you can revisit the program details by going to the DSP homepage at and selecting the link called DSP RESOURCES on the horizontal bar just under the banner. Then, download the DSP chart and FYC selection guide. This will provide you with all the info you need to think through your options again.

      Of course, if you continue to feel uncertain after registration, you are welcome to re-do your DSP survey after and change your registration from home using MyCoyote.

    3. Check back to see if seats have opened up in your preferred section before the quarter begins.

      One thing you'll quickly learn in college -- registration is open to you from the time you are first allowed to register until classes begin. And often, people change their minds and their schedules – which means that closed courses sometimes re-open as students make adjustments through the registration period. If you were closed out of your first choice but remain interested in it, make a point of checking back before school starts to see if seats have opened up. You can do this whenever you want via myCoyote.

  • Why should I consider taking a longer sequence if I might be able to get writing done in just one quarter?

    You should consider taking a longer sequence if your honest answers to the DSP Experience survey suggest that a longer sequence would best support your development as a writer, reader, and thinker. What's the point of trying to "just get through" or "just survive" an advanced course if what you take away from that experience won't support your future academic adventures? As we said on the DSP homepage, most students benefit from more, not less, writing. Keep in mind: it will waste more time and money to sign up for an advanced course and fail it twice, than to take our longest sequence, thrive, make meaningful extended relationships with your instructor and classmates, earn 8 credits, and complete your G.E. writing requirement. Remember that Stretch Composition and Accelerated Stretch Composition engage with the same kind of college level work that the Advanced course does – none of these courses are remedial. The stretch courses provide more support and more time for students to develop as college writers.

  • Why should I sign up for a three quarter stretch composition course, if I will only earn 8 units for my time?

    Frankly, we wish that our three quarter sequences carried additional units. But for a number of administrative reasons we were unable to arrange this. We were, however, able to ensure that the three quarters would count as 12 units for financial aid reasons, which we think is VERY important.

    Additionally, our multilingual sections of first year composition are only available in the three quarter sequence at this time. "B" sections offer you the opportunity to take courses with instructors who are particularly knowledgeable about issues that relate to diverse language users . Thus, if you would like to work with these knowledgeable instructors and other linguistically diverse students, you will need to choose the three quarter sequence.

    Finally, we think it truly significant that our data on student success rates show that stretch composition students have a higher pass rate for their G.E. writing requirement than students in any of our other first year writing options. AND, stretch composition students return to continue their studies in their second year at higher rates than do students in the other sequences. These seem like good reasons to us to love our stretch composition options!

  • Can I re-do my DSP if I have second thoughts about the placement I've chosen or about a course that I'm actually in the process of taking?

    The short answer is yes, you can re-do your DSP under both these conditions.

    If you begin to doubt the wisdom of your original placement choice after you've registered, but before classes have begun, feel free to go back and re-do the DSP experience. If you change your selection, remember that you will also need to change your registration. Submitting a new choice via the DSP Experience site is not the same as registering for the course.

    If your doubts don't emerge until you are actively taking the class you've chosen, there are a couple things you should keep in mind:

    1. You probably shouldn't try to jump into a new placement after about the first week and a half of school as you will be starting from behind in your new class. Ask yourself, "is it really wise to shop for a new class now or should I commit to doing my best in this one and seeing where it takes me?" In these situations, we recommend talking to your instructor about your concerns and getting some advice about whether you are taking the right class at the right time.

    2. If you conclude that you are in the wrong class for you later in the quarter, after census (the date after which you officially cannot drop or add classes), you may again want to check in with your instructor to see how you can best make a go of (or salvage) the course you're already in. If this is not feasible, you can and probably should re-DSP to select a new course sequence to begin the next quarter. Of course, you are absolutely entitled (encouraged even) to continue in your current placement even if you expect you won't pass it. You can still learn and gain valuable practice for the new quarter ahead.