Test of Critical Reading and Writing Skills

You must receive a passing score on our online test of critical reading and writing skills (CRWS) to register for several Extension courses. We offer the test free of charge to help ensure your success in certain courses with high writing demands. If you don't pass, you can take the alternative course instead of CRWS. If you are a degree program applicant, the alternative course counts toward the degree for most, but not all, fields. For an explanation of the test, review the test FAQs.

How to Take the Test

Go to the online services login page.

  • If you are a new student, see “Test of Critical Reading and Writing Skills” at the bottom of the page and follow the instructions to log in and read about the test.
  • If you are a returning student, log in and select “Placement Tests” from the main menu, then “Take the Test of Critical Reading and Writing.” 
  • If you are a student in need of accommodations, please see “Students with Disabilities” at the bottom of this page for more information.

Nonnative English Speakers

When to Take the Test

The test of critical reading and writing skills is available in online services year round between 3 am and 11 pm eastern standard time. Test scores are posted to your online services account (select “View Placement Test Scores” from the “Placement Tests” menu) according to the schedule below.

It is best to take the test before registration begins*, as most courses that require CRWS have limited enrollment and fill quickly. You may take the test as far in advance as you wish, but you may take it only once for each term. If English is not your native language, you must first meet the English proficiency requirement for registration before you can take the test. 

Test Schedule for Fall Courses

Take the test between: To have your score available by
June 8 and July 12*
(last test period before fall registration opens)
July 20
July 13 and July 26 August 3
July 27 and August 9 August 17
August 10 and August 23
(last test period for fall courses)
August 31

Test Schedule for January and Spring Courses

Take the test between: To have your score by
August 24 and September 13 September 21
September 14 and October 11 October 19
October 12 and November 1*
(last test period before January and spring registration opens)
November 9
November 2 and November 22 November 30
November 23 and December 6
(last test period for January courses)
December 14
December 7 and January 17
(last test period for spring courses)
January 25

See the test dates for summer courses.

Courses that Require the Test and Alternatives to the Test

  • BIOS 200 Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies and Scholarly Writing in the Biological Sciences
    • Alternative: EXPO 42c Writing in the Sciences
  • BIOT 200 Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies and Scholarly Writing in Biotechnology
    • Alternative: EXPO 42c Writing in the Sciences
  • EXPO 25 Academic Writing and Critical Thinking
    • Alternative: EXPO 15 Fundamentals of Academic Writing
  • ENVR 210 Proseminar: Critical Analysis of Environmental Systems
    • Alternative: EXPO 42c Writing in the Sciences
  • HUMA 100 Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies and Scholarly Writing in the Humanities
    • Alternative: EXPO 42a Writing in the Humanities
  • HUMA 101 Proseminar: Elements of the Writer's Craft
    • Alternative: EXPO 42a Writing in the Humanities
  • JOUR 100 Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Journalism
    • Alternative: EXPO 42a Writing in the Humanities, EXPO 42b Writing in the Social Sciences, or EXPO 42c Writing in the Sciences
  • MGMT 4000 Organizational Behavior, MGMT 4100 Managing Yourself and Others, and MGMT E-4030 Leading Through Change 
    • Alternative: EXPO 34 Business Rhetoric
  • MUSE 102 Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies and Scholarly Writing in Museum Studies
    • Alternative: EXPO 42a Writing in the Humanities
  • SSCI 100A Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies and Scholarly Writing in the Social Sciences—Anthropology and Psychology
    • Alternative: EXPO 42b Writing in the Social Sciences
  • SSCI 100B Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies and Scholarly Writing in the Social Sciences—Government and History
    • Alternative: EXPO 42b Writing in the Social Sciences

Please note, if you don’t pass the CRWS test, the graders may recommend a lower-level course that does not serve as an alternative to the CRWS and, as such, also may not count toward degree completion for some fields. If you receive such a recommendation, we urge you to follow it because it means the graders believe you’re not ready to complete the alternative course successfully. The graders are experienced Extension School Writing Program faculty members, and their recommendations represent their best advice for you. 

Counting Alternative Courses Toward a Degree

Degree program applicants may use the alternative course as a degree requirement with the exception of Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) applicants in the fields of management, sustainability, and development practice who follow the MITx MicroMasters pathway to admission. These program applicants may complete the alternative course with a grade of B or higher at the undergraduate or graduate level as an alternative to passing the CRWS test, but the course itself does not fulfill any degree requirement.

Registering for Courses that Require this Test

You can register for a course that requires this test if:

  • You have a passing score on the test of critical reading and writing skills.
  • Or, you have earned a grade of B or higher in the designated alternative course.
  • Or, you are currently enrolled in the designated alternative course and grades for that course will be posted before the course with the CRWS test prerequisite begins. If you do not earn a grade of B or higher in the designated alternative course, you will be dropped for a full tuition refund from the course with the CRWS test prerequisite.

Applying for a Degree that Requires this Test 

Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) program applicants in the fields of data science, digital media design, information management systems, and software engineering must pass the test or complete EXPO 34 Business Rhetoric with a grade of B or higher before submitting an admission application. 

Test Policies

  • Any use of outside resources is strictly forbidden.
  • All test scores are final.
  • You may take the test only once for a term (fall, spring, or summer).
  • If you pass, you do not have to take the test again to register for any course that requires it. If you do not pass, you will be advised to enroll in a writing course to help improve your critical reading and writing skills before attempting the test again. You can see your course recommendation in your online services account, along with your test score.
  • If you do not pass the test, you are advised to take the course recommended to you before attempting the test again. 
  • If you do not pass the test after two attempts, you will not be allowed to attempt the test again.

Academic Integrity

You may not use outside resources when taking this test. The answers and writing you submit must be your own. Breaches of academic integrity are referred to the Administrative Board, which may impose sanctions that include indefinite suspension from the Extension School. In other words, if you are caught cheating on the test, you may lose the opportunity to register for courses and earn a degree at Harvard Extension in perpetuity.

Students with Disabilities

Harvard Extension School welcomes students with disabling conditions to participate in all aspects of our academic programming. Students who plan to take this test who have a need for accommodations should contact the Accessibility Services Office, by calling (617) 998-9640 or emailing accessibility@dcemail.harvard.edu, to discuss accommodation needs. Please see Accessibility Services for further information.

Registration is Open!

Spring course registration is open through January 27. Interested in a 3-week January session course? Register by December 19. You can browse the course catalog.