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Questions about the Critical Reading and Writing Skills Test

The test of critical reading and writing skills (CRWS) may spark some anxiety—especially if you have not attended school or taken a test in several years. Most students, however, find the process and test well within their abilities.   

The following commonly asked questions about the CRWS test offer insight into the test’s structure and how you can complete this requirement successfully. 

Why is the CRWS test required?

The test is required to register for several courses, including Harvard Extension School degree program admission courses, to ensure that all students have the necessary skills to succeed by being able to fully contribute to and participate in their academics.

What should I expect?

The CRWS test—taken online—measures your reading comprehension and writing skills. It is a 60-minute test consisting of multiple choice questions, a summary, and a short essay on topics that are of general interest—such as education, work, childhood, books, habits, and money. No specialized knowledge is required to write about these subjects; use your life experience as evidence. You will be asked to read a passage, answer questions about and summarize the information, and write a response.

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How should I prepare for the CRWS test?

The best strategy for success is to dedicate an uninterrupted, focused hour to working through the questions and writing the essay. Plan to use the entire hour to develop your essay and revise your work.

What is needed to pass the CRWS test?

There are two possible results: “Pass” and “Did not pass.” Tests are graded holistically, not on a points scale, so there is no minimum grade expectation. Readers assess a test knowing what is required for a student to succeed in our courses.

How do I access the results?

Test scores are posted to your online services account (see the CRWS test page for the test results announcement schedule).

What happens if I do not pass the test?

You may take the test one time for a term (fall, spring, or summer). If you do not pass your first attempt, you may take it again during the following term. We advise students who do this to complete the recommended course before attempting the test for the second time.

For all programs, you have two chances to pass the test; if you do not pass the test after two attempts, you will not be allowed to attempt the test again.

Are there any alternatives to the test?

You may register for most courses—but not all—without taking the CRWS test if you earn a B or higher in the alternative expository writing course. See the alternatives to the test on the CRWS test page. See course descriptions for all prerequisites.

Does the CRWS test fulfill the English proficiency requirement?

Passing the CRWS test does not satisfy the English proficiency requirement.

In fact, if your native language is not English, you must meet the English proficiency requirement before you can take the CRWS test.

If you are interested in pursuing a degree program at the Harvard Extension School, you are advised to meet both requirements as soon as possible.