Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions About the CPE
Who takes the CPE?
All CUNY students seeking a degree, or those who wish to transfer to another CUNY college at, or after, 45 credits must take and pass the CUNY Proficiency Examination.
Why do students have to take the CPE?
CUNY’s Board of Trustees have mandated that all students within the university must demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing and critical thinking commensurate with sophomore (second year) college level skills. The CPE was developed by Educational Testing Services and CUNY faculty from across the university as a means of measuring CUNY students’ performance in reading, writing and critical thinking. The university is committed to helping students strengthen skills that will help them achieve success in further academic studies and, subsequently, in their professional lives.
If I’m transferring to a college outside of CUNY, do I need to pass the CPE?
No, not unless you’re completing a degree at LaGuardia before you transfer, in which case you must pass the CPE because it’s a graduation requirement for all students.
How many times can I take the CPE?
Students can take the CPE three times, beginning at the forty fifth credit. If they wish to take it before the forty fifth credit, they may do so. After the forty fifth credit, if a student chooses not to take the CPE, he/she forfeits a chance, so it’s important to keep careful track of when the exam is given and how many times you’ve taken it. If a student chooses to take the exam before the forty fifth credit, that attempt will not be counted as one of the three chances.
What should I do if I don’t pass the CPE on the first or second try?
It is not unusual for students not to pass on their first attempt at the CPE, but if you fail the exam you should make sure that you attend a CPE workshop before your next attempt. The Testing Office has schedules, dates and times for workshops each semester; check there three weeks before your next attempt in order to sign up. In addition, you should attend the Writing Center for help with any grammatical or organizational problems in your writing. Lastly, you should familiarize yourself with essay-writing rules and then try a few practice essays on topics of your choice that closely correlate with CPE-like topics.
What happens if I fail the exam three times?
After three failures you must appeal to take the exam one more time. This request for a fourth chance will be processed by the campus CPE liaison, Dr. Sue Young. Some form of formal intervention will be agreed upon before you’re allowed to try the exam again. This might mean assigned Writing Center tutorial sessions, or other initiatives for which you will be responsible. Including one appeal to take the CPE a fourth time, students may have no more than four chances to take the CPE. If a fourth attempt is unsuccessful, the student’s registration/intent to graduate will be cancelled.
What if I’m at 45 credits but the Testing Office hasn’t contacted me about taking the exam?
Make sure that you take the initiative to contact the Testing Office and have yourself put on the list for the next CPE testing session.
How do I sign up to take the CPE?
Once you are contacted by the Testing Office, go to M-147 to sign up for a testing session of your choice. At that time you will be given the long reading for Task 1, and will also be able to sign up for a CPE prep workshop. Therefore, it’s very important that you follow the sign-up procedure in a timely manner.
Where do students take the CPE exam?
The exam is given once per semester and students take it on campus in the Mainstage Theatre. The entire exam (3 hours) is taken during one testing session.
When will I get my results?
Your results will be mailed to you at the end of the semester in which you took the exam.
Which courses will help me acquire the skills I need to pass the CPE?
All of them! The CPE requires students to demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, and critical thinking. It also involves writing a comparative analysis (Tasks 1 &2) and interpreting visual data (Task 2). The content courses in all majors are valuable resources for developing and strengthening these CPE-related requirements. In addition, make sure that you maintain and practice your English reading and writing skills.
Can I ask my professors to help me with the Task 1 reading?
No. Faculty members are prohibited by the university from teaching or discussing in detail the Task 1 reading. However, you may want to get together with several other students who are preparing for the exam, and form a study group in which you can discuss the reading. In addition, while CPE prep workshops do not address the reading itself, they do go over past readings and help students extract important ideas, summarize, and otherwise analyze a long reading selection similar to that given in Task 1 of the CPE.
Can I see my CPE exam after I get my results?
No. The exams are the property of the university and as such students are not given access to the actual tests. Moreover, the college must maintain exam security and in order to protect the integrity of the exam, as well as the privacy of all students in the college insofar as their CPE exams are concerned, completed exams are warehoused in the Testing Office and are off-limits to individual students.
What should I do if I want to appeal my CPE result?
Because CPE evaluators are extensively trained, and the evaluation process is complex and thorough, it’s rare that a CPE result is overturned. However, if you feel that you want to appeal your result, you must apply in writing to the Testing Office (M-147) explaining why, specifically, you think your test has been incorrectly evaluated. The test will then be sent to the campus CPE liaison, Dr. Sue Young, who will decide whether a second evaluation is warranted. If she decides in your favor, your exam will then be forwarded to Iowa, where it will be re-evaluated by four new CPE readers. Their decision will be final, and no more appeals will be entertained. Students who desire to appeal their CPE result should be aware that the appeal process is a lengthy one.

If you want any further information about CPE policies and procedures, please consult the CUNY Proficiency Examination Information for Students handbook, available in the Testing Office, M-147.

Still Confused?

Got Questions?  
Dr, Susan Young
CPE Liaison

E 103 L (718) 482-5671

Maggie Arismendi,
Assistant Director of Testing 
C428 (718) 482-5109