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When to take ENG101?

ENG101: Freshman College Composition 1. The big brick wall for some, the admissions ticket for others. This is actually not an easy question to answer for everyone “academically” but there are some big strategy questions you’ll want to think about as you grow your teen’s HS4CC program.

Every 2 and 4 year college degree in the United States will contain at least 1 English class. Even my youngest who just earned his degree in Welding needed 2 (!) college English classes! This can feel like a brick wall for struggling students, but in this post I want to explore some of the considerations as you plan for English 101 (ENG101).

Academically: The Placement Test

The short answer is that they will probably have to pass a placement test. This will be true for high school students trying to enroll for dual enrollment or high school graduates trying to enroll in a degree program.

Community colleges report that as many as 80% of some incoming applicants do NOT place into 101 level English, so to try and predict if your 8th grader or my 12th grader is “ready” is impossible. To answer the question of academic readiness, colleges use placement tests. Many may offer their own test, use a state-approved exam, or allow your teen to use scores from state testing. In every case, you’ll want to find out exactly what is required, because the tests accepted and scores required will vary dramatically.

Examples of Placement Tests / Admissions Tests

  • Accuplacer
  • RISE
  • Compass
  • TSI
  • PERT
  • PSAT
  • SAT
  • ACT

No Placement Test Required

If your teen’s college does not require a placement test, consider yourself lucky! In that case, the parent will need to decide if the student is working at or above grade level. If you’re sure that your student is otherwise ready but might not be able to pass the placement test, consider taking ENG101 from a college that doesn’t use placement tests and then transferring the ENG101 credit back to your dual enrollment college. You can also wait and save ENG101 for later.

REAL EXAMPLE: In North Carolina where we Homeschool for College Credit, only students who want to start dual enrollment in 9th or 10th grade need to take a placement test. If a student waits until 11th or 12th grade, they can enroll directly.

REAL EXAMPLE: In Florida where a student may begin dual enrollment as early as 6th grade, they must first pass the PERT exam. Many families work around this requirement by earning ENG101 college credit through a program like Arizona State University Universal Learner that has no placement test requirement. That credit unlocks access back in Florida and the student proceeds normally.

REAL EXAMPLE: At Houston Community College in Texas, where a placement test is otherwise required, a high school student can take the CLEP College Composition exam and earn college credit (test out) of both ENG101 and ENG102. In this case the student is not testing IN to the courses, they are skipping them entirely.

ENG101 = 1 high school credit

The majority of families are planning a high school program that generates 4 high school credits in Language Arts / English. If that’s your plan, you’ll want to consider two aspects of “how it looks” on their transcript when mapping these credits.

Since each college English course equals one high school credit, a student can easily accumulate 2 high school credits by taking the full English Composition sequence in high school. Be mindful that a college class is only 1 semester long, so when taken in sequence, 2 college English classes only take 1 academic year. If you do this too early (Table 1), your teen will have their credits “done” but you’ll leave open slots in high school.

class9th Grade10th Grade11th Grade12th Grade
High School English1 credit1 creditENG101 (1 credit)
ENG102 (1 credit)
Table 1

In the case above, the student did accumulate 4 high school credits, but the distribution wouldn’t work if their target college asked not for “4 credits” but instead for “4 years” of English. In that case, it is better to distribute the courses as shown in Table 2.

class9th Grade10th Grade11th Grade12th Grade
High School English1 credit1 creditENG101 (1 credit)ENG102 (1 credit)
Table 2

If your teen is ready very early and takes college English first, be mindful of how that presents on a transcript. See Table 3 for an extreme example.

class9th Grade10th Grade11th Grade12th Grade
High School EnglishENG101 (1 credit)
ENG102 (1 credit)
Table 3

In Table 3, the student may have needed English credit to meet a dual enrollment prerequisite, but in this case, the family is now faced with the challenge of filling those empty slots. A parent could arrange more high school English credit, but another option is to use college courses that fall under the heading of “Language Arts” rather than specifically “English Composition” When done this way, there are a number of options.* The student in Table 4 will easily exceed 4 Language Arts credits by choosing from the courses available at their local community college.

classAny Grade: English CompositionAny Grade
for high school credit
High School Language ArtsENG101 (1 credit)
ENG102 (1 credit)
Speech (1 credit)
Communication (1 credit)
Mass Communication (1 cr.)
Technical Writing (1 credit)
Business Writing (1 credit)
American Literature (1 credit)
English Literature (1 credit)
Analyzing Literature (1 credit)
World Literature (1 credit)
African-American Lit (1 credit)
Holocaust Literature (1 credit)
Children’s Literature (1 credit)
Table 4

*if your state has high school graduation requirements in Language Arts or English, be sure your plan will comply!

In the following table below, the family did a comprehensive approach that mixed-and-matched high school with college composition with other language arts. 9th & 10th grade are omitted but included 9th & 10th Grade Language Arts for 2 high school credits. 11th & 12th grade brought in 6 more high school credits and 18 college credits.

11th Grade12th Grade
(fall) ENG101 (1 credit)
(spring) SPEECH101 (1 credit)
(summer) LIT101 (1 credit)
(fall) ENG102 (1 credit)
(spring) COMM100 (1 credit)
(summer) LIT102 (1 credit)
Table 5

Testing Out of English Composition?

If your homeschool Language Arts program is strong, your teen may already possess the skills typically gained in ENG101 and ENG102. This prompts parents to ask if it makes sense to test out of the course(s) using an exam like CLEP. CLEP offers 2 exams, the first is College Composition Modular (no essay) for 3 credits, or College Composition for 6 credits (2 essays). Be aware that not all colleges allow students to test out of English Composition using CLEP, but if yours does, this may be an option.

Skills needed to test out of ENG101 & ENG102

  1. Strong Reading and Comprehension Skills:
    • You can read and understand complex texts with ease, including academic articles, essays, and literature.
    • You can identify and analyze the main ideas, arguments, and supporting details in written materials.
    • You have a good vocabulary and can comprehend a range of words and phrases in context.
  2. Basic Writing Skills:
    • You can write clear, coherent, and grammatically correct sentences and paragraphs.
    • You have a basic understanding of punctuation and can use it effectively in your writing.
    • You can organize your thoughts logically and structure an essay or paper with an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
  3. Critical Thinking and Analysis:
    • You can analyze and evaluate arguments presented in texts and form your own opinions and interpretations.
    • You can support your ideas with evidence and examples from the texts you read.
    • You can engage in discussions and express your thoughts clearly and persuasively.

Still not sure? Stick with high school level language arts! They can start college English in college.


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit

One thought on “When to take ENG101?

  1. We’re just starting out, my son is in 9th grade. I’ve been wondering what people do when the child takes college classes in place of high school classes. This article was really helpful for me, especially the examples shown. Thank you

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