Frequently Asked Questions

What is the DQE?
The Department Qualification Exam consists of multiple-choice questions covering basic areas of grammar and word usage: spelling, punctuation, plurals and possessives, agreement, modifiers, confusing word sets, and principal verb parts. The department has offered the DQE since 1974. It is based on a test given at the University of North Carolina, but it has been refined many times.

Why is it required?
The exam ensures that students going into MCJ writing and editing classes are at generally the same level in understanding and using written language. Otherwise, students have trouble in class and dominate the instructor's time and attention. The result is a lower level of learning for everyone. In addition, spaces in these classes are limited, and an unqualified student shouldn't take a seat away from a qualified one.

When is it offered?
The DQE is given twice per semester. Exam dates will be scheduled several months in advance and will usually fall before the beginning of registration periods. Special exam dates for individuals are not offered. Typically, the workshops run from 9 a.m. to noon on a Saturday and the exam will be available to take in the Academic testing center the following Monday through Thursday.  

How much does it cost?
The fee for the exam is $50. It is offered as a non-credit course through the Division of Continuing and Global Education, which requires payment by check (at CGE) or credit card/cash (at Joyal cashier). Visit or call (559) 278-0333 for registration details.

Do I sign up in advance?
PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. On-site registration is not accepted. You should register early with the Division of Continuing and Global Education to ensure your seat.

Where do I go to drop off my registration form?
Take the completed form to the Division of Continuing and Global Education in the Kremen Education Building, Room 130. You may also mail the form to Continuing and Global Education, 5005 N. Maple Avenue M/S ED76, Fresno, CA 93740-8025. Call (559) 278-0333 for hours of operation during summer and winter break.

May I register online?
No. A hard copy of the registration form must be delivered in person or by mail to the Division of Continuing and Global Education in the Kremen Education Building, Room 130. You may, however, pay online. Go to your portal and click on student center>make a payment>your student account>Payment-Continuing and Global, and enter $50. If you pay online, you must still turn in a registration form to CGE.

What is the format of the exam?
The DQE is administered in two parts. A three-hour review workshop will be offered on the first Saturday of the session. Then, the one-hour exam will be offered the following Monday through Thursday in the Academic Testing Center. The two-part workshop/exam format is designed to help students direct their own course of self-study in their weakest areas.

What will the workshop cover?
The workshop will be in a lecture format, with a course packet available for self-study. The workshop will review the areas covered by the DQE, with sample questions and discussion. However, the workshop will provide no answers to specific exam questions.

Do I need to bring anything?
On workshop day, you may bring a laptop or print the Powerpoint presentation that is posted on Blackboard. Make sure to take notes. Attendance will be taken. On exam day, a Fresno State Student ID is REQUIRED to enter the exam room. If you do not have a Fresno State Student ID, one may be purchased. A Scantron form and a pencil will be provided.

If I don't have a student ID card, where may I purchase one?
Students without an active student ID card may purchase a Spring/Summer CGE-student ID card for $5.00. The ID card provides checkout privileges for materials in the library, access to services at the Health Center with a co-pay, and serves as a valid student ID card in the community. Students must first complete their registration; then, pay the $5.00 CGE Student ID card activation fee at the cashier’s window in the Joyal Building; after the fee has been posted, (24 hours) students may go to the Bulldog Card Office in Joyal, Room 156 to have their picture taken to obtain their ID card.

Will I be able to take the exam if I don't have a student ID card?
No, you must have a Fresno State student ID card in order to take the exam.

What is a passing grade?
You must get 70 percent of the questions right. Typical DQE scores range from 50 to 95 percent.

How do I find out if I passed?
At the exam, you will be assigned a unique code. Results will then be posted outside the Department of Media, Communications and Journalism office under that code within two days following the exam. The MCJ office is located in the McKee Fisk building, Room 236. Results also will be posted on Blackboard.

What if I don't pass?
Take the DQE again. You may take it a total of three times, but you will need to pay the $50 registration fee each time you take it. Make sure to prepare by planning a course of self-study before you give it another shot.

What if I don't pass the second time?
If you don't pass the exam a second time, you will be required to take an approved language course before attempting the exam a third and final time. The approved language course in the MCJ department is MCJ 5 Basic Editing. It is offered only during the spring semester.

What if I don't pass after three times?
If you don't pass after three times, you will need to consult your academic advisor and make arrangements to find another major. Special requests to take the exam again will be considered only for serious and compelling reasons on a case-by-case basis by the MCJ Department chair. If you fail repeatedly, consider whether media communication is the field for you. All media jobs depend quite heavily on writing.

How can I prepare?
A course packet is available for download after you register for the exam. In addition to the self-study packet, the department recommends three books:

  • "Working with Words: A Handbook for Media Writers and Editors," by Brian S. Brooks, James L. Pinson and Jean Gaddy Wilson. (With exercise workbook.)
  • "When Words Collide: A Media Writer's Guide to Grammar and Style," by Lauren Kessler and Duncan McDonald. (With exercise workbook.)
  • "English Simplified," by Blanche Ellsworth and John A. Higgins.

These books are often used as texts in English or linguistics classes and should be available in the Kennel Bookstore and online.

I've done well in writing, so why require an exam?
Most of your previous writing has likely been creative or academic, for an audience of one. Writing for the mass media requires great precision, and writers don't have time to think about the basics. A solid knowledge of language is absolutely necessary for materials sent to hundreds or thousands of people.

Can anyone take the DQE?
Yes, the exam is basic language assessment. It can provide a useful evaluation of anyone's language skills. It has been offered for almost 40 years and has established itself as a benchmark for beginning media writers.