Skip to contentSkip to navigation

DQE - Departmental Qualifying Exam

The Departmental Qualifying Exam (DQE) tests fundamentals of grammar, word usage, punctuation and spelling. Students must pass the DQE before enrolling in any of the department's writing or editing courses — including MCJ 10 and MCJ 102W.

Students must score 70 or higher, out of 100 multiple-choice questions, to pass the DQE. Students are permitted three attempts to pass the exam.

  • One failure — Student is eligible to retake the DQE with no restrictions.
  • Two failures — Student must take an approved language class before retaking the DQE.
  • Three failures — Student CANNOT take the DQE again and must find a different major.

The DQE is administered in two parts. A three-hour workshop reviewing DQE topics will be offered the first day of each session. The workshop will be in a lecture/activity format, with a course packet available for self-study. Then, the one-hour exam will be offered in the Academic Testing Center the following Monday through Thursday. A Fresno State Student ID is required when checking in for the exam.

A study packet is available for early review DQE Study Pack

PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. Please pre-register through the Division of Continuing and Global Education, located in ED 130 in the Kremen Education building. This is a non-credit course. Call (559) 278-0333 or visit for information.

Click here for Registration Form 
Cost: $50. (Pay by check at CGE, by credit card through online portal, or by credit card/cash at Joyal cashier) 

Exam Dates for Spring 2018

Session I Workshop (meets in McKee Fisk, Room 208)
Saturday, January 6, 2018 (workshop 9 a.m. to noon). You may take the exam between Monday, January 8 and Thursday, January 11 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the  Bulldog Testing Center (FFS 210). A Fresno State Student ID is required.
Pre-registration deadline Tuesday, January 2, 2018. 

Session II Workshop (meets in Engineering East, Room 191) 
Saturday, April 14, 2018 (workshop 9 a.m. to noon).  You may take the exam at the Bulldog Testing Center (FFS 210) from Monday, April 16 through Thursday, April 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A Fresno State Student ID is required.
Pre-registration deadline Friday, April 6, 2018

Contact Prof. Faith Sidlow at with questions.

Additional Resources

MCJ 5. Basic Editing (3 units) 
Application of basic language skills to media writing and editing. Recommended for all majors who must take an approved English language course and those MCJ students who are required to take an approved language course prior to attempting the Department Qualification Exam a third and final time: course does not substitute for passing DQE.

LING 6 - English Strategies for Multilingual Speakers (3 units) 
Offered cooperatively through the Linguistics and English departments. Typically part of the first-year composition program. "Assists multilingual students with paraphrasing and summarizing while also providing help with English grammar. Addresses the challenges that second-language learners face with academic reading, writing, grammar, and vocabulary."

Books for self-study

  • "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.

What is the DQE?

The Departmental 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 of 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 Bulldog Testing Center the following Monday through Thursday. Please check the testing center website for exam hours.  

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>My Finances (Financial Obligations and Financial Aid)>View eBills/Make a Payment>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 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 paying the fee, go to the Bulldog Card Office in Joyal, Room 156 to have your picture taken and your card issued.

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 more than 40 years and has established itself as a benchmark for beginning media writers.                


Focused observation and applied self-study are often the cornerstones to improvement in any trade. Writing is no different. A strong grounding in fundamentals separates the professionals from the amateurs.

Each student is ultimately responsible for identifying his or her weakest areas in writing and then planning an active course of self-study. These sample problems can be an excellent place to start.

Category: Confused and misused words
Misused words, words that sound the same or are similar 
Percent of DQE: 20

1.       She wanted to (a) by (b) buy (c) bye a car. 
2.       Climbing that mountain was quite a (a) feat (b) feet (c) fete. 
3.       Tom was a real (a) pain (b) pane in the neck.

Category: Verbs
Especially irregular tenses 
Percent of DQE: 10

4.       I should not have (a) drank (b) drunk so much last night. 
5.       The judge sentenced him to be (a) hanged (b) hung by the neck until dead. 
6.       The pitcher (a) threw (b) throwed wild curve balls.

Category: Modifiers
Adjectives, adverbs, comparatives 
Percent of DQE: 10

7.       The latest Olympic team performed (a) well (b) good at the latest trials. 
8.       Of Bob’s two wives, Katie was the (a) prettier (b) prettiest. 
9.       She felt (a) sad (b) sadly after losing the race.

Category: Agreement
Mostly subject-verb, some pronoun-antecedent 
Percent of DQE: 15

10.    Either Sam or his children (a) was (b) were in the house. 
11.    The band was waiting to collect (a) its (b) it’s (c) their (d) they’re pay. 
12.    Athletes think the media (a) has (b) have blown this out of proportion.

Category: Plurals and possessives
Words in plural form, showing possession 
Percent of DQE: 15

13.    He said he would give a (a) week (b) week’s (c) weeks (d) weeks’ pay for the answers. 
14.    The Smiths are trying to keep up with the (a) Jones (b) Jones’ (c) Joneses. 
15.    Did you watch (a) CBS (b) CBS’s (c) CBSs (d) CBS’ new sitcom?

Category: Punctuation
Mostly commas, semicolons 
Percent of DQE: 20

The next (three) questions concern punctuation, mostly commas but also semicolons. For each, mark (a) if it is punctuated correctly, (b) if not.

16.    Russian actor Igor Puskin went into television. 
17.    An upset librarian raced up to her, but didn’t say anything. 
18.    They once lived in Fresno, Calif., Denver, Colo., Tupelo, Miss., and Flagstaff,   Ariz.

Category: Spelling
Commonly misspelled words 
Percent of DQE: 10

In the following groups of words, select the word that is spelled incorrectly or indicate “all correct.”

19.    (a) quandary, (b) phamphlet, (c) psychology, (d) academy, (e) all correct 
20.    (a) classroom, (b) defendant, (c) caffeine, (d) tomorrow, (e) all correct 
21.    (a) seperate, (b) teammate, (c) sizzle, (d) superficial, (e) all correct

1b, 2a, 3a, 4b, 5a, 6a, 7a, 8a, 9a, 10b, 11a, 12b, 13b, 14c, 15d, 16a, 17b, 18b, 19b, 20e, 21a