CMS FAQs

Graduation Credit

Q: There are two composition programs at SFSU: the English Composition program and the Composition for Multilingual Students (CMS) program. How is the CMS program different from the English Composition program?

A: Classes in both programs fulfill SFSU’s written English requirements for graduation and General Education (GE) Written and oral communication requirements. However, classes in the CMS Program are taught by instructors who specialize in teaching courses that address the needs of nonnative speakers of English. The table below shows how certain classes in the two programs correspond to each other (Note: not all classes in both programs are shown in the table).

Composition for Multilingual Students                 Native Speaker Composition

These courses fulfill the lower-division written English requirement:

English 209                                                 English 114

These courses fulfill the GE written communication requirement:

English 215                                                 English 214

These courses fulfill the upper-division written English requirement:

English 410                                               

Please consult your major adviser for information about taking a GWAR class instead of English 410.

Q: Which program is the right one for me?

A: This depends on your scores on the Composition for Multilingual Students Placement Test (CMSPT) and the English Placement Test (EPT). All U.S. citizens and permanent residents are encouraged to take classes in the English Composition Program (English 48/51, 114, 214, 414) if their EPT and CMSPT scores are high. However, you will be encouraged to take classes in the CMS program if your test scores show that you would be better served by taking classes designed for multilingual students and taught by instructors who specialize in teaching English to non-native speakers.

Q: Can I switch back and forth between programs, taking some classes in the CMS program and others in the English Composition program?

A: Students who are interested in switching programs should speak with the CMS/Composition Adviser. There are eligibility requirements for every course offered by the CMS program; thus, it is not possible to register and attend a CMS program course without taking the CMSPT or without being directly advised to take the course. If you feel that the CMS program is a better choice for you, we strongly recommend that you contact the adviser as early as possible.

Q: I only need to fulfill the junior written proficiency requirement, but English is not my first language. Can I register for English 410?

A: All students must take the CMSPT before enrolling in a CMS course. If you are a transfer student and want to fulfill your junior writing requirement in the CMS program, you may take the CMSPT. It is not possible to take a CMS class without taking the CMSPT or speaking with a CMS adviser. Contact the CMS office for more information.

Q: Can I take CMS classes in the summer at another college?

A: Most colleges have ESL or speech courses that students can take to meet the SFSU GE oral communication requirement. If you took such a course, you would not have to take English 210 or Speech 150. However, there are no ESL composition classes that substitute for English 114 (=English 209) or English 214 (=English 215), with the exception of ESL 5 (=English 209) at DeAnza College. If you take ENG 1A (=ENG 209) or ENG 1B (=ENG 215) at another college, you will still be held to the CMS eligibility requirements, including placement in courses based on CMSPT results.

Q: Do CMS Program courses transfer to other schools?

A: Some universities accept courses taken in SFSU’s CMS program. However, you should discuss this question with the admissions office of the institution to which you are transferring. For more information, please visit us in the CMS office in Humanities 481.

CMS Courses

Q: Do I need to take CMS classes or can I take regular English classes?

A: Whether or not you need to take CMS classes depends primarily on your academic English proficiency and the English classes you have taken in previous institutions. It also depends on your test scores on the CMSPT and/or the EPT. We also encourage you to meet with a CMS Program adviser as soon as possible by visiting our office in Humanities 481.

Q: Which classes should I take, and in what order?

A: Your score on the CMSPT will determine which class you should start with. The normal sequence of classes is:

  1. English 204( transfer) or English 201/202 (freshman full year) and English 208
  2. English 212
  3. English 209
  4. English 215
  5. English 410 and 415

Possible exceptions to this sequence:

  1. English 204 and 212 may be taken together if a student places out of 208.
  2. English 212 and 209 may be taken together if a student is a junior or senior and has a sufficiently high CMSPT score or attains high grades in the prerequisite courses (204/208).
  3. English 210, an oral communication course, may be taken any time after completing 204 and 208.

For more details, please read this comparison of the CMS program and English Composition programs.

Q: I will be a new freshman in the fall, and I would like to take my classes in the CMS Program. What should I do?

A:

  1. Plan and register to take the English Placement Test (EPT) as soon as possible. Visit the Testing Services website.
  2. All new freshmen should plan to attend an orientation session. Visit the New Student Programs website for information about signing up for a session. You will be able to register for many of your classes at the orientation session.
  3. If you are a first-time freshman starting in the fall semester, you are eligible for the CMS Accelerated Program (see Course Descriptions). You may not need to take the CMSPT. Contact the CMS program for more information.

Q: Are CMS program courses offered in the summer?

A: In the summer, the CMS Program offers about 15 percent of the number of courses and sections that are available in the fall and spring semesters. Certain courses are not offered in the summer semester at all (English 201/202, 204 and 208). We advise against students depending on being able to fulfill required English courses in the summer, due to the limited number of courses offered.

Q: Can I take two or more CMS classes at the same time?

 A: English 204 and 208 are usually taken together; English 212 may be taken concurrently with 202, 204, 209 or 215, depending on the recommendation of a CMS instructor or adviser. English 204, 209, 215 and 410 must be taken in sequence; you may not take them at the same time.

Q: Do I have to take English classes every semester until I finish, or can I have one or more semesters between my composition classes?

 A: Students are strongly encouraged to take their required English courses each semester until they are completed. Note that you must be a junior (completed 48 units) in order to enroll in English 410. However, this course fills up quickly and is not always available every semester; for this reason, students should not take the chance of waiting until their last semester to take it.

Transfer Students

Q: Should I take my required English classes in the CMS program, or should I take them in the (native speaker) Composition program?

A: Whether or not you need to take CMS classes depends primarily on your academic English proficiency, determined by your CMSPT scores and on what requirements you have met through courses at your previous school. We encourage you to meet with a CMS adviser as soon as possible by visiting our office in Humanities 481.

Q: I’m exempt from the EPT. Do I still have to take the CMSPT?

A: The English Placement Test (EPT) is a statewide exam that enables CSU campuses to find out whether you need remedial courses in reading and writing before undertaking college-level work requiring those fundamental skills. If you are a transfer student from a Bay Area community college and have taken certain English courses, you may be exempt from the EPT requirement even if you haven’t completed English 1A. However, the CMSPT is necessary if you want to take classes in the CMS Program.

Q: I took English 1A and 1B at a junior college. Why can’t I take 410 without taking the CMSPT?

A: There are proficiency and other eligibility requirements for every course offered by the CMS program. Therefore, you cannot register and attend a CMS program course without taking the CMSPT or without being directly advised to take the course. Contact the CMS program office and ask to speak to an adviser. 

Q: What courses at City College of San Francisco are equivalent to English 209 and English 215?

A: Only English 1A and 1B. There are no equivalent CMS courses at CCSF. There are eligibility requirements for every course offered, and it is impossible to register and attend a CMS program course without taking the CMSPT or without being directly advised to take the course. Consult a CMS adviser.

Important: Taking 1A and 1B at a junior college does not mean you will automatically be placed in English 410. See above.

Non-SFSU Students

Q: Can I take CMS program courses if I am not enrolled as a regular student?

Program courses are available through the College of Extended Learning (CEL). However, priority is given to SFSU undergraduate students who are fulfilling graduation requirements; therefore, few spaces are available for CEL students.

Exchange students may enroll for CMS program classes.

Note: Exchange students and College of Extended Learning students wishing to take CMS courses must take the CMSPT and see a CMS adviser before enrolling in any course.

Q: I need to improve my English skills, but I am not enrolled at SFSU. Are there any options available to me on the SFSU campus?

A: Yes. The College of Extended Learning offers two unique programs: American Language Institute and English for Professional Purposes.

City College of San Francisco also offers many English classes in two programs: a credit program (where students earn credits toward an academic degree) and a noncredit program (where students can improve their general, non-academic English skills).

Finally, there are many private language schools in the Bay Area.

Q: Can visiting scholars take CMS classes?

A: In general, no. Visiting scholars should speak with Professor May Shih in the MATESOL program for more information about taking English classes.

Tutoring

Q: Where can I get tutoring?

A: The Learning Assistance Center (in HSS 348) provides students with tutors for regularly scheduled sessions throughout the semester, in addition to “drop-in” tutoring. Visit the Learning Assistance Center website for more information about the services they provide to the campus community.

The English Tutoring Center (ETC) offers tutoring to students enrolled in a CMS composition class (English 209, 215, 410), and the number of available tutors is very limited. You should ask your instructor or go to the ETC (Humanities 480) for more information.

During the summer sessions, the CMS program offers tutoring for students enrolled in a summer CMS class. Please ask your teacher for more information.

Graduate Students

Q: Can graduate students take CMS classes?

A: Yes, if they take the CMSPT, or under special advising circumstances. Be advised that priority registration is given to undergraduate students who are fulfilling graduation requirements.

Q: Is there a CMS class designed specifically for graduate students?

A: Yes, English 670 is designed with graduate students in mind. Students from all disciplines are welcome to sign up. Ask for more information at the CMS office in Humanities.

Note: Graduate students wishing to take CMS classes should see a CMS adviser before enrolling in any course.