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Comparing First Year Engineering Students’ Math and Verbal ACT scores and Performance in Introductory Engineering and Composition Courses.

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2018 FYEE Conference


Glassboro, New Jersey

Publication Date

July 24, 2018

Start Date

July 24, 2018

End Date

July 26, 2018

Conference Session

Technical Session VI

Tagged Topic

FYEE Conference Sessions

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Paper Authors


Michelle E Jarvie-Eggart P.E. Michigan Technological University

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Dr. Jarvie-Eggart is a registered professional engineer with over a decade of experience as an environmental engineer. She lectures in the Engineering Fundamentals department at Michigan Technological University. Her research interests include online learning, active and collaborative learning, sustainability and diversity in engineering.

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Laura Kasson Fiss Michigan Technological University

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Laura Kasson Fiss is a Research Assistant Professor in the Pavlis Honors College at Michigan Technological University. She holds a PhD from Indiana University in English (2013). Her work has appeared in Victorian Periodicals Review, The Lion and the Unicorn, and The Cambridge Companion to Gilbert and Sullivan. In addition to her research on Victorian humor, she conducts higher education research and scholarship on issues of inclusion, reflection, and innovation.

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Comparing First Year Engineering Students’ Math and Verbal ACT scores and Performance in Introductory Engineering and Composition Courses.

Much attention has been given to the link between incoming engineering students’ math readiness and their performance in first year engineering programs. To promote retention in engineering programs, many first year programs now have separate classes for students in need of math skill development. But little is done to assess in-coming student verbal or written communication abilities as it relates to their success as engineers, although communication is included in the new ABET program Criteria 3. Student Outcomes 3, “ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences” (ABET, 2017). Many programs focus on assessing communication within the context of a final report or senior design project, at the end of a student’s experience.

In fact, engineers spend a majority of their time communicating. It has been shown that engineers spend over half their working days (55-60%) communicating both orally and in writing (Passw & Passaw, 2017). Additionally, communication is in the top three most important competencies ranked by engineering graduates (planning & time management is first, problem solving is second). Yet communication remains one of the skills engineering students struggle with the most, often failing “to appreciate that written words, not just calculations, express engineering content” (Conrad, 2017).The assumption is that engineers communicate with numbers, graphs and diagrams, not words.

This work in progress is examining the data behind first year engineering students’ performance in introductory engineering and composition courses, as well as their math and verbal ACT scores, to determine if there is a link between communication abilities and success in engineering curricula. Our ultimate intent is to determine if a similar remedial path might be needed for some engineering students when it comes to communication skills.


ABET, 2017. “EAC Mapping C3 A-K to C3 1-7” Accessed online at: On Feb 15, 2017.

Conrad, S. 2017. “A Comparison of Practitioner and Student Writing in Civil Engineering.” Journal of Engineering Education. Vol. 106, N0. 2., pp. 191-217.

Passaw, H.J., & C.H. Passaw. 2017. “What Competencies Should Undergraduate Engineering Programs Emphasize?A Systematic Review.” Journal of Engineering Education. Vol. 106., No. 3, pp.475-526

Jarvie-Eggart, M. E., & Fiss, L. K. (2018, July), Comparing First Year Engineering Students’ Math and Verbal ACT scores and Performance in Introductory Engineering and Composition Courses. Paper presented at 2018 FYEE Conference, Glassboro, New Jersey. 10.18260/1-2--31389

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