2018 FYEE Conference

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

Presented at Technical Session VI

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: http://www.abet.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/C3_C5_mapping_SEC_8-15-2017.pdf
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

  1. Dr. Michelle E Jarvie-Eggart P.E. Michigan Technological University [biography]
  2. Dr. Laura Kasson Fiss Michigan Technological University [biography]
Download paper (184 KB)

Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper? Visit the ASEE document repository at peer.asee.org for more tools and easy citations.