While most classes require a traditional final exam, many English instructors choose to evaluate your work using a portfolio, a compilation of your best work from throughout the course. Portfolios assess your overall improvement as a writer, revision skills and ability to create writing projects over a period of time, as well as under deadlines. Thinking critically about your growth as a writer and carefully selecting your best essays can help you create a successful English portfolio.

Ponder Your Progress

Most portfolio assessments require you to write a reflective letter, an introduction that explains the evolution of your writing and the choices you made in compiling your work. This letter to your instructor is a chance to look back on how the course has influenced you to become a better writer, including challenges you've faced and specific improvements you've made in your work. Your letter might include how you felt about your writing coming into the class, why you chose the essays that appear in your portfolio and goals for continuing to develop your skills.

Show What You've Got

The bulk of your portfolio will be a selection of essays you've written throughout the course. This is your chance to let your new writing skills shine, allowing your best work to illustrate the progress you've made. You might select pieces you particularly enjoyed writing, essays that showcase significant challenges you overcame or papers that required significant reworking to reach the final versions. Consider diversity in your selections as well; the Hunter College Reading and Writing Center suggests including a variety of genres, as well as pieces that address different topics.

Revise and Rework

While some instructors may require you to simply include the final copies of your selected essays, others might ask you to rework them for your portfolio. This allows you to showcase your revision skills by making improvements and changes to work your instructor already is familiar with. As you revise, review your instructor's original comments to see how to clarify key concepts, enhance the style or tone and write for a specific audience's needs. If your instructor requires you to submit the original drafts along with the final copies, attach them as well.

Review the Requirements

The process of assembling your portfolio likely will vary from class to class. Some instructors may prefer that you staple your essays and fasten them with a binder clip, while others might want you to bind them down the center in a three-pronged folder. Avoid putting your work in a binder, as instructors often must carry several classes' portfolios home to grade, and binders can make the stack bulky and difficult to carry. Put the essays in the order your instructor specifies; usually, the reflective letter comes first, followed by the essays and drafts.