English Composition

Composition Director: Concetta Williams, ext. 4456

Composition Courses
Placement Exams
Exit Exams
Exam Scoring
1230/1270/1240/1280 P&Q (exam topics)
Preparation Tips
Office of Exams

Sample Passing/Failing Exams

The abilities to think critically and to communicate clearly and logically in writing are crucial to success in college and the professional world.  Therefore, all students who wish to earn a degree from Chicago State University must demonstrate competence in writing.  Competent writing is defined as writing that is clear, logical, and thoughtful.  In addition to being clear, logical, and thoughtful, competent writing demands the correct use of American academic English.

The composition requirements at CSU

  • Placement essay examinations taken by all students for placement into the appropriate   composition classes or for the transfer of composition credits from another institution. 
  • Successful completion of composition courses.
  • Passing of the final essay examinations for composition courses.
  • Students who have not completed their composition requirements may not be allowed to register for courses in their majors.  Most students are required to take two Writing Emphasis courses in their majors. To receive a degree from Chicago State University, students must complete six hours of English Composition.

Required Composition Courses

English 1270 or English 1230: English 1230 covers the same material as English 1270 but includes three hours of mandatory attendance in the writing lab each week in addition to time spent in class.  English 1230 students are required to enroll in both the class and lab for each section. English 1280 or English 1240: English 1240 covers the same material as English 1280 but includes three hours of mandatory attendance in the writing lab each week in addition to time spent in class.  English 1240 students are required to enroll in both the class and lab for each section.

Composition Courses

To promote a uniform standard of competence in writing throughout the various programs and colleges of the university, all students must successfully complete the English Qualifying Examination as a prerequisite for admission to all major or professional programs. In addition, all entering freshmen and transfer students are required to take the appropriate university diagnostic or qualifying examination in English composition. Entering students may not register for any composition course until they have taken the appropriate examination.

ENGLISH 1230 WRITERS' WORKSHOP I (3)/6/

Prerequisite: Placement by prior examination

An intensive study of the basic principles of expository and argumentative writing for all students (including those students wishing to transfer three-to-four hours of composition credit) who do not meet the minimum standards for placement into Composition I.  Practice in exposition, argumentation, reasoning skills, paragraph and essay development with focus on sentence construction, usage, punctuation, and mechanics.  The writing lab for individualized instruction is mandatory. To receive a passing grade in this course, the student must successfully complete the English Qualifying Examination.  Successful completion of English 1230 satisfies the Composition I requirement.  Credit not given for both English 1230 or 1270.  Additional course fee.


ENGLISH 1240 WRITERS' WORKSHOP II (3)/6/

Prerequisite: Placement by prior examination

An intensive study of argumentative writing for transfer students who do not pass the English 128 Transfer Examination (English Qualifying Examination). Additional practice in paragraph and essay development, sentence construction, usage, punctuation, and mechanics. A lab for computer-assisted instruction is mandatory. To receive a passing grade in the course, the student must successfully complete the course exit examination (English Qualifying Examination). Successful completion of English 1240 satisfies the Composition II requirement. Credit given for English 1240 or 1280, not both courses.
 

1270 COMPOSITION I (3)

Prerequisite: Placement by prior examination

Basic principles of exposition and argumentation for those students who meet the minimum standards of the Composition I Placement Examination.  Practice in reasoning skills, paragraph and essay development, usage, punctuation, and mechanics.  To receive a passing grade in this course, the student must successfully complete the English Qualifying Exam/exit examination.  Credit given only for English 1270 or 1230, not both courses.  IAI: C1900

1280 COMPOSITION II (3)

Prerequisite: Successful completion of English 1230 or 1270 or the English 1270 Transfer Exam

Advanced techniques of exposition with emphasis on argumentation, reasoning, research, and documentation. Additional practice in paragraph and essay development, sentence construction, usage, punctuation, and mechanics.  Credit given for for English 1280 or English 1240, not both courses.  IAI:  C1901R

1220 WRITING ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE (3)

Prerequisite: Consent of the department

An alternative to ENG 123, 124, 127 and 128. Designed for non-native speakers of English. Sentence patterns, writing skills, grammar, and usage. To receive a passing grade in this course, the student must successfully complete the appropriate exit examination. May be taken more than once as needed by non-native speakers of English to satisfy composition requirements.

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Placement Examinations

All students who enter Chicago State University must take an essay examination. These examinations are used for two purposes:1) to place students in the appropriate English composition class, 2) to determine if transfer credit will be granted. Students cannot take any course in composition unless they have been assigned to it on the basis of their performance on their essay examinations. There are many courses in the university that students cannot take until they have passed all of their composition classes and examinations.

Types of Placement Examinations

  1. Freshmen and other students with no college credit in composition take the diagnostic examination for placement in English 1230 or English 1270.  Students who demonstrate competencies for 1270 must register for that course; those who do not must register for 1230.
  2. Transfer students with three semester hours of composition credit from another institution take the English Qualifying Examination, which is the same as the English 1270 final.  If they pass, their three credit hours in composition are accepted as transfer credit and they enroll in English 1280; if they do not pass, they must register for English 1230.
  3. Transfer students with six semester hours of composition credit from another institution must pass the English Qualifying Examination in order to apply the transfer credit hours toward graduation requirements at Chicago State University. Those who do not pass the examination must register for English 1240.
  4. Students in the Board of Governors and University Without Walls programs must also pass the English Qualifying Examination.  BOG, UWW students must register for English 1240 if they do not pass the English Qualifying Examination.  BOG and UWW students are strongly encouraged to take six hours of composition at Chicago State University to ensure their writing skills are strong when they graduate.

For information about the times and dates for placement exams, please visit the Office of Examinations

Format of the Examinations

For all examinations you have 90 minutes to write and proofread your essay.  You should plan to spend 10 to 15 minutes planning and outlining your essay, 40 to 60 minutes writing it, and 15 to 20 minutes proofreading it.

1)  For the diagnostic placement examinations (taken by new freshmen), the English 1270 placement examination, you must write an essay of 300-350 words on one of two topics.  You will be given a short prompt; a paragraph designed to stimulate your thinking; and a topic in the form of a question.  In your essay you must answer the question and explain your answer.

Sample Diagnostic Topics:
Gang violence is a serious problem.  Many young men join gangs and then participate in criminal activities.  In a well-developed essay of 300-350 words, please respond to the following question:  Why do teenage boys join gangs?

2) For the English Qualifying Examination or the exit examination for English 1240or English 1280, you must write an argumentative essay of 400-450 words. You will see a short prompt; designed to stimulate your thinking; and a topic in the form of a question.  In your essay, you must write an argument that persuades readers that one answer to the question is better or more reasonable than another.

Sample 1230/1270/1240 topic:
Some people argue that the need for programs such as affirmative action are not longer necessary.  On the other hand, civil rights activists keep reminding people that the struggle for equality in America is far from over.  In a well-developed essay of 400-450 words, please respond to the following question:Are all Americans now treated equally?
A complete list of possible topics can be found by clicking here: Exam Topics

Placement Examination Results

The Office of Examinations will send students their examination results within two weeks after their placement tests and tell them which composition course, if any, they should register for.  If they wish to see their examinations, students may get copies from the Office of Examinations (Administration Building, room 126).  The current fee is one dollar. The results can be interpreted in the office of the Director of Composition, Concetta Williams, Science Building, room 318, ext. 4456.

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Exit Examinations

In order to receive credit for English 1230, 1240, or 1270 students must demonstrate mastery of the material by passing both the course and the department exit examination given at the end of the course.  Students who do passing work during the semester but do not pass the exit examination will be given a grade of Incomplete.  English 1270 students have one semester to retake the class, pass the exam, and earn a passing grade.  English 1230 and 1240 students have two semesters to retake the class, pass the exam, and earn a passing grade.  After one semester (for English 1270) or two semesters (English 1230 and 1240) the grade will revert to an I/F.

English 1230 or 1240 students who have not passed after four attempts at passing the course or six attempts at passing the examination will be withdrawn from the university for poor scholarship.

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Grading of Examinations

English department faculty grade the examination essays and assign a score of 6, 5, or 4, which are passing scores, or 3, 2, or 1, which are failing scores. These scores are based on the criteria spelled out in the scoring guide (See below).Each essay is graded separately by two instructors; neither instructor knows what score the other has given the essay.  If one instructor passes the essay and the other does not pass it, the paper is read by a third instructor, who makes the final decision.The Scoring Guide. All passing papers must reflect competence in standard American English

Score of 6: Superior

  • Addresses the question fully and explores the issues thoughtfully
  • Shows substantial depth, fullness and complexity of thought
  • Demonstrates clear, focused, unified and coherent organization
  • Is fully developed and detailed
  • Evidences superior control of diction, syntactic variety, and transition
  • May have a few minor mechanical flaws

Score of 5: Strong

  • Clearly addresses the question and explores the issues
  • Shows some depth and complexity of thought
  • Is effectively organized
  • Is well developed, with supporting detail
  • Demonstrates control of diction, syntactic variety, and transition
  • May have a few mechanical flaws

Score of 4: Competent

  • Adequately addresses the question and explores the issues
  • Shows clarity of thought but may lack complexity
  • Is organized
  • Is adequately developed, with some detail
  • Demonstrates competent syntactic control
  • May have some mechanical flaws

Pass/Fail Distinction: Scores of 4, 5, and 6 are passing: Scores of 3, 2, and 1 are not passing

Score of 3: Not Competent
A failing paper will reflect one or more of these weaknesses:

  • Severely distorts or neglects parts of the question
  • Is very simplistic or stereotyped in thought
  • Demonstrates serious problems in organization
  • Contains generalizations without supporting detail or detail without generalizations: may be undeveloped
  • Shows patterns of flaws in language, syntax or mechanics

Score of 2: Weak

  • Demonstrates serious inadequacy in one or more of the areas specified for the 3 paper

Score of 1: Very Weak

  • Fails in its attempt to discuss the topic
  • Is completely off-topic
  • Is severely underdeveloped (i.e. too short)
  • Is wholly incompetent syntactically and mechanically

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Preparation Tips

The examiners assume that men and women who are seeking college degrees are interested in and knowledgeable about the current events of the world in which they live. The topics are developed from current events.Your chances of passing your examination will be increased significantly if you know about issues of current concern to educated women and men.  Get into the habit of regularly reading news magazines and newspapers.  Local and national television news broadcasts rarely provide enough detail and analysis to be useful.  A list of some good sources for information about current events follows:

Newspapers and Magazines:

The Defender
The Chicago Tribune
Newsweek
The New Yorker
Ebony
Scientific American
The New Republic
The New York Times
The Sun Times
Time Magazine
U. S. News and World Report
The Atlantic Monthly
Essence
Business Week
The Washington Post

Current issues of all of these publications can be found in most public libraries and on the Internet.  They are also available in the periodicals room of Douglas Library on the Chicago State University campus.

Another good source of in-depth reports and analyses of current events is National Public Radio, FM 91.5.  Both the morning and evening news broadcasts (Morning Edition and All Things Considered) provide excellent coverage of local, national, and international events.

Essay Form

There is no single required essay form.  Generally, an essay must have a clear beginning, middle and end.  The introduction should set the tone and topic for the essay and give a general indication of the information or arguments that will be developed in the rest of the essay.  The body of the essay should develop in detail the information or points mentioned in the introduction, but there should be no repetition of what has already been said.  The conclusion should bring the essay to a clear end and should not repeat what has already been said before.  It is sometimes useful to answer the question; Why is what I've said important?  in the conclusion.

Avoid formulaic thesis statements in your introduction, such as; There are three reasons that health care should be free to all citizens.  The three reasons thesis statements may have been acceptable in your high school English classes, but they are not considered to be appropriate for college level work.  Your thesis should make a thoughtful statement or state a considered position and should lead to a discussion of those points most appropriate to your essay. 

Be sure that your essay addresses the topic you are given.  Also, be sure that your essay does not wander off the topic.  Each paragraph should be clearly connected to the main point of the essay and to all the other paragraphs in the essay.

Writing in Correct Academic English

Be sure that you understand and can apply the rules of academic English.  Many students who fail their examinations do so because of errors in the following areas:

  • Subject/verb agreement
  • Verb forms
  • Pronoun agreement
  • Pronoun reference
  • Plural nouns
  • Possessive nouns
  • Incomplete sentences
  • Run-on sentences
  • Usage
  • Punctuation

You can review the rules for these and other conventions of academic English in any English usage handbook.  You can also find help at owl.english.purdue.edu/by-topic.html

To a large degree, correctness in academic English depends on proofreading skills.  Practice reading what you have written closely and carefully.  Make a list of the errors you make most often and practice finding and correcting those errors in your own writing.  For example, if you have a problem with subject/verb agreement, learn to find all of the subjects and verbs in your writing and check to see if they agree.

You will find information about help with study skills, test anxiety, or other problems in the Office of Academic Support Services (Student Union Building, room 158). 

The Office of Continuing Education can give you information about workshops that will help you prepare for the examinations.  Call (773) 995-2572 for scheduled English examination preparation workshops.

Handwriting

Perfect neatness isn't necessary, but your writing must be readable.  If a grader cannot read a word or letter, he or she may assume there is an error.  If you have handwriting that is hard to read, practice writing with a clear, legible hand.  Also, make sure that the distinction between capital letters and small letters is clear.

Advice about taking the examination

  1. Be sure you know what examination you are taking.  If you are not sure, check with the Office of Examinations (Administration Building, room 126, 995-2481) a day or two before you take your examination.
  2. Be sure to double check the location of your examination ahead of time.  Most placement examinations are administered in the Library, room 119.
  3. Arrive at least fifteen minutes early so that you can get signed in and settled before the examination starts.
  4. Bring a dictionary, electronic spell checker (if you have one), a black ballpoint pen and a photo ID to the examination.  Do not bring paper, books or any other equipment with you.
  5. You may use the directions sheet or the topic sheet as scratch paper for planning and outlining your essay.
  6. You may ask for additional paper if you need it.
  7. You may not share a dictionary or communicate with other students taking the examination while it is in progress.
  8. Attempts to cheat will be reported for disciplinary action.

Strategies to Help You Write the Essay

  1. Be sure you answer the question in your essay. The prompt that precedes the question is there to help you to get your thoughts flowing.  Your topic, however, is determined by the question.  Do not let the information given in the prompt distract you from answering the question.
  2. Pick the topic that you know the most about.  The exam graders look for specific details and examples.  Remember, it is easier to write about what you know.
  3. Think your essay through before you begin writing.  It is a good idea to spend ten to fifteen minutes thinking about, planning, and outlining your essay before you write.
  4. Do not write a rough draft and then copy it over.  You will run out of time.  If you need to make changes, draw a single line through the word or phrase you wish to change and write your correction neatly above it.
  5. Use several different sentence patterns and lengths.
  6. Avoid ineffective repetition of words, phrases or sentences.
  7. Make sure your essay is consistent and logical.  If you start off arguing one point of view, don't switch sides in the middle of your essay.
  8. Avoid vague generalizations, such as; Most people feel that there is too much child abuse.  Unless you have asked them, you don't know what most people feel, nor is it clear what amount of child abuse is too much.
  9. Avoid overly used phrases, such as, In today's world.  These phrases often lead you to make illogical statements, for example, In today's world, children need love.  This statement implies that in previous times children did not need love.
  10. Use specific details and examples.  If you are arguing that children need discipline in order to learn right from wrong, you need to describe exactly what kind of discipline they need, like time-outs or spanking, in specific situations.
  11. Make sure every point you make has a logical connection to your thesis statement.
  12. Avoid addressing the reader directly by using the words you or your.  It is standard, in a personal essay,to use the words or my.
  13. Leave fifteen or twenty minutes to proofread your essay.  Careful proofreading is critical to your success.

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Sample Passing/Failing Exams

Passing Diagnostic Essay (taken by by new freshmen).  The topic: Why do teenage girls get pregnant?

Every year hundreds of teenage girls get pregnant.  In spite of sex education provided in schools, many girls still get pregnant, some intentionally. There are many reasons as to why teenage girls fall into the trap.  Some teenage girls may say they were looking for love but in the end it was nowhere to be found.    One reason why teenage girls get pregnant is because they are ignorant to the fact that your first time is all it takes.  Some teen girls may say it won't happen to me my first time, when indeed it may very well happen.  A very good percent of teenage girls get pregnant their first time.  They believe that because they've never had sex before that there's no need to use protection.  When not being educated costs you the rest of your life you would think girls would learn.

Another reason teenage girls get pregnant is to try and trap a man.  That's when the teenage girls getting pregnant intentionally comes in.  Some teens feel as though to keep a man they have to have his child.  Many teen girls fail to realize that if the man doesn't love you he won't love his child.  Some men today never step up to the plate and take responsibility for the seed they've sowed.  Teenage girls are then left empty handed.  Girls are left taking care of a child when they can't provide for themselves.

Also, teenage girls get pregnant because they were never loved and they want to fill that empty hole inside their heart.  Little did they know it's not easy raising a child alone.  They have to give up everything they did love to devote themselves to the child.  Teenage girls aren't ready to do that.  They are not prepared to spend the rest of their lives raising a child.  Teenage girls are prone to letting their feelings get the best of them.  Some teenage girls grew up with a sense of insecurity.  They probably grew up in a type of household where no parents were present.  Their innocent minds mislead them into thinking that since they weren't loved, they can have a child to love and to receive that love back.

In conclusion, sad to say, but every year innocent babies are brought in to the world without a sense of security.  Teenage girls need to realize that having a child is not an easy task.  Having a child means committing yourself to one thing.  As I stated before rarely is there a teenage girl who is willing to devote all of her time to a child.  So to conclude, I would have to say that if teenage girls just have to have sex, I would recommend that they use protection.

The above essay is not perfect.  There are some errors in pronoun usage and punctuation, but it displays a level of ability that indicates the writer is ready for regular freshman composition -- English 1270.  The essay is organized with a clear beginning, middle and end, and the paragraphs are adequately developed.

Failing diagnostic essay

Topic: In what ways do stereotypes affect people's judgments?

In today Chicago Suntimes there were an page about how stereotyping can make judgement on other people.  As we know people are being stereotype for many reasons.

People are sterotype by there own peers.  Some of our peers talk about how we look.  What we wear.  And sometime about some people age difference.  I were sterotype when I decided to return to school.  I was told that I were to old to return to school.  But I were not influence by my peers judgement of me.  Every day there is someone who are sterotype by there peers.  Sometime in school or outside their homes.

Next some people are being sterotype about there culture.  There are many diffent kinds cultures.  many people have religion faiths.  Some people worship the sun.  We all have some kind of culture from when we were baby.  So, if some one else culture is different we might sterotypes because, and judge other.  This is because lack of understanding other cultures.

word stereotyping can come from member in your home.  For instance if some one in your home stereotype people because of their color this will influence you.

You might hear your mother or father talk what other people is wearning this make your judgement sometime be the same.  If there is nothing good said about other people colors or looks you will stereotype these people in the same way.

Finally, people are stereotype because they come from a different race as others.  People fear other race because the fear of understanding.

In conclude, people can and will always be influence about sterotypes judgement.  There are some people who will stereotypes no matter what.  Stereotypes is sometimes cause because people look different.  Sometime the same peers talk about some of their other peer.  Other people family might look at people differt because of color.  Stereotype other because the lack of knowledge.  We must stop stereotyping other people and look at them as human beings.  We must learn to love and understand other races.  Sterotypes is a disease.

The essay above suffers from numerous grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors.  In addition, the essay is not well organized, nor are the paragraphs developed.  This writer needs intensive instruction in English 1230.

Passing English Qualifying Examination(taken by students attempting to transfer three to six hours of composition credit; it is the same exam taken by students attempting to exit English 1230, 1240, or 1270).  Topic: Are people losing their respect for their fellow citizens?


In an age where violence such as road rage is prevalent, the question has been posed as to whether people are losing their respect for fellow citizens.The answer to that question is evident on many fronts such as the streets, schools, sports, entertainment, and even at home. Although it is nothing completely new, disrespect appears to manifest itself today in a proportion unknown in recent history.

Modern ideologies such as political correctness may be highly culpable for some of the disrespect seen in people today.The current liberalism often promotes a degree of respect for all races, genders, and religions, yet it sometimes promotes free speech to a faulty extent. Nowadays, many people, including children, are taught the importance of having the right to express themselves.The problem with this ideology is its failure to also emphasize tact and discretion in an individual's expression. Profanity is commonplace in almost every walk of life, and many people gain a sense of power in telling someone else what they can kiss or suck. After all, in the United States we have the power to express ourselves freely, and if someone angers us many people will not hesitate to make their feelings known. Unfortunately, this frankness of speech finds its way to children who constantly hear adults swearing in their presence.No wonder why we have seen so many disrespectful children on Maury Povich and Jenny Jones in recent years.

Often, when people feel that they have arrived to a certain level, their respect for others dwindles.Living in the United States today has confused the values of many citizens.This arrival to a certain level may not be world-wide fame, but maybe only popularity in school.Children tend to justify their ridicule of other children who are less popular than they are.Therefore, if popularity may breed disrespect in children, it may expand to adulthood if it is not curbed.One example is that of professional star athletes who believe they need not conform to league or team standards based on their stardom.Another example is in the music industry's lyrical vulgarity, particularly in hip-hop or rap music.Many rap performers use reality and free speech as the basis for their frankness of speech.However, the sale of their material is the true motivation for their vulgarity.Free speech is just as operable to say positive and meaningful words, but sex and violence sell, so many rappers choose this kind of expression regardless of who may be offended.

Money is probably the overall root of the disrespect that we see in American society.Road rage is prevalent because people may be on their way to acquire money in addition to the fact that some people value their automobiles more than human life.Also money has the influence to make an artist forsake his or her artistry if they may acquire more money by being disrespectful.In American society, money is power, thus a form of power in disrespect has developed.Even if no money is acquired although disrespect, some people still gain a sense of power through disrespect because they are utilizing their first amendment rights.Perhaps power could be utilized in words of kindness, but kindness is weakness and money is power and power lies in disrespect to many in today's American society.

This essay is well-developed.  Each paragraph advances the argument, and the connections between paragraphs are clear.  there are almost no grammar, punctuation, or spelling errors.

Failing English Qualifying Examination.  Topic:  Does Rap music promote negative values?

Rap music does promotes negative values.  It promote negative values in young and old people.  The lyrics in rap music has caused people to murder.  Rap music has promoted negative competition.

The negative values that rap music have promoted is; sex, murder, guns and drugs.  Young people listens to the music and watch the video's that accompany the music.  The video's help explain the lyrics.  When young people listen to the lyrics and see the video's, they degrade themselves' and get themselves' in trouble.  Sex has become a public issue today.  Little Kim raps about oral sex and ways she wants men to lay in bed with her.  young and older lady's that listens to her music will feel disrepected, because when you are in the lime light you represent that gender.  Women have fought for years to be repected and heard.  When you have rap artist like Little Kim rapping degrading Lyrics it degrades all women.  The young ladies that are coming up in the world, needs positive role models to enhance their up bringing.

When boys and young men listen to lyrics that degrade women, they will do the same.  They feel that it is acceptable, if their mother and sisters accept being called a bitch why souldn't they do the same?

Rap music has caused music artist as well listeners to get murdered.  Tupac and Biggie Small were two legendary rap artist that occasionally rapped negative about one another and about the lives they lived.  They are both dead, and they both were murdered.  Teens listens to these lyrics and have done the same thing.  On the west side of Chicago a teen murdered a classmate because he said the young man did not agree with him on what the rapper was talking about.  This is a senseless crime, all because of rap lyrics.

There are rappers all around the map case, west, north, and south.  Rappers today has a lot of competition among one another.  Everyone wants to be better than their peers.  This competition can cause negative lyrics as well as negative thoughts among each other.  Snoop Dogg is a rapper from the east side and Nelly is a rapper from the west side they usually have lyrics that comflict with one another and this causes a problem.

Rap music does promote negative values in our society.  The listeners has to get together to raise their voices to make a change among the music industry.  We as adults needs to moniter what our children listens to, and try to explain how the lyrics could be wrong and degrading.  We have to make this stand because we are responsible for the values of ourseleves as well as our children.

This essay is simplistically developed, with no real supporting detail.  The numerous errors, especially errors in subject/verb agreement, prevent the essay from passing.  This writer requires more instruction

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