Overview of PACA

What is PACA?

It is a test required in select programs that helps to determine whether or not a student requires additional support in their reading, comprehension and writing skills during the first semester of their program. If they do not pass the assessment, they must register for Communications Essentials (COMM 1710).

What are the PACA programs that were selected for the 2017-2018 academic year?

Oshawa campus

  • Advertising and Marketing Communications
  • Child and Youth Care (compressed)
  • Contemporary Web Design
  • Dental Reception and Administration
  • Developmental Services Worker
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Interactive Media Design
  • Journalism – Mass Media
  • Law Clerk Advanced
  • Library and Information Technician
  • Massage Therapy
  • Music Business Administration (two-year)/Music Business Management (three-year)
  • Office Administration – Legal
  • Office Administration – Real Estate
  • Police Foundations
  • Protection, Security and Investigation
  • Public Relations (compressed)
  • Social Service Worker

Whitby campus

  • Construction Carpentry – Sustainable
  • Crane Operation, Rigging and Construction Techniques
  • Mechanical Technician – Elevating Devices
  • Mechanical Technician – Millwright
  • Mechanical Techniques – Plumbing
  • Office Administration – Executive
  • Office Administration – General
  • Office Administration – Health Services
  • Office Administration – Health Services (four consecutive semesters)
  • Welding Engineering Technician

Why does Durham College offer PACA?

To ensure all students are supported and prepared to achieve success in their program.

What do my students need to do?

Your students must register to write their PACA before the start of the semester. They can do this in person or online. For more details, please visit www.durhamcollege.ca/assessment.

What if my student has already written this assessment?

Students only write PACA once. If they are transferring into a PACA program from another PACA program, and wrote the assessment the previous year, please advise them to XX.

How many times can I write the assessment?

Students can only write the assessment once at Durham College. No exceptions!

Is there a re-write of assessment?


Is the assessment transferable to or from other colleges?

No. If a student has written a PACA at another college, they still must write the assessment at Durham College.

Academic information

Is COMM 1710 a new course?

It was introduced in the 2015-2016 academic year in select programs.

Is COMM 1710 a pre-requisite for any other course?

Yes, depending on the program of study.

How many times can a student take COMM 1710?

 Typically, students can attempt any twice without intervention. If a student fails a course twice they require permission from Durham College to register a third time.  Students will not be removed from their program, but they require successful completion of all courses to graduate.

If a student has successfully completed one (or more) COMM courses in a different Durham College program are the credits transferrable?

No, if your current program requires the post-admission communication assessment you will have to write the assessment.

If a student has failed COMM 104 can COMM 1710 replace it?

No, there are no equivalents to COMM 1710, if a student failed the previously listed course that COMM 1710 has replaced they still must take COMM 1710.

Students who are entering year two but have not successfully completed the PACA or COMM 1710 may have pre-requisite errors.

Students should add COMM 1710 to their timetable, if available, at add/drop time.  They will be required to pick up their year two communication course once they have satisfy the pre-requisite.

Will COMM 1710 be offered in the evenings?

Yes, there will be some evening classes available.

Communications to students

If a student passes their assessment, what happens next?

The student will receive an email stating that they passed. If they have already registered for COMM 1710, they will be instructed to remove it from their timetable by using the add/drop portion of their online class schedule and removing the five-digit code associated with the course. They can now choose to enrol in a general education course or keep a spare in their first semester.

Do students need to abide by the drop deadline?

Students are required to withdraw from the course by Day 10 if they successfully completed the assessment.  If they choose to take the course upon successful completion no action is required.

If a student fails their assessment, what happens next?

The student will receive an email stating that they are required to enrol in COMM 1710. The course will be listed in their registration options and they must add it to their timetable.

Will students who must enrol in COMM 1710 be reminded of this i.e. they wrote their assessment in July, but do not register until August?

Several reminders are sent to students approximately prior to Day 1 of the semester.

Will a report be generated to identify students who have successfully passed the assessment but didn’t drop COMM 1710?

Systems and IT will provide a report to identify students who are exempt (EX) from COMM 1710, but are currently registered.  An email will go out to those students reminding them of their options.

Test Centre information

Can an Oshawa campus student write at the Whitby campus or vice versa?

Yes, students can write at either Test Centre location by pre-booking an assessment date and time.

How do we ensure the student is, in fact, writing their own assessment?

Both in-person and online testing require government issued ID.

Registration information

What if a student has not written or has failed the assessment?

Student advisors will force register a new PACA student into COMM 1710 if they have not written and failed the test to date to ensure they are registered but still encourage students to take the PACA up to Day

What if a student does not want to take COMM 1710 in Semester 1?

Student advisors should be aware that students who drop courses in Semester 1 for a reduced load should not drop COMM 1710 if there are prerequisites for future courses and difficulty picking up COMM 1710 after Semester 2.

If a student wants to change their timetable what should they do?

Students should be able to add/drop courses themselves on MyCampus before the deadline.  The system will not allow for overriding maximum class sizes. In person changes will require permission from the School of Interdisciplinary Studies.

If open sections do not fit in timetables what happens?

There are multiple sections at multiple times built to fit all program blocks involved in this assessment.

Can a student add another course (if they pass) outside of their Program of Study (POS)?

Yes, as long as it fits their timetable and their semester POS maximum course hours, with no pre-requisite errors.  If a student chooses a course over three hours they will be subject to an overload fee.

Will COMM 1710 be offered in May?

Yes. It will be available through daytime and CE (online and in class).

Having a ‘pending’ is going to delay timetables. Students will complain. How do we address this?

Pending results should be assessed and inputted into the system within three to four days after the assessment has been completed.  If you have a student who self-identifies we will need to wait for the final result, which may impact timetable selection depending on timing.  At this point an email will go out to those who have been exempt from COMM 1710, but are still registered, before the add/drop date.

Test information

How can students prepare for assessment?

The purpose of the assessment is to test a student’s current abilities. They cannot prepare or study like they would for a regular test.

How long is the assessment?

Students are have two hours to complete the assessment, but on average it takes approximately 1.5 hours.

What is the deadline to write the assessment?

Students should make arrangements to complete the assessment as soon as they receive their voucher. The last day to write the assessment is Day 5 of the semester.

How does a student get another copy of their voucher if they lost their voucher email?

Students must call the Test Centre to have their voucher number reconfirmed.

How much does it cost?

There is no charge to write the assessment at the Test Centre, but there is a $25 (USD) fee to write the assessment online.

Does the fee go back to Durham College?

No, it is required for using the online service.

Assessment results

Will the assessment affect the student’s GPA?

If students successfully complete the assessment, it will not impact their GPA. If they are unsuccessful in the assessment and required to take COMM 1710, their final grade will impact their GPA.

Will the student receive a grade on the assessment?

It is a pass/fail type of assessment. There are no grades, and students will be notified as to whether or not they passed.

What is the required grade to pass this assessment?

There are many elements that contribute to a “successful” or “unsuccessful” result. There are no grades, and students will be notified as to whether or not they passed.

If a student passed their assessment, but did not drop COMM 1710, but did not attend their course and received zero what happens?

If they did not drop the course, the grade they received in the course will stand as their final grade. An email will be sent to identified students to indicate their options.  Failure to drop the course will result in the grade received with no academic appeals.

Other information

How does a student access accommodation, if required?

If a students requires an accommodation such as extra time or a distraction-reduced environment, they should contact the Access and Support Centre at 905.721.3123 or asc@durhamcollege.ca before they book their test.

How will a credit in this course affect a student’s OSAP?

This course will not impact OSAP as it is part of their first semester program of study. If students are exempt from COMM 1710 and “credit out” of at least one or more courses, they could be at risk of falling to part-time status.  Please direct students to the Financial Aid office prior to dropping additional courses where their funding could be impacted.