English Placement Test for Non-Native Speakers of English


English Placement Test for Non-Native Speakers of English (EPT) is required for all incoming students whose first language is NOT English, and do not meet any of the other exemption categories. To check whether or not you meet one of the exemption categories, please click on the "Exemptions" tab. The English Placement Test takes approximately 2.0 hours and consists of two parts: writing and oral communication. The Writing test, administered on the computer, is taken in one block of time (1.5 hours), and oral communication is scheduled individually (20 minutes) at a different time. Students who do not pass one or more sections of the test will be placed in ESL courses based on their results. Registration is required. Please click on the "Registration" tab to register for the EPT. You need to register for the Writing and for the Oral Communication portion of the EPT.

Schedule for Spring 2019

Note: You only need to register for one of the Writing section times and one 20-minute slot for the Oral Communication test. REGULAR SECTION

  • Writing:
    • Date: Jan 8, 2019
    • Time: 8.30 AM - 10.00 AM (Students must arrive at 8.00 for check-in.)
    • Location: TBA
  • Oral Communication:
    • Date: Jan 8, 2019
    • Time: 11.00 AM - 3.00 PM
    • Location: Check your registration confirmation.

MAKEUP SECTION (for late comers)

  • Writing:
    • Date: Jan 15, 2019
    • Time: 5.30 PM - 7.00 PM (Students must arrive at 5.00 PM for check-in.)
    • Location: TBA
  • Oral Communication:
    • Date: Jan 14, 2019
    • Time: 6.00 PM - 7.00 PM
    • Location: Check your registration confirmation.

To locate the buildings on ISU campus, visit https://www.fpm.iastate.edu/maps/.

NEW international students who want to take the English Placement Test are advised to register for the EPT online before coming to the test site. However, onsite registration is also available.

Required information for registration

  • ISU ID number (the middle nine digits on the ISU card)
  • NetID (ISU email address)

Currently, we do not assess any additional fees for registering for the test.

Sign-up page (available 2 weeks before each test date) - You need to sign up for BOTH the Writing and the Oral Communication test!

  • Click here to register for the Writing test.
  • Click here to register for the Oral Communication test.

Changing your test dates

If you need to change your test dates after you have registered for the test, please do the following things:

  • Writing: Log into the registration site using your ISU ID number and password you set when you signed up for the test. Use the drop-down menu at the bottom of the page to select a new test date.
  • Oral Communication: Send an email to ept@iastate.edu with the subject line "Changing test date for EPT Oral Communication"

IMPORTANT: The EPT Writing will be administered online, through CANVAS. Make sure that you have your ISU email address (and remember the password) to access CANVAS for the test.

On the test day, you need to bring:

  • ISU ID card. If you have not got the ISU student card, you can bring a photo ID – passport, driver’s license, or state ID - but make sure that you remember your ISU ID number (9 digits on your acceptance letter to ISU)
  • ISU NetID (i.e., ISU e-mail address)

Parking permits are NOT available for test-taking students. Those who drive to campus to take the test are advised to find a proper parking lot in advance in which they can park for about 4 hours. A map of all parking locations on campus can be found here, by selecting the "Parking Lots" box on the left side.

The EPT results can be viewed from your AccessPlus after 2 - 5 days after the test day. If you provide a valid ISU Net-ID when you registered for the test, you will receive an email informing you when the results are available. Your results are displayed on your "Current Student Information" page on AccessPlus.

If you took the EPT before Spring 2017

Your test results also show on AccessPlus even though you have taken all required courses. Please be reminded that these are only your immediate EPT results (i.e., those you got right after the test). You do not need to take any actions about this.

Interpreting your results 

  • A "W" under a particular course means that you have been waived from that course. Please be noted that you can only see this grade in week 5 of the semester. 
  • A "Y" on your AccessPlus under a particular course means that you are required to take that course. For example, if your results show a "Y" under 101B, you will need to register for the course. Once you have passed that course, "Y" will be replaced by "P".
  • An "I" means you have not taken the sub-test (either Writing or Speaking). You will need to take this sub-test in the future.

If you took the EPT before Summer 2017, you will not see ENGL099L placement.

If you took the EPT before Summer 2018, you will not see ENGL099R placement.

For more information about the ESL courses, please click here. If you have questions, please go to the FAQs tab on this site. 

Test information

Writing (50 minutes) This test, administered on the computer, assesses your ability to summarize, synthesize, and evaluate information presented from different sources and to state and support your arguments with sufficient details and examples in standard English. You will read two texts about a current issue and respond to presenting your viewpoint on the issue. After that, you will respond to two tasks.

  • Task 1 (15 minutes): Write a summary of the two reading texts to compare and contrast the ideas presented in the two texts. Do not quote the information. Paraphrase it. (100 - 120 words).
  • Task 2 (30 minutes): Respond to a question related to the topic of the two reading texts, using the texts and your experience to support your arguments (approximately 300 - 350 words).

Sample - FormAA

EPT Writing scale

Oral Communication (20 minutes) This test is a face-to-face assessment of oral communication ability. The test provides evidence of whether test-takers need to take an oral communication course at ISU (i.e., ENGL 99S) or are exempt from that course. The EPT Speaking test is required for all international students whose native language is not English and are not exempt based on criteria that can be found on the Exemption tab.      

Overview of the test

The EPT Speaking test is intended to measure test-takers’ oral communication skills necessary for success in academic contexts. These oral communication skills include the ability to effectively interact with professors, instructors, and peers; the ability to use the language fluently; the ability to produce language that is comprehensible to most English users in the United States Midwest; and the ability to use academic vocabulary and grammar accurately and appropriately.

The test takes about 20 minutes and consists of two main tasks. The first task is a scripted one-on-one oral interview; the second task is a paired-discussion task. These two tasks are included because it makes it possible for test takers to demonstrate their abilities both individually and in a pair, which are both common in a university context. It is known that a test taker’s partner’s oral proficiency, personality, or other personal characteristics can affect a test taker’s performance on a paired test. Thus, raters are trained to take this into consideration when assigning scores on the paired test. To ensure a fair test score, in cases where the personality or proficiency of a partner seems to affect a test taker’s score, test administrators may ask test takers to retake the test with a different partner.

Because the aim of the test is to measure test takers’ ability to speak spontaneously, they are expected to respond immediately in all test tasks; no preparation time is given and taking notes is not allowed. The test might be recorded to ensure the quality of the rating.

     Test summary

Total test time 20 minutes per pair of test takers
Number of parts 2
Test takers interact with - the examiner during the scripted one-on-one oral interview - the other test taker during the paired discussion task

Part 1 (Scripted one-on-one oral interview)

Total time 8 minutes
Number of questions 3
Task content One-on-one interaction with an examiner. The examiner asks three questions, and test takers are expected to speak for one minute in response to each question.

Sample Task 1

Part 2 (Paired-discussion)

Total time 12 minutes
Number of questions 2
Task content Discussion of an assigned topic with another test taker. First, test takers listen to a short position on an issue and are given a minute to tell why the speaker has a particular view on the topic. Second, test takers are expected to discuss and defend a position on the topic for approximately 4 minutes.

Sample Task 2     

Test procedure

  1. After test takers go in the test room, each test taker is seated at one table at a corner of the room, with an examiner.
    • The examiner introduces himself/herself to the test taker.
    • The examiner asks the test taker 1-2 questions such as the test taker’s name or major.

This introduction part lasts about 30 seconds and is not scored.

  1. Each test taker takes the scripted one-on-one oral interview individually. The task is approximately 8 minutes. In this task, the examiner asks the test taker 3 questions one by one. The test taker is expected to respond to each question for about 1 minute. Test takers are encouraged to speak for the full minute when answering each question. No preparation time is provided.
  2. After test takers finish the scripted one-on-one oral interview, they move to the middle of the room to take the discussion task. This discussion task is approximately 12 minutes.
    • Before the task begins, two examiners introduce themselves to the two test takers, and the two test takers also introduce themselves to the examiners and their peers by saying their names and majors.
    • Test takers listen to a speaker’s position about an issue one time. The audio lasts about 30 seconds. One test taker is given a minute to tell in his/her words what the speaker’s opinion is and why the speaker has this opinion. Next, the test takers listen to another speaker give an opposing position on the issue, and the other test taker is given a minute to tell in his/her words what the speaker’s opinion is and why the speaker has this opinion. Both test takers need to listen to the whole talk carefully because they will discuss the issue introduced by the speakers later. Test takers are not allowed to take notes and are not expected to remember specific details given by the speakers. Test takers are encouraged to use the full minute when giving the speaker’s opinion.
    • The two test takers are asked to discuss and defend one of the positions provided by the speaker. They speak with each other and the examiners listen and rate their performance. Four minutes is given for the discussion and test takers are encouraged to share time equally and have short exchanges—not long monologues since a major aim of this task is to see if a test taker can respond to others appropriately, take turns, etc.

No preparation time is given, and taking notes is not allowed.

EPT Oral Communication scale       

ESL courses

• Students who do not pass the test will be placed in ESL courses based on their results. • For additional information on ESL courses, please click here.

Need to take the OECT?

• The EPT office does not administer the OECT exam. If you are a graduate student and need to take this test, please click on this web site for further information: http://cce.grad-college.iastate.edu/ita/oect

Generally, all incoming non-native English speaking ISU students (regular and online undergraduates and graduates) are required to take the English Placement Test prior to their first semester at Iowa State University. However, you do not need to take the EPT if you meet one or more of the following criteria.

If you meet one of the criteria listed below, DO NOT take any further action (e.g. notify or confirm with the EPT Office). DO NOT send your test scores to us.  Your record will be automatically updated.

List of Exemption Categories


  • All scores below must be an official score (not an unofficial self-report score)
  • SAT-EWR (Evidence-based Writing and Reading) – testing date of March 2016 or later
  • SAT-CR (Critical Reading) – testing date before March 2016

1.1. Students who are graduates from U.S. high schools (including Puerto Rico high schools) with an ACT-E 16 or above, and/or a SAT-EWR 450 or above, or SAT-CR 410 or above. 1.2. Official ACT-E score of 24 or higher, SAT-EWR 600 or higher, and/or a SAT-CR of 550 or higher. English placement is English 250. Student must take 250 here at ISU and receive a “C” or better in order to receive the 150 “T” credit. 1.3. Official ACT-E score of 23, SAT-EWR 590, and/or SAT-CR 540 with an American final (not action) high school rank of 75% or higher. English placement is English 250. Student must take 250 here at ISU and receive a “C” or better in order to receive the 150 “T” credit. 2. Students who have received a bachelor’s, master’s or Ph.D. degree from an English-speaking university. As of 2016 these are the countries that ISU considers "English-speaking": the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand, or Australia. 3. Students with a TOEFL score of 600 or above (paper-based TOEFL) or 100 and above (internet-based TOEFL); 4. Student with a score of 7.5 or above on the IELTS; 5. Student with a score of 72 or above on the PTE (Pearson Test of English) Academic; 6. International exchange students who do not plan to take classes offered by the Department of English. Students who meet exemption categories 3, 4, or 5 above will be automatically waived from the English Placement Test as long as they had their official record of the relevant English test reported to the university upon application. They do not need to contact the EPT for confirmation. Note: Even a student with transfer credit for English 150 and/or 250 must take the EPT if the checklist above so indicates.

Frequently Asked Questions

• You can find information about exemptions, ENGL 150/250 transfer credits, diagnostic tests, etc.

1What is the English Placement Test for Non-native Speakers of English?
The English Placement Test (EPT) is designed to assess non-native English-speaking students' writing, and speaking abilities.

2What if I have taken the ACT or SAT?Students with a 24 or higher on the ACT-E, 600 or higher on the SAT-ERW (evidence-based reading and writing) or 550 or higher on the SAT-CR (critical reading), are automatically placed into Engl 250.

3I have a transfer credit for ENGL 150 and/or 250. Do I still have to take the English Placement Test?
Yes, you do, as the test covers not only writing skills but also speaking skills.
4Do I have to take ENGL101B/C if I am placed into these courses AND have transfer credits for ENGL150?
If you are placed in ENGL 101B and/or 101C and you have already taken ENGL150, the EPT results for ENGL101B/C will be advisory. You are encouraged to take these courses although they are not obligatory. This exemption rule does NOT apply to students in the College of Business and the College of Engineering (as of Fall 2012).
However, you will still be required to complete 99S if you fail the speaking part of the test.
5When is the English Placement Test administered?
The English Placement is usually given at the following times:

6I did not pass the English Placement Test. Can I take the test again?
No, you may not.

7What is the diagnostic test?A diagnostic test is given in the writing courses (English 101B, C, and D) only on the first day of all ESL classes to provide students with another opportunity to get waived from the English requirements imposed by Iowa State University.

8What do I need to do to take the diagnostic test?
All you need to do is go to first day of class in one of the sections offered for the course you are placed in.

9How should I prepare for the diagnostic test?
You do not need to prepare for the diagnostic test because it assesses your general English ability in reading, and/or writing.
10I missed the first day of class and so I was unable to take the diagnostic test. Do you offer make-up tests?
No, we do not.

11I did not pass the English Placement Test. May I take the course(s) next semester?
Graduate students who were only placed into English 101D may take their required course during their second semester.

All other students must begin their required English classes in their first semester.
12I need to take one or more English courses (ENGL 099S/R, or 101B/C/D), but I cannot register for the course because it is full (based on information available in AccessPlus). What should I do?
Go to a section of the class you have been placed into and speak with the instructor to ask if you can add the courses.

13Can I see my test scores?No. Our current policy does not permit us to release actual scores to students.
14Can I get feedback on my essay writing?Currently, we do not provide feedback on individual students because of time constraints and limited human resources.

15Do these English courses count toward graduation and my GPA?
English 99S will not count towards the GPA and not count towards graduation.

16I took the EPT and am currently taking one or more ENGL 101/99 courses. However, I have received a notice that I haven't met the English requirement (or haven't yet taken the EPT). Also, I can't register for courses for the next semester. What should I do?
Send a memo to the Graduate College (Melissa Stolt, mstolt@iastate.edu), indicating that you are taking the relevant ENGL 101/99 class(es).

They will release a hold on your registration after checking with the EPT office if necessary.
17I took the EPT, but I haven't started taking ENGL 101/99 courses yet. And I can't register for courses for the next semester. What should I do?
Send a memo to the Graduate College (Melissa Stolt, mstolt@iastate.edu), indicating your willingness to take those courses in the next term (or in the earliest semester when the course is available).

They will release a hold on your registration after checking with the EPT office if necessary.
18I am an online/distance learning graduate student who needs to take the online EPT. How may I request for an online test?
Email ept@iastate.edu with your name, 9-digit ISU ID number, net ID (email address), and the time and date that you wish to take the test.

You will receive an email from the EPT office confirming your request to take the online EPT exam. Further instructions will be provided about taking the test and receiving your results online.
19I have been placed into 101B and 101D. Can I take these courses in the same semester?
No. You cannot take 101B and 101C/D in the same semester. 101B must be taken first.
20I was placed in ENGL99L, but the course is no longer offered. What should I do?
You have two options:
1. Take the Oral Communication test (i.e., the Speaking section). If you pass, you are no longer required to take ENGL99L. If you fail, you have to take ENGL99S to meet this requirement.
2. Register for ENGL99S and pass it.
21I have additional questions. Whom should I contact?
Please e-mail ept@iastate.edu.

Contact us

  • Email: ept@iastate.edu (fastest way)
  • Address: 226 Ross Hall (by appointment)