English Placement Test

The English Placement Test for Non-Native Speakers of English (EPT) is required for all incoming students whose first language is not English and who do not meet the exemption criteria (see the “Exemptions” tab). The test consists of two parts: Writing and Oral Communication. Students who do not pass one or more sections of the test will be placed in ESL courses based on their results. Upcoming test dates are listed below. To register, please click on the “Registration” tab.

Please note that it is each students’ responsibility to determine whether they need to take the English Placement Test. If you are not sure whether you need to take the English Placement Test, click on the “Exemptions” tab above, and carefully review the exemption criteria. If none of the exemptions apply to you, you are required to take the EPT. Please note that taking the EPT and passing any required English language courses is a graduation requirement. It is in your best interest to fulfill this requirement as soon as possible to ensure that you graduate on time.

Test Schedule

EPT Writing:

  • The next administration will be in January 2023. The dates and locations will be posted here in December 2022.

EPT Oral Communication:

  • The next administration will be in January 2023. The dates and locations will be posted here in December 2022.


IMPORTANT: Correspondence from the EPT Office, including registration confirmation emails, is sent to students’ ISU email address. Please check your ISU email regularly to ensure that you do not miss important communication from the EPT Office.

To register for the EPT, follow these instructions:

  • Writing test: Online registration for the makeup test is closed. Onsite registration will take place on Monday, August 22, at 5 p.m. at 0060 Carver Hall.
  • Oral Communication test: Registration for the Fall 2022 Oral Communication test will open approximately two weeks before the test date. To register, follow the instructions here. You must register before coming to the testing site. If you will not be on campus the day of the regular test administration, you must register for the make-up test. Please note that registration for the make-up test may not open until the regular test administration is complete. 

Viewing Test Results

The EPT results can be viewed from your AccessPlus account approximately 1 week after the test date. You will receive an email informing you when the results are available. Your results are displayed on your “Current Student Information” page on AccessPlus.

Interpreting Your Results

  • A “W” under a particular course means that you have been waived from that course. Please note that you may not see this until week 5 of the semester.
  • A “Y”  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 after Summer 2017, you will not see ENGL099L placement.

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

For more information about the ESL courses, please click here.

Test Information


The Writing test is 50 minutes long and is administered on the computer through Canvas, Iowa State University’s learning management system. The test 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 be given 5 minutes to read two texts (250-300 words each) about an issue of general interest. After that, you will complete two writing tasks.

  • Task 1 (15 minutes): Write a summary of the two reading texts to compare and contrast the ideas presented in the two texts (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 (300-350 words).

Sample Test

EPT Writing scale

Oral Communication

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. The test lasts approximately 20-30 minutes. *Note: The tasks might be slightly modified to protect the health of the students and raters during COVID-19.

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 and 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 Part 1

Part 2 (Paired-discussion)

Total time 12 minutes
Number of questions 2 (3 questions in the modified version for COVID-19 safety)
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. *Note: For the modified COVID-19 version, instead of talking with another test taker, you will talk with a different instructor/examiner. You will listen to the teacher presenting a position on a topic. Then (1) you will summarize what you heard, (2) you will defend the same position, and (3) you will defend the opposing position.

Sample Part 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. In the COVID-19 version, you will speak with an examiner through WebEx (A video chat application).
  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. (In the COVID-19 version, you will go to a different room. Our testing staff will take you to your second room, and you will complete the second part with a different examiner through WebEx).
    • 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. (In the COVID-19 version, you speak only with the examiner).
    • 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. (In the COVID-19 version, you will hear only one position, and the examiner will talk about that position, not an audio. After the examiner finishes presenting the position, you will be asked to retell what he/she said in your own words for one minute).
    • 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. (In the COVID-19 version, because we cannot put two students in the same room, you will defend the two opposing positions on the topic in two separate one-minute runs).

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: https://cce.grad-college.iastate.edu/speaking/oect-for-itas.


Students who meet one or more of the following criteria are automatically exempted from taking the English Placement Test. There is no need to contact the EPT office unless you believe there has been a mistake in determining your exemption status.

Exemption Criteria


  • All scores below must be an official score (not an unofficial or self-reported score)
  • SAT-EWR (Evidence-based Writing and Reading) – testing date of March 2016 or later
  • SAT-CR (Critical Reading) – testing date before March 2016
  • Duolingo English Test (DET) is NOT accepted for exemption from the EPT
  1. Students who are graduates from high schools in the U.S. (including high schools in Puerto Rico).
  2. Based on ACT or SAT scores (undergraduates only):
    1. Official ACT-E score of 24 or higher, SAT-EWR 600 or higher, and/or an SAT-CR of 550 or higher. English placement is English 250. Students must take 250 here at ISU and receive a “C” or better in order to receive the 150 “T” credit.
    2. 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. Students must take 250 here at ISU and receive a “C” or better in order to receive the 150 “T” credit.
  3. 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.
  4. Students with a TOEFL PBT score of 600 or above, or TOEFL iBT score of 100 and above*;
  5. Students with a score of 7.5 or above on the IELTS Academic test;
  6. Students with a score of 72 or above on the PTE (Pearson Test of English) Academic;
  7. International exchange students who do not plan to take classes offered by the Department of English.

Students with transfer credit for English 150 and/or 250 must take the EPT if the checklist above so indicates.

*Superscores (MyBest™ Scores), which use the highest section scores from multiple test dates, are not accepted. 

Frequently Asked Questions

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

What is the English Placement Test?The English Placement Test (EPT) is administered to students who have been admitted to ISU with English proficiency test scores below the threshold for EPT exemption. The EPT assesses students' ability to communicate effectively in a university setting both in speaking and in writing. The results of the test are used to determine whether students need additional English language support during their first year of study at ISU.
I am an online/distance learning student. How do I take the EPT?Email ept@iastate.edu with your name, 9-digit ISU ID number, and ISU email address, informing them that you are a distance student who needs to take the EPT. Further instructions will be provided about taking the test and receiving your results.
What is the format of the test? The EPT consists of two parts: a writing test and an oral communication test. Please refer to the Test Format tab for more information about each sub-test.
I received a high score on the Duolingo English Test. Am I exempt from the EPT?No. Obtaining a high score on the Duolingo English test does not exempt students from the EPT.
What if I have taken the ACT or SAT?
(Question applies to undergraduate students only).
Students who have taken the ACT or SAT may be exempt from the EPT. Please refer to the Exemptions tab for more information.
I have a transfer credit for ENGL 150 and/or 250. Do I still have to take the English Placement Test? (Question applies to undergraduate students only).Yes. These students still need to take BOTH the writing test and the oral communication test even if they have transfer credit for ENGL 150 and/or 250.
Do I have to take ENGL 101B and/or 101C if I have transfer credits for ENGL 150? (Question applies to undergraduate students only).It depends on which college you are in. Some colleges many require students to take 101B and/or 101C even if they have transfer credit for ENGL 150.
I did not pass the English Placement Test. Can I take the test again?No. All international students who need to take the EPT can only take the test once.
What is the diagnostic test?A diagnostic test may be administered in ENGL 101B, C, and D on the first day of class. Students who pass the diagnostic test will be waived from taking the course. Students who miss the first day of class will not be permitted to take the diagnostic test.
I did not pass the English Placement Test. May I take the required course(s) next semester?All students are strongly advised to begin taking any required ESL courses in their first semester.

Graduate students must complete all required ESL courses in their first year if able to do so. Students taking ENGL 180 may take 99S in their second semester if they prefer.
I have been placed into ENGL 101B and 101C/D. Can I take these courses in the same semester?No. You cannot take ENGL 101B and 101C/D in the same semester. ENGL 101B must be taken first.
Where do I find the schedule of classes?You can see which classes are being offered each semester by visiting https://classes.iastate.edu/.
I cannot register for a course because it is full. What should I do?Continue to check AccessPlus to see if a spot opens up in the course you need to take. Instructors cannot add students beyond the course capacity, so do not ask the instructor to let you into the course.
Where do I go to learn more about the ESL courses?For a full description of the ESL courses, visit https://apling.engl.iastate.edu/esl-courses/
Can I get feedback on my oral communication test?If you are placed in ENGL 99S, your instructor will share your oral communication test results with you during the first week of classes.
Can I get feedback on my writing test?Currently, we do not provide feedback on the writing test due limited human resources. The instructors in your courses will be able to provide you with feedback on the work you do for their course.
Do ESL courses count towards graduation and my GPA?ENGL 99S will not count towards your GPA or towards graduation. The course credits and grades, however, will appear on your transcript.

ENGL 101B, C, and D count towards your GPA, but not towards graduation.
How much do the ESL courses cost?101B, 101C, and 101D are the same price as a regular 3-credit course. The cost for taking 99S is $480 in addition to the cost of a regular 3-credit course.

More information about course fees is available at http://www.registrar.iastate.edu/fees/othfee.
I have additional questions. Whom should I contact?Please e-mail ept@iastate.edu.
How do I find the buildings on campus?To locate the buildings on the ISU campus, visit https://www.fpm.iastate.edu/maps/.

Contact Us

  • Email: ept@iastate.edu (fastest way)
  • Office: 239 Ross Hall (appointment recommended)