English Placement Test

The English Placement Test for Non-Native Speakers of English (EPT) assesses students’ ability to communicate effectively in a university setting both in writing and speaking. The EPT is required for all students whose primary language is not English, who will be studying on campus in Ames, and who do not meet any of the EPT exemption criteria (listed under the “Exemptions” tab above). EPT results are used to determine whether students need additional English language support during the beginning of their study at ISU. The EPT consists of two parts: the writing test (EPT-W) and the oral communication test (EPT-OC). Students who do not pass one or both parts of the test will be placed into ESL courses based on their results. Upcoming test dates are listed below. To register, please select the “Registration” tab above.

Students should be proactive in determining whether or not they need to take the EPT. If you are unsure, click on the “Exemptions” tab above and carefully review the exemption criteria. If none of the criteria apply to you, you are required to take both components of the EPT. For students who are not exempt, taking the EPT and passing any required English language courses are graduation requirements. Because English-language coursework can affect your program of study, you should try to fulfill these requirements as soon as possible. Postponing or deferring the fulfillment of the English requirement may limit your ability to enroll in other courses and cause delays in graduating.

Test Schedule

EPT Writing:

2024 Spring Regular Test

  • Date: Tuesday, January 9th, 2024
  • Time:  8:00 AM to 9:30 AM (Central Standard Time)
  • Location:  To be announced. (in-person test; the test must be taken at ISU)

Make-up Test Administration (for latecomers only)

  • A make-up test will be administered in person during the first week of Spring semester (Central Standard Time).

EPT Oral Communication:

2024 Spring Regular Test

  • Date: 
    • Tuesday, January 9th, 2024
  • Time:
    • 10:30 AM – 4:00 PM (Central Standard Time)
  • Location: Carver Hall Building – Room 268
  • Notes: 
    • Room 268 is the check-in room. Please make sure you arrive 20 minutes before your appointment and wait in the waiting area. The test coordinator will call you for check-in.
    • Do not forget to bring a photo ID. Your ISU ID cards, an international or US-issued driver’s license, and passports are all accepted.
    • Registration will open two weeks before each test administration date. You can register at https://speaktest.engl.iastate.edu/

Makeup Test (for latecomers only)

  • A make-up test will be administered in person during the first week of Spring semester (Central Standard Time).


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:

  • Registration for the Spring 2024 EPT will open later in the Fall 2023 semester. Please check back later for updates.
  • 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

Writing (EPT-W)

The EPT writing test (EPT-W) is a 50-minute, computer-based test administered through Canvas, ISU’s learning management system. The EPT-W assesses your ability to summarize, synthesize, and evaluate information presented in different sources and to state and support arguments with sufficient details and examples using standard academic 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).

Note: Students’ performance on Task 2 contributes twice as much to the final result of the EPT-W than does Task 1 (that is, Task 2 is weighted at 66.67% and Task 1 is weighted at 33.33%), hence the greater amount of time allotted for Task 2.

View a sample EPT-W test form.

View the 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 website for further information: https://cce.grad-college.iastate.edu/speaking/oect-for-itas.


Students who meet one or more of the following criteria will have met Iowa State University’s English language requirement and do not need to take the English Placement Test. There is no need to contact the EPT office to confirm your English requirement status if an exemption clearly applies in your case. However, if you need help interpreting any criterion, or if you believe there has been a mistake in determining your English requirement status, write to us at ept@iastate.edu. Please do not email exam scores to the EPT office.


  • All scores below must be official scores sent to the ISU admissions office, not unofficial or self-reported scores. Please do not email exam scores to the EPT office.
  • SAT-EWR (Evidence-based Writing and Reading) scores are accepted if they date from March 2016 or later.
  • Duolingo English Test (DET) scores are not accepted for exemption from the EPT.
  • Superscores (MyBest™ Scores), which use the highest TOEFL section scores from multiple test dates, are not accepted for exemption from the EPT.
  • Students with transfer credit for ENGL 150 and/or ENGL 250 must take the EPT if none of the exemptions below apply to them.

Exemption Criteria

Students meeting any of the following criteria have met the English language requirement and do not need to take the English Placement Test.

  1. Undergraduate students who were not required to provide standardized test scores as proof of English proficiency to be admitted to Iowa State University
  2. Undergraduate students with official ACT-E scores of 24 or higher or SAT-EWR scores of 600 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. Undergraduate or graduate students with a TOEFL PBT score of 600 or above or TOEFL iBT score of 100 and above
  4. Undergraduate or graduate students with scores of 7.5 or above on the IELTS Academic test
  5. Undergraduate or graduate students with scores of 72 or above on the PTE (Pearson Test of English) Academic test
  6. International exchange students* who do not plan to take classes offered by the Department of English.
  7. Graduate students whose primary language** as reflected in their ISU student records is English and who completed their education in an English-speaking country**
  8. Graduate students whose primary language is not English but who received a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctoral degree from an English-medium university in an English-speaking country***
  9. Graduate students whose only enrollment is in a fully online, distance-only program.**** (Note: Students who take any classes on ISU’s campus in Ames as part of their program are not considered distance-only and thus are not exempt).
  10. Graduate students who have been employed full-time (40 hours per week minimum) for at least two years in organizations that use English as the primary language for both written and spoken forms of communication. Only students admitted to the Graduate College in Fall 2023 or afterward are eligible for this exemption. To qualify, admitted students must be prepared to provide verifiable evidence (typically a written statement from a supervisor) attesting to the fact that (a) the parts of their work that involve writing and speaking are conducted primarily in English, and (b) the ability to communicate effectively in both written and spoken English is considered a requirement of their position. The exemption will not apply in cases where English was used:
    • only occasionally in the workplace (e.g., only when meeting with foreign clients);
    • for written workplace communication (reports, emails, etc.) while primarily speaking in languages other than English, or;
    • for speaking in the workplace (discussions, presentations, etc.) while primarily writing in languages other than English.

    Notes: Assistantship appointments held as a graduate student are not considered professional experience for this purpose, though full-time postdoctoral appointments are. An application process is required to claim this exemption.

*Exchange students are those who come to ISU from another country as part of a formal exchange program to spend a semester or academic year attending classes and participating in campus life. They continue to be enrolled full-time and earn credits towards their degree at their home institution.

**A primary language is defined as the language in which a person is most proficient and/or which was the first language learned and spoken from childhood.

***English-speaking countries (i.e., those that recognize English as an official language) include the following:

Antigua and Barbuda
British Virgin Islands
Cayman Islands
Falkland Islands (Islas
Hong Kong
New Zealand
New Guinea
Saint Helena, Ascension,
and Tristan da Cunha
Saint Lucia
Saint Martin
Sierra Leone
Solomon Islands
South Africa
South Sudan
St Kitts & Nevis
St Vincent & Grenadines
Trinidad & Tobago
Turks & Caicos
United Kingdom

****A list of fully online, distance-only programs can be found on the Office of the Registrar website: https://www.registrar.iastate.edu/fees/mandatory-fees/online-and-distance-education-programs

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 and/or who do not meet any of the other exemption criteria. The EPT assesses students' ability to communicate effectively in a university setting both in writing and speaking. The results of the test are used to determine whether students need additional English language support during the beginning of their study at ISU.
I am an online/distance learning student. Do I need to take the EPT?Students enrolled in fully online, distance-only programs are exempted from the EPT and the English requirement at this time and so do not need to take the EPT. If you will be studying on campus in Ames at any time during your program, however, you will need to take the EPT.
What is the format of the test?The EPT consists of two parts: a writing test (EPT-W) and an oral communication test (EPT-OC). Please select 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. Duolingo English Test scores cannot be used for exemption 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 EPT-W test and the EPT-OC, 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. Due to human resource limitations, students can only take the EPT once.
Are there diagnostic tests that can allow me to be waived from an ESL course? Diagnostic tests are not used to waive students from taking any ESL courses at this time. They may be used by instructors in these courses to plan their teaching, however.
I did not pass the English Placement Test. May I take the required course(s) next semester?Students are strongly advised to take required ESL courses starting in their first semester.

Graduate students must complete all required ESL courses in their first year unless circumstances make this impossible. Students taking GR ST 540 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. You must successfully complete ENGL 101B before enrolling in ENGL 101C/D.
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 seats beyond the course capacity, so please do not ask any ESL course instructor to allow you to enroll into the course.
Where can I 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 from the EPT-W due to limited human resources. However, the instructor in your course will provide feedback based on your performance in the course.
Do ESL courses count towards graduation and my GPA?ENGL 99S does not count toward your GPA or toward graduation. ENGL 99S credits and grades, however, will appear on your transcript.

ENGL 101B, C, and D count towards a student’s GPA but not towards graduation.
How much do the ESL courses cost?ENGL 101B, 101C, and 101D are the same price as a regular 3-credit course. Students taking ENGL 99S will be assessed a fee of $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 building where the tests will be held?To locate the buildings on the ISU campus, visit https://www.fpm.iastate.edu/maps/.

Contact Us

  • Email: ept@iastate.edu (fastest way)
    • Please do not send any sensitive information, such as transcripts or exam scores.
  • Office: 239 Ross Hall (appointment required)
  • Phone: The EPT office extension is not monitored. Please send all enquiries via email.