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. Both tests are typically taken on the same day. Students who do not pass one or more sections of the test will be placed in ESL courses based on their results. To determine whether you need to take the EPT, and to register, please click on the “Registration” tab.

Schedule for Fall 2020


Student statusEPT WritingEPT Oral Communication 
Undergraduate students (Bachelor’s)Tuesday, August 18
Time: 5:30 ~ 7:00 PM Central Time (UTC -5)
Location: Online
Wednesday, August 12
Time: 11:00 AM ~ 5:00 PM
Location: Check confirmation email.

  • Please bring a pen to the EPT Oral Communication test.
  • Undergraduate students who are in quarantine on August 12 are allowed to register for the August 14 EPT Oral Communication test if they are out of quarantine.
  • Make sure that you go to the OUTSIDE check-in location near the Carver Hall North Entrance. Please wear a mask and do NOT enter Carver Hall until you are invited in by an EPT administrator.
  • Students cannot take the English Placement Test of Oral Communication while they are in the 14-day quarantine period required of all students arriving from outside of the United States.
Graduate students (Master’s, PhD)Tuesday, August 18
Time: 5:30 ~ 7:00 PM Central Time (UTC -5)
Location: Online
Friday, August 14
Time: 1:00 PM ~ 4:00 PM
Location: Check confirmation email.

MAKE-UP SECTIONS (for latecomers only)

The make-up for the EPT Oral Communication test will be offered one evening during the first week of classes. More details to follow soon.

The make-up for the EPT Writing test will be offered on Tuesday, August 18 at 5:30 PM Central Time (UTC -5). This test will be administered online.

Checking your English Requirement Status

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.


If you do need to take the EPT, follow these instructions in order to register:

  • Writing test: We are currently accepting registrations only for the makeup test on Tuesday, August 18. Please complete this online Google Form: https://forms.gle/odGq9drfBGbRieih8. You will need to be logged into CyMail/Google with your ISU Net-ID in order to access the form.   
  • Oral Communication test: To register for the Oral Communication test, 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 2 -5 days after the test day. 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 can only see this grade in 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 about a current issue. 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 (125 words minimum).
  • 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 words minimum).

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.

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
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 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.
  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: 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. To determine whether you are required to take the EPT, please see the instructions under the “Registration” tab. There is no need to contact the EPT office unless you believe there has been a mistake in determining your English requirement status.

Exemption Criteria


  • 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. Based on ACT or SAT scores
    1. Students who are graduates from high schools in the U.S. (including high schools in Puerto Rico) with an ACT-E 16 or above, and/or an SAT-EWR 450 or above, or SAT-CR 410 or above.
    2. 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.
    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. Students 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 PBT score of 600 or above, or TOEFL iBT score of 100 and above*;
  4. Students with a score of 7.5 or above on the IELTS Academic test;
  5. Students 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 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.

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.

For the writing section, students will be asked to write two different essays based on two reading passages. For the speaking section, students will be assessed on their ability to communicate in academic situations. Please refer to the Example Test Questions tab for more information about the sub-tests. The results of the test are used to determine whether students need additional ESL support during their first year. Based on the EPT results, students will either be placed into one or more ESL courses or be exempted from taking any ESL courses. Information on course fees is available at http://www.registrar.iastate.edu/fees/othfee.shtml.
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.

They are also exempt from taking the EPT. Students who have an American high school rank of 75% or higher and an ACT-E of 23, SAT-EWR of 590, and/or SAT-CR of 540 are also exempt.
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 ENGL 150, the EPT results for ENGL 101B/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 ENGL 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:
  • In the fall semester, one EPT is given during orientation week (i.e., the week before classes start).

  • In the spring semester, the EPT is given the week before classes start.

  • In the summer, the EPT is given before the second summer session starts. In both fall and spring, there is typically a make-up EPT given in the evening on the first Tuesday of the semester.
  • 6I did not pass the English Placement Test. Can I take the test again?No, you may not.

    All international students who need to take the EPT can only take the test ONCE. However, students can take a diagnostic writing test for the course(s) they did not pass on the first day of the semester. See question 7 for more information.
    7What is the diagnostic test?A diagnostic test is given in the writing courses (ENGL 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. You do not need to sign up for the section to take the test. However, if you fail the diagnostic test, you are required to take the course.
    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. Regardless of your reason, if you miss the first day of class, you have missed your opportunity to take the diagnostic test and to possibly get a waiver from the course. You must now pass the course in order to meet your English requirement.
    11I did not pass the English Placement Test. May I take the course(s) next semester?Graduate students who were only placed into ENGL 101D may take their required course during their second semester. For students who need to take ENGL 99S, it is strongly recommended that they take it in their first semester, and it must be completed in their first year. Students taking ENGL 180 may take 99S in their second semester if they prefer.
    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. If so, complete the necessary add form and get the required signatures. Then bring it to the Office of Records and Registrar located in the Enrollment Services Center. If the class is full, try another section of the same course.
    13I 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?For the writing test, the writing course you have been placed into (if any) represents your score. To find out what your course placement means in terms of writing skills and abilities, you can review the scoring guide that we use on the writing test.

    If you are placed in ENGL 99S, your instructor will share your speaking test results in the first week of classes.
    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. The instructors in your courses will be able to provide you with feedback on the work you do for their course.
    15Do these English courses count toward graduation and my GPA?ENGL 99S will not count towards the GPA and not count towards graduation.

    The course credits, however, will show up on students’ transcripts. ENGL 101 will count towards the GPA, but not towards graduation. Please refer to the Office of the Registrar for more information or at the course descriptions around page 222 in the course catalog. Instructors of ENGL 099S and 101 sections do not have information on whether the grade counts toward the GPA. They simply report your grade.
    16I took the EPT and am currently taking one or more ENGL 101/99S 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 101/99S 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 101/99S 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 ENGL 101B and 101D. 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.
    20I was placed in ENGL 99L, 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 ENGL 99L. If you fail, you have to take ENGL 99S to meet this requirement.

    2. Register for ENGL 99S and pass it.
    21I have additional questions. Whom should I contact?Please e-mail ept@iastate.edu.
    22How 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)