ESL Placement Test – All You Wanted To Know

“What is an ESL Placement Test?” is a question often asked by non-native speakers of English seeking college admissions in USA. ESL is the abbreviated form for English as a Second Language. ESL placement test is part of the admission process in US colleges for non-native speakers of English. ESL tests are applicable to students who do not ordinarily speak English. The candidate himself may be a foreign student or an immigrant. Or, his parents may be first generation immigrants who do not speak English in the normal course.

Scope of ESL Tests

ESL tests evaluate the ability of a non-native speaker of English to understand the English language spoken in USA. ESL tests are spread over listening, reading, usage and writing.  ESL grammar exercises and ESL practice are important while preparing for ESL placement tests.

Success and failure

These are ESL placement tests. There is no concept of “passing” or “failing”. There is no minimum score to be achieved to “pass” the test. But based on the performance of the student, he is placed at the appropriate level in the college course. He may be admitted to a remedial class or a beginners’ class.  ESL practice tests are imperative to brush up skills and properly demonstrate one’s knowledge.

Listening skills

At the beginners’ level, the student is exposed to English as it is usually spoken by a native English speaker to a non-native English speaker. If the student experiences constraints, he would be directed to a remedial level class. Gradually, the speed of reading is accelerated, allegorical expressions introduced, pronunciation accented, and lexicographical knowledge tested. The student is permitted to take notes and respond to questions. The test may begin with simple co-relation of images to words and end with presumptive questions based on the passage.

Reading skills

The first part consists of reading of a passage. The passage generally features unequivocal ideas linked to a primary theme, clear statements related to a secondary premise, relationship of these ideas and conclusions that can be drawn from the passage. The questions are based on the passage.

In the second part, two related statements are made. The questions call upon the student to state whether the second statement is supportive of the first, in conflict with it or merely restates the first statement in alternative vocabulary.


The focus is on sentences. In the first part, student knowledge of the basics of a sentence – parts of speech, punctuation, spelling – is tested.  In the second part, the ability of the student to deal with structure of sentences is assessed. Building of a sentence, the use of appropriate syntax and clauses are the key elements.


The ESL writing test measures the ability of a student to develop his theme.  Elaboration of the primary idea has to dovetail with secondary supportive thoughts but without losing focus on the critical issue. The writing should present organized thoughts sequentially and effectively arranged. The essay must present appropriate sentence structures with effective communication techniques, proper usage and be free of grammatical errors.


ESL grammar exercises and ESL practice are a good way to achieve success in ESL placement tests.