The English Language Programs’ Tests
The TOEFL and IELTS Academic Module are useful in the admission process, but even the most challenging tasks on standardized tests cannot simulate the sustained language demands of a rigorous degree program. Students who earn a high standardized test score may still need English language support from the English Language Programs (ELP) in order to engage with their program to the best of their intellectual ability. Even students who enter WashU with strong English language skills may benefit from professional development opportunities designed by the ELP for highly proficient nonnative English speakers.
The ELP offers three in-house exams to assess students’ English language proficiency in relation to the ELP’s courses and other services. The exams are the Graduate Composition Exam, the Graduate Listening & Speaking Exam, and the ELP TA exam.
Graduate Composition Exam
This exam takes 90 minutes. Students read and summarize a text about an academic topic and write an argumentative essay in response to the exam’s instructions. Students also complete a brief survey about their experience and comfort level with academic reading and writing in English. Based on a student’s demonstrated skill level in writing and survey responses, the ELP may recommend that the student take an ELP reading/writing course or may find that the student needs no ELP coursework. Writing is assessed based on fluency of expression, clarity, development of ideas, organization, grammatical accuracy, and adherence to U.S. standards of academic integrity. Graduate Composition Exams administered on campus are administered in a pen-and-paper format. For students arriving in January 2016, this exam will be offered online in Blackboard as well as on campus.
If your department has required that you take the Graduate Composition Exam, the Office for International Students & Scholars (OISS) will send you a letter with your visa documents informing you of this requirement.
Graduate Listening & Speaking Exam
This exam takes 15 minutes. Students complete a one-on-one interview with an ELP instructor. In the first part of the interview, students participate in a conversation about their personal and academic interests, and about their comfort level with hearing and speaking English in various settings. In the second part, students listen to a recording about an academic topic, then discuss the topic with the examiner. Based on a student’s demonstrated skill level in listening and speaking and his/her perceived needs, the ELP may recommend that he or she take an ELP listening/speaking course or may find that the student needs no ELP coursework. Listening and speaking are assessed based on ability to answer questions about the recording, fluency of expression, clarity, development of ideas, grammatical accuracy, and pronunciation.
If your department has required that you take the Graduate Listening & Speaking Exam, OISS will send you a letter with your visa documents informing you of this requirement.
- The Graduate Listening & Speaking Exam is different from the ELP TA Exam. New students should take only one of these oral exams upon arrival depending on if/when their department expects to appoint them as teaching assistants.
- Undergraduate degree students do not normally take either of these exams
- Undergraduate exchange students may be asked to take the Listening & Speaking Exam
- Undergraduates may be required to take the English Department’s Writing Placement Exam (WPE). If the English Department requires or recommends that you take the exam, the Writing 1 Office will notify you before your arrival at Washington University. For further information about the WPE, see the information about the WPE on the College Writing website.