Placement Testing

Before the start of each semester, the English Language Programs offers placement exams to determine whether new students would benefit from ELP coursework.

Placement exam format

Descriptions of the Graduate Composition Exam and Graduate Listening/Speaking Exam are available on the main testing page.

Placement exam times and locations

The placement exams are offered on many dates and times during the month of August (for students starting in the fall semester) and on a narrower range of dates and times in January (for students starting in the spring semester). The full schedule and sign-up information are found on the Testing Schedule. In order for the ELP to report exam results, handle questions about the results in a timely manner, and finalize preparations for the ELP courses offered in the fall semester, no exams are offered after the Thursday before classes start (in August) or the Friday before classes start (in January).

Exemption from the placement exams

Each admitting school/department decides whether or not its new students will be required to take the placement exams. If your school/department has required you to take any of the exams, the Office for International Students and Scholars notifies you about this requirement by letter with your visa documents. If you think you should be exempted, contact your school/department and the ELP at as soon as possible after you are notified about the exam requirement. Having taken the TOEFL or another standardized English proficiency exam does not exempt you from taking Washington University’s English placement exams.

Preparing for the placement exams

The best way to prepare is to read, write, hear, and speak English on a regular basis before your arrival (especially in topics related to your field of study). No commercially prepared materials are available to prepare for the ELP’s exams.

Rescheduling a selected exam time

Only students who show documentation that they missed their exam time due to an illness, emergency, or visa/travel issue may reschedule. Keep in mind that not all orientation events may be required by your school/department—however, the English placement exams about which you have been notified are required by your school/department and must take priority over certain other tasks and activities.

Placement exam results

Results of the exams are made available to most students in two ways:

  1. 1. Results are posted to the “Scores” section of a student’s internal record in SIS/WebSTAC. Under Scores, look for “WU Graduate Composition Exam Placement” and/or “WU Graduate Speaking Exam Placement.” To interpret the code that you find there, see the ELP Score Descriptions. Students are encouraged to look up their scores themselves. Scores are normally posted two to three working days after the exam.
    Exception: Graduate students in Social Work will not be able to determine their placement based on these codes. They will be notified by their program if an English course is required for them.
  2. Results for students in each department are e-mailed to department contacts on Thursday or Friday of the week before classes start.

ELP course requirements

Some WashU schools/departments require students to take recommended ELP coursework, and other WashU schools/departments do not require this. Please check with your school/department to find out whether any requirement applies to you.

Schedule conflicts with required or recommended ELP courses

First, speak with your advisor to get his/her opinion about how to resolve the schedule conflict. Then, if you and your advisor find that it is not possible to take the recommended ELP course right away, contact the ELP to see if an equivalent ELP course can be recommended as an alternative. Please keep in mind that, due to the small class sizes, most ELP courses have only one section. If you have a conflict with a recommended ELP course and no equivalent ELP course is offered that semester, it may be better to wait until the following semester than to take an ELP course that is unrelated to the one recommended for you.

Mentored Teaching Experience (MTE) Exam

The ELP MTE Exam is for prospective teaching assistants. Some departments have their graduate students take the MTE Exam as soon as they arrive on campus, while other departments test prospective Associates in Instruction (AI) during their first year of graduate study. Check with your department to find out its usual timeline for the MTE Exam, ELP coursework (if needed), and the start of AI duties.

Additional English support

Even if an ELP course is not required for you, you are welcome to contact the ELP to ask for advice about how to strengthen your English communication skills. In addition to courses, the ELP offers credit-bearing tutorials, appointment-based writing help, and periodic workshops about topics related to the English language and/or U.S. culture. To speak with an ELP staff member about which services would be most useful for you, email or call 935-5966.