Skip to main content

English Placement Exam


The Intensive English Language Institute (IELI) Placement Exam administered at the beginning of every semester. The exam is given to entering, new students only. Students may only retake the Placement Exam if they have been away from IELI for one year and wish to reenter the program.

Placement in IELI Courses
You will be placed in the appropriate courses for you English ability based on your total score on the Placement Exam. Although you will receive separate scores for each section of the exam, IELI uses the total score in determining your level. There is one exception to this: if your writing score is lower than expected for your level, you will be placed in a writing course that matches your writing score.

The Exam
The Placement Exam has five parts: listening, reading, grammar, vocabulary and composition (writing). Each part is designed to test a different aspect of your ability to use English.

The exam takes about two hours: listening 30 minutes, reading 35 minutes, grammar 18 minutes, vocabulary 18 minutes, and composition 30 minutes.

The listening, reading, vocabulary, and grammar sections consist of multiple choice questions. You choose the correct answer from four items, and write your answers on a separate answer sheet which is scored by a machine.

Listening Comprehension
Time: 30 minutes
Number of questions: 30

There are two parts of this test where you will hear recorded information.

First, you will hear short conversations between two people. After each conversation, you will answer 1-3 multiple-choice questions based on what you heard by the speakers.

For example: You hear:
Woman: Pardon me, can you tell me where
I can buy some stamps?
Man: Yes. You need to go to the post office in the
administration building. It’s on the first floor.
Woman: Great! Thank you for your help.
Man: You’re welcome.

You see: What does the woman need help with?
A. Finding money to buy stamps.
B. Learning the time the administration building opens.
C. Meeting the man to take her to the post office.
D. Finding the place to buy stamps.

Choice D, “Finding the place to buy stamps” is the correct answer to what the woman needs help with. You would mark D on your answer sheet to show that it is the correct answer.

Second, you will hear two lectures that are five minutes each. While you listen to the lecture, you will answer several multiple-choice questions.

Reading Comprehension
Time: 35 minutes
Number of questions: 30

For this section of the exam you will read three short (½ to 1 ½ page) readings on academic topics. You will answer ten multiple choice questions about each of the selections you read (a total of 30 questions).

For example: First you read:

It is not known for certain when the first humans appeared in the Americas. However, archaeologists do not believe that humans evolved in the Western Hemisphere because no fossils of early humans or pre-Homo sapiens have ever been found here. Archaeologists have also failed to discover any remains of the closest cousins of human beings, the great apes. The most widely accepted theory of how the Americas were populated is the theory that humans migrated from Asia to the Americas by way of a land bridge that once connected Asia and North America across a body of water known today as the Bering Strait.

Then you answer questions like this one:

The best title for this reading is .
A. A History of the Americas
B. The Coming of the First Americans
C. The Evolution of Mankind in America
D. Humans and Their Closest Cousins

Choice B, “The Coming of the First Americans” is the best answer because the reading is focused on explaining how the Americas became populated. The other choices are either too general, not to the point, or directly contradicted by the text.

Time: 18 minutes
Number of questions: 40

On this part of the exam you will see statements with one or several words left out. You choose the correct answer from four choices.

For example: There is a black bug on the wall. It a spider.
A. to call
B. calling
C. call
D. is called

The correct English sentence is: It is called a spider. Therefore, you would mark D on your answer sheet.

Time: 18 minutes
Number of questions: 40

There are two types of questions on this part of the exam. First, you will read sentences with one word underlined. You choose a word that has the same meaning as the underlined word.

For example: It’s too windy to go for a stroll.
A. swim
B. sail
C. drive
D. walk

The word walk means the same as stroll in this sentence. You would mark D on your answer sheet to show that “walk” is the correct answer.

Second, you will read sentences with one word omitted, or left out. You choose the word (from a list of four) that best completes the sentence.

For example: Because of the storm and rough waves, it would be foolish to go sailing
in a small .
A. automobile
B. house
C. boat
D. beast

Choice C, “boat” is the best answer; it completes the sentence so that it reads, “Because of the storm and rough waves, it would be foolish to go sailing in a small boat.”

You will write a short essay, approximately 1 to 3 paragraphs, on a topic given to you at the exam. It is important that you write only on the topic given.