English Placement Test

English Placement Exam for New International Graduate Students

The Stanford English Placement exam is given by the English for Foreign Students (EFS) Program to entering graduate students who have been required to take it by the Graduate Admissions Office. Please note that EFS administers the exam but is not involved in making the decision about who has to take it. Students are notified via Axess if they are required to take the exam. It appears on the "To Do" list. If you have any questions about whether or not (or why) you are required to take the exam, contact Graduate Admission via this ticket rather than contacting EFS.

About the English Placement Test

The exam is designed to assess readiness to begin and successfully manage graduate study using English as the medium of instruction and academic communication.  Most international graduate students admitted to Stanford have read academic material in English for a number of years; therefore, the focus of the exam is on writing, listening, and speaking. The total test time is about 2.5 hours, including orientation and breaks.

  • Written Composition
    This is a 60-minute exam in which you first read a short passage and then write an essay based on it. You should plan to write in an academic style. You may not use a dictionary, translators, AI tools, or other aids. The topics will be suitable for students from any country and field of study. You will submit the exam in-person at our Digital Language Lab.
  • Listening Comprehension
    This is a 30 minute exam including a 50 item test in which you will listen to a brief statement, look at three drawings, and decide which drawing fits the statement--this part tests your ability to comprehend an utterance of rapidly spoken English and make a quick and accurate judgment based on that understanding. You will submit the listening test during the same session as your writing test.
  • Oral Interview
    This is a 30 minute interview, consisting of a live, video conversation between you and an EFS instructor conducted over Zoom. It is used to assess your spoken English proficiency.

There are no preparation guides for this examination. We advise you to practice listening, speaking, and writing in the weeks before the exam.

Once all parts of the exam have been rated, you will be sent a form listing any required or recommended courses, along with general advice regarding the timing and order of taking EFS courses. Required courses must be completed before graduation will be allowed. Recommended courses should be taken if your schedule allows.

It is possible to be retested for specific EFS requirements through additional examinations, but 1) students must wait at least six months after their placement exam to request the retest and 2) only one retest is allowed for each skill area (writing, listening, or speaking). Please contact kgeda [at] stanford.edu (subject: EFS%20Placement%20Exam%20Retesting) (kgeda[at]stanford[dot]edu )for further information.

Exam Schedule

If you are beginning study in the Fall 2023 quarter, placement testing will take place starting in August for the oral interview, and on three dates in September for the listening and writing exams.

The writing and listening testing will take place in person on campus. Students must attend the combined writing/listening exam, which will take approximately two and a half hours. The dates/times for the listening/writing placement exams are listed below:

  • Test #1: Monday afternoon, September 18 from 14:00 - 16:30
  • Test #2: Tuesday morning, September 19 from 9:00 - 11:30
  • Test #3: Thursday afternoon, September 21 from 14:30 - 17:00

All times are listed in California daylight time (PDT/GMT-7).

Students will have more information available via email. If you have been required to take the exam, you will receive a notice from EFS with information on how to sign up for a specific time. The notice will be sent to all students required to take the placement test starting in August. If you have not received it, check your Stanford email address. Otherwise, contact the EFS coordinator if you have not received such an email by August 11, 2023. 

Students can schedule their 1-on-1 interview with an EFS instructor for any available time starting in August 2023. Information on how to set an appointment will be available via email.