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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. Contact Graduate Admissions rather than EFS if you have any questions about whether or not (or why) you are required to take the exam: email gradadmissions@stanford.edu or call +1 866-432-7472 Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm Pacific Time.

Exam Schedule: 

If you are beginning study in winter, spring, or summer quarters, contact Tracey Riesen prior to the beginning of that quarter to arrange the exam. For fall exams, see below.

Exam Options Fall 2018 (to be revised for incoming 2019 students--check back here in August)

Placement exams for 2018 are offered on Monday, September 17 at 9:30 AM, Wednesday, September 19 at 9:30 AM, and Friday, September 21 at 8:30 AM. 

Previous information on this page specified the Wednesday exam as primary, but this year students can sign up for any of the available times. Note that because of the need for computer facilities for the exam and technical support personnel, it is very important to arrange for the test at one of the scheduled times. Placement exams taken at times other than these may have a different format. Students required to take the exam should receive a notice no later than a week before the exam with information on how to sign up for a specific time: contact efs@stanford.edu if you do not receive such an email by that time

Exam Details 

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 3.5 hours, including orientation and breaks.

  • Written Composition
    This is a 75-minute exam consisting of two parts. In one part (~60 minutes), you will read a short passage and write an essay based on it. In the second part (~15 min) you will write an email message in response to a situation that you will be given. For both parts, you should write in an academic style. You may not use a dictionary or other aids. The topics will be suitable for students from any country and field of study.  If the technology is available, this will be done by computer; we will use a handwritten test as a backup.
  • Listening Comprehension
    This is a 45-50 minute exam including 1) 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; 2) two or more clips from academic lectures or related talks with comprehension questions afterward, testing your ability to comprehend longer stretches of academic speech--for part 2, you are allowed to take notes.
  • Simulated Oral Interview
    This is a 40 minute speaking exam, consisting of a series of questions and situations presented by computer that you respond to orally. 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 efs@stanford.edu for further information.