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Intensive English and Academic Orientation for Foreign Graduate Students

Preparation for Graduate Study: July 2-August 14, 2020

Intensive English and Academic Orientation for Foreign Graduate Students, EFS 688, is an intensive course designed primarily to prepare incoming international graduate students for full-time post-graduate study at a US university in the coming academic year. However, we also welcome others who are preparing to apply to graduate study within the next year or who will attend English-medium graduate programs in countries other than the US.

Please read through this program overview and application procedures before proceeding to the application form.

The goals of this program are the following:

  • to improve the student's fluency and accuracy in English as much as possible during the period of instruction;
  • to develop the student's ability to continue learning and using effective communication strategies throughout the stay in the United States;
  • to provide an orientation to the expectations of the university, faculty, and peers both inside and out of the classroom;
  • to prepare students to be more confident and active participants in all aspects of their graduate programs.

Upon arrival, students are tested and placed into spoken language classes with others at their level of proficiency. Placement in writing classes is made according to academic area, with separate sections for business, humanities/social science, and engineering/science.

Reserved class times are MTThF 9:30-11:50 and 1:30-3:20 and Fridays 3:30-5:00. Elective courses (EFS 689 sections, see below) will be scheduled for late afternoons and Wednesdays. Due to the intensive nature of the instruction, we do not encourage students to take other Stanford courses while they are in this program.

In addition to classroom instruction, students may be doing work in the language laboratory and university libraries. Orientation to life at Stanford is provided by discussions, informal outings, and social events. Informal advising will be provided by instructors and graduate and undergraduate students working for the program.

All students who enroll in this program must agree to comply with the following requirements:

  • Speak only English in class and in all program activities.
  • Attend classes regularly, every session each day for all six weeks.
  • Fulfill all course requirements, including meeting paper deadlines.
  • Demonstrate substantial effort and progress in the development of communication skills in English necessary for academic success.


A note on coronavirus (COVID-19)

Stanford University is carefully following all reports on COVID-19. Our policies are updated often. Please visit the Stanford Health Alerts page for the latest updates on the policies. You can find information for Stanford programs, students, and containment efforts.

Right now, Stanford requires a 14-day self-isolation period (see for all people arriving from Mainland China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran. This may change in the future, so check the Stanford Health Alerts page. This means that if you are coming from one of these places, you must arrive in the US at least 14 days early. During these 14 days, you must isolate yourself off-campus before you come to visit or study. Please remember this policy when you make your travel and housing plans for the summer. Because the situation is changing rapidly, making travel plans may be complicated. We recommend that you consider buying travel insurance in case you need to change your travel plans.

Please continue to watch for updates.  We are all hoping that this situation is resolved quickly.  Until then we remain hopeful and are very much looking forward to working with you.


Core Classes

All students will have 20 class hours each week, divided among the following classes.

Listening Comprehension and Discussion. This class consists of activities involving listening to recorded excerpts from television, radio, and university lectures, with special emphasis on comprehending reduced forms, idiomatic expressions, and rapid speech. The content of these excerpts provides topics and issues so that students can get experience in talking freely in small groups with guidance from the instructor. The purpose is to prepare students to participate actively and effectively in group meetings, academic discussions and graduate seminars.

Effective Communication. This class provides practice in conversational English with emphasis on current usage in natural situations for both academic and everyday uses of English. It also includes training and practice in the presentation of prepared academic talks with feedback from the instructor and classmates. The language focus is on fluency and clear, effective pronunciation.

Writing. This seven hour/week class focuses on academic writing, with some work in reading and vocabulary development. As a final project, engineering, science, humanities, and social science students will write a research paper. Business students will write one or more case studies.

Consultation. This two hour/week class gives students the opportunity to meet with a current Stanford graduate student to get an insider's view of graduate school in the US. It includes discussion within academic interest groups, information on university requirements, and individual guidance on academic papers. 

Academic Lecture Series. Each week includes a one-hour academic lecture by a Stanford faculty member. Presenters come from various departments but offer topics of general interest. This provides additional practice in listening comprehension and contact with Stanford professors and lecturers.

Community Lecture Series. On Friday afternoons, we host individual speakers and panels from the Stanford community speaking on topics of cultural interest. The presentation is followed by a social hour where students can interact with the guest speakers, EFS teaching staff and one another in a natural social setting.

Elective Classes: EFS 689 Series

In addition to the courses listed above, students in EFS 688 may take up to four elective courses. These are offered as sections of EFS 689, Special Topics in English. Each requires one additional unit of tuition: see the application form for more information.

EFS 689B:  Building Communication Skills through Improvisation

Would you like to be a more confident and spontaneous speaker in English?  How about a better listener and more effective team member? Improvisation gives you the tools to be more confident and collaborative with friends, in your classes, and in the workplace.  In this class, you will learn and practice theatrical improvisation games and techniques that will help you with spontaneity, team building, storytelling, and confident public speaking—all in a friendly and supportive environment. The course is co-taught by an improvisation expert and an English language instructor. No previous improvisation or theater experience necessary.

EFS 689H:  American Humor

Humor is an important part of life at American universities. Professors often tell jokes during lectures and group meetings, students like to "kid around", and campus newspapers feature editorial cartoons and humor columns. In this course, students study many examples of jokes and humorous stories that Americans find amusing, practicing advanced listening comprehension and expanding your understanding of English idioms at the same time. Note that this is an advanced class: An iBT TOEFL score of 100 or above is strongly recommended.

EFS 689P:  Pronunciation

In this course, you will have one class each week where elements of English pronunciation are explained, demonstrated, and practiced. This includes not only a review of the basic sounds, but also the stress, intonation and rhythm patterns so important to natural-sounding speech. You will also have several tutorial meetings with the instructor where you can get help with individual problems.

EFS 689S: Exploring Silicon Valley Language and Culture

This course focuses on developing the communicative skills in the context of Silicon Valley with its unique culture and language patterns. By interacting with authentic materials, such as blogs and videos, you will gain familiarity with local norms for interacting with the people who live and work in Silicon Valley. You will engage in discussions about topics relevant to local entrepreneurs, workers, and students; in doing so, you will improve your ability to understand and produce appropriate language forms for various purposes. At the end of the term, you will be responsible for an individual project that demonstrates your understanding of issues pertinent to Silicon Valley culture or business such as an elevator pitch, a business proposal, or a critical essay. This class is particularly recommended for those who plan to live, work, or study in Silicon Valley.

EFS 689T:  Interacting in California's Vineyard Culture

This course serves as a vehicle for developing focused communicative skills in the context of California's renowned wine culture.  You will learn the language of wine: how to talk about wine informally using appropriate terminology, navigate restaurant wine lists, and interact knowledgeably with restaurant and retail wine staff. At the same time, you will become a more sophisticated consumer of wine by learning the fundamentals of vineyard techniques, varietal characteristics, tasting techniques, and drinking and ordering etiquette. Classes are co-taught by a wine expert and an ESL instructor.  Each class meeting will consist of a short interactive lecture, a communicative activity such as role playing, and a tasting of four specially selected wines. Additional  fee of $100.00 (cash only) must be brought to the first class meeting.  Participants must be at least 21 years old.

Application Procedures