Most universities and colleges in the U.S. and Canada require students to take English Placement Tests (EPTs). For domestic students, this test requires students to demonstrate their skills in reading, writing and sentence structure in English. The test does not always play a factor in the admissions process; rather, it is used to assist colleges with placing students in the appropriate programs. In addition, there are also English language placement tests that international students must take to demonstrate their competence in the English language.

English Placement Test

Many universities implement an EPT to assist high school seniors who want to enroll in an Advanced Placement (AP) English or college English course. The test does not factor into the student’s acceptance into college; instead, it allows students to take courses they can use toward their university degree program. The availability of the these courses depends on the resources of the university; not all offer these programs, but many do, such as California State University system and the University of Wisconsin. Students should consult with their high school guidance counselors about available placement tests and inquire how to take one in their hometown.

EPT Components

English placement tests usually have several sections for students to complete. Although these sections may vary by university, most offer sections that test English usage, sentence structure and reading comprehension. These tests usually take place in a designated area, such as in the high school or university. Students are required to answer a combination of multiple choice and essay-type questions over the course of an hour or more. Questions will test students’ ability to understand and use vocabulary, style and reading comprehension.


American College Testing (ACT) is a standardized college placement test used for admissions. The ACT test consists of several sections, including English, Math, Reading and a two-part Science test. As of 2005, ACT has included an additional test for writing. Students are graded on a scale of 1 to 36. The composite score reflects the average of the four scores. The English portion of the test is a 45-minute exam consisting of 75 questions and five passages. Students must demonstrate their sentence, grammar and structural organization in English. The reading portion is a 35-minute test with 40 questions that measure students’ ability to comprehend reading passages. The optional writing test is a 30-minute essay. Depending on the university or college program, completion of the ACT and/or optional writing test may be required.


Foreign students are required to take an English language placement test to be admitted into colleges and universities in North America. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is commonly used as an admissions requirement for many schools. Colleges refer to the most recent TOEFL score to evaluate whether a student would fit in and be successful in that particular college. The TOEFL test is registered by the Educational Testing Service and can be taken anywhere in the world. In some countries, students can take the online test rather than the paper-based test. Admission into a college or university program depends on the specific score requirements of that institution as there is no standard score requirement for all colleges. Students register online and can select a location to take the test.