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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 or call +1 866-432-7472 Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm Pacific Time.

Exam Schedule 

If you are beginning study in the fall quarter, placement testing will take place in mid- and late-August 2021.

All testing will take place 100% online using Zoom and Canvas. Students must first attend the writing/listening exam, which will take approximately two and a half hours. The dates/times for the listening/writing placement exams are:

  • Thursday, August 19 from 8 - 11a
  • Monday, August 23 from 6 - 9a
  • Tuesday, August 24 from 7 - 10p

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

Students will have more information available via email. 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 the scheduled times. 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 has been sent to all students required to take the placement test. If you have not received it, check your Stanford email address. Otherwise, contact if you have not received such an email by August 10, 2021

Students can schedule their 1-on-1 interview with an EFS instructor for any available time after they complete the listening/writing exams. Information on how to set an appointment is available via email.

Exam Details (revised June 14, 2021)

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 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 or other aids. The topics will be suitable for students from any country and field of study. You will submit the exam via Canvas.
  • 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 can either write your answers on a digital answer sheet (only recommended if you have two screens; we do not recommend alternating between your video and an answer sheet), or on a piece of paper.
  • Oral Interview
    This is a 30 minute interview, consisting of a live, video coversation 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 for further information.