Northern Virginia Community College

Frequently Asked Questions

If I receive an "R" in an ESL class, can I re-take the placement test to get into a higher level?
No. Sixteen weeks of evaluation by an instructor is a better measure of student skills than a two-hour test. Therefore, course grades take precedence over placement test results, and the placement test may not be used to get around R course grades.

I can only afford to take one ESL class. Which should it be--reading or writing?
Reading. Lack of success in writing courses is often related to problems with reading.

I completed the entire ESL program at another college, and was ready to take ENG 111 before I transferred. Why am I back in ESL here?
Different colleges have different standards. NVCC's English skills standards are certainly higher than some colleges and lower than others. Your placement into ESL classes means that you are not yet ready for success in ENG 111 here at NVCC.

When can I begin taking courses outside the ESL program?
With very few exceptions, you must have qualified for ESL Level 4 (ESL 006, ESL 012) or higher to be eligible to enroll in non-ESL courses. However, some NVCC courses require even higher English placement, so if you are interested in taking courses in a particular department, you are strongly urged to contact that department for guidance on their English requirements for particular courses.

Who needs to take the English placement test?
All students whose native language is not English are required to take the English placement test in order to determine if their skills are sufficient to allow them to perform in a college classroom.

How is my placement test scored?
Placement up to ESL Level 3 (ESL 005, 007, 011) is determined by the ACCUPLACER LOEP score alone. If you are asked to write an essay, your placement may be Level 3 or higher. Note: All essays are evaluated by a full-time ESL faculty member.

What does the score R.C.E. mean?
R.C.E. stands for "Recommended for Community Education".

What can I do if I get a score of R.C.E.?
NVCC has other ESL courses in its Community Education division. Additionally, ESL classes are offered by various cities and counties around Northern Virginia. Many students with RCE scores can find suitable instruction in one of these programs to prepare them for entry into the NVCC credit ESL program at a later date.

Why doesn't the college use the TOEFL test for ESL placement?
First, the TOEFL provides an overall assessment of English proficiency, not placement into a particular ESL program. The NVCC ESL placement test compares your skills to those of other students in the NVCC program, and thus shows where in this program you should begin.

Second, students must schedule their own TOEFL tests months in advance, and pay a fee. The NVCC placement test does not require an appointment, and there is no fee.

What kind of test is the ACCUPLACER?

The ACCUPLACER is a computer test of 60 multiple-choice questions in reading skills, sentence meaning and language usage which usually lasts approximately two (2) hours to complete. The ACCUPLACER is an untimed test. Students who score 300 points or higher on the multiple-choice test are required to write a one (1) hour essay for more accurate placement in the ESL program.


When and where do I take the ACCUPLACER?

The ACCUPLACER test is administered in the Testing Center, LR 251. No appointment is required, but students must arrive at least three (3) hours prior to closing in order to take this exam. A valid photo ID and the student EmplID# are required to take the test.


How often can I take the ACCUPLACER?

If you take the ACCUPLACER and score below 225, you can retake the test at the end of 6 months. If you take the ACCUPLACER and score 225 and above but do not take any ESL classes at NVCC, you may retake the test at the end of one (1) year. If you take the ACCUPLACER, score 225 and above and enroll in ESL classes in the credit program at NVCC, you may only retake the test one full year after the end of the last ESL class.


Why can’t I take the ACCUPLACER more often?

Student results do not vary much when the test is retaken in a short period. Allowing students to retake the ACCUPLACER encourages focus on the test instead of the more important English skills that it measures.


Where can I go if I have other questions?

Evelyn Ward, Riley Holzberlein, and Lisa Stelle are the ESL faculty members on campus.  You can reach Evelyn Ward by calling 450-2550, Riley Holzberlein by calling 450-2626, or Lisa Stelle by calling 450-2529.


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