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FAQ - College ESL

  1. Which English placement test should I take?
  2. What is the ESL Assessment?
  3. How is my ESL assessment scored?
  4. When and where can I take the ESL Assessment?
  5. I completed the ESL program at my high school (or at another college). Why do I have to take ESL classes here?
  6. I scored Level I on the ESL assessment. What should I do?
  7. I am an international student, and I have a TOEFL or IELTS score. Can I use that score instead of taking the ESL Assessment?
  8. I took a college composition class at another college or university (or community college) in the United States, and I am transferring that credit to NOVA. Do I still need to take the ESL Assessment?
  9. I was tired (or in a hurry) on the day I took the ESL Assessment. I think I can be in a higher level class. What should I do?
  10. I took the ESL Assessment and I am not happy with the result. When can I retake the ESL Assessment?
  11. Do I have to take all of the courses in one level at the same time?
  12. Can I take courses at two different levels at one time?
  13. I am ready to register for my ESL  classes, but the computer is blocking me. What is the problem?
  14. Can I take ESL classes on different campuses at the same time?
  15. Can I take classes in College ESL and ACLI at the same time?
  16. I received a grade of “R” in an ESL class. Can I retake the placement test to get into a higher level?
  17. I only want to take one ESL class. Which class should I choose—reading or writing?
  18. What is a “hybrid” ESL class? How do I know if this kind of class is good for me?
  19. I’m an au pair with a J-1 visa. Which NOVA classes are available to me?
  20. When can I begin taking courses outside of the College ESL program?
  21. How do I move out of College ESL into ENG 111?
  22. How can I speak to an ESL faculty member?

Which English placement test should I take?

Please see our remote placement guidelines here.  There is no charge to take a NOVA ESL assessment.  If you have questions about the ESL Assessment or need to speak with an ESL advisor, please click here to request help.

What is the ESL Assessment?

This assessment has two parts and should take less than two hours to complete:

  1. Reading Comprehension section with 40 multiple-choice questions.
  2. Writing section, which includes a short reading to which you will write a response and an open question to which you will write a response.

How is my ESL assessment scored?

All ESL assessments are evaluated by a full-time College ESL or English faculty member. Readers look for fluent writing with good vocabulary and varied sentence structures, a sense of organization and evidence of analytical thinking.

When and where can I take the ESL Assessment?

The ESL Assessment is administered online.  Email the Testing Center at the campus closest to your home to make an appointment to take the assessment online.  

I completed the ESL program at my high school (or at another college). Why do I have to take ESL classes here?

NOVA’s College ESL program is an academic ESL program that will prepare you to succeed in English 111 and other academic courses at NOVA. Your placement into ESL classes here means you do not yet have the necessary English language skills to succeed in ENG 111. Talking with an advisor will help you decide on what is best for you. Please see our remote placement guidelines here.

I scored Level I on the ESL Assessment. What should I do?

You should take classes through NOVA’s American Culture and Language Institute (ACLI). Please contact them at AN_ACLI@nvcc.edu to receive advice on what classes are best for you at this level. ACLI offers both intensive and part-time ESL classes at a variety of levels.

I am an international student and I have a TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE score. Can I use that score instead of taking the ESL Assessment?

NOVA uses the TOEFL and IELTS to issue academic I-20s for F-1 visas. If you get a high enough score, you will be issued an academic I-20; otherwise, you will be issued a language-training I-20.

Even if you have taken the TOEFL or IELTS you still need to take NOVA’s ESL Assessment to determine whether you qualify for ENG 111, or if you do not, where you should begin in NOVA’s ESL programs. The ESL Assessment compares your skills to those of other students who study at NOVA.

There is one exception to this rule. Students who can present the following standardized test scores are permitted to register for ENG 111 without the ESL Assessment.

I took a college composition class at another college or university (or community college) in the United States and I am transferring that credit to NOVA. Do I still need to take the ESL Assessment?

No. As long as you passed the course at a regionally accredited institution of higher education in the United States with a grade of C or better, and the course is considered equivalent to NOVA’s ENG 111, you can show an unofficial transcript to a counselor and register for classes without taking the ESL Assessment. You will need to have an official transcript from your previous college or university sent to NOVA in order to get credit for ENG 111.

If you fall into this category and think you need help with your English skills, we encourage you to take the ESL Assessment, speak with an ESL advisor and consider taking some ESL classes.

I was tired (or in a hurry) on the day I took the ESL Assessment. I think I can be in a higher level class. What should I do?

Diagnostic tests which show your instructors your strengths are given during the first week of each course. Students are tested in writing, reading and speaking. If you think you were not placed in the right level, be sure to speak to your instructor during the first week of class so that your diagnostic tests can be reviewed. If your language skills are high enough, you might move to a higher level for one or more classes.

I took the ESL Assessment and I am not happy with the result. When can I retake the ESL Assessment?

  • If you are taking credit classes now at NOVA, you may not retake the ESL Assessment. You will be given diagnostic tests in your classes and moved if your placement was wrong. 
  • If you scored into Level 1 and did not place into College ESL, you may retest one time within one year of the first attempt. If you scored Level 2 or higher but do not enroll in classes, then you may retake the ESL Assessment after one year.
  • If you never enroll in credit classes, you may retake the ESL Assessment after one year.
  • If you took classes in the past but stopped, you may retake the ESL Assessment one year after the end of your last class.

Do I have to take all of the courses in one level at the same time?

Each level of College ESLhas two or three courses. You don’t have to take all of them at once; however, in order to complete the level, you must pass all of the courses at that level.

Can I take courses at two different levels at one time?

If you don’t complete a level in one semester, it may be possible for you to enroll in one course at that level and one or two courses at the next level. Be sure to ask a College ESL faculty member if this is a good plan for you.

I am ready to register for my ESL classes, but the computer is blocking me. What is the problem?

You may have a hold on your record that is preventing your registration. Please request removal of the hold by writing to studentservices@nvcc.edu or contacting the ESL Department with additional questions.

Can I take ESL classes on different campuses at the same time?

Yes, it is possible to register for classes on more than one campus. However, since instructors often work as teams and coordinate courses by levels, we usually recommend taking all of your ESL courses on one campus in any given semester.

Can I take classes in College ESL and ACLI at the same time?

Yes. The ACLI offers additional courses in TOEFL preparation and career readiness. You may take any of those classes while you are enrolled in College ESL, or you may take a break from College ESL to take ACLI classes. Please note, however, that if you have F-1 visa status and you are program-placed with an academic I-20, you cannot use CEUs to meet the 12-credit requirement.

I received a grade of “R” in an ESL class. Can I retake the placement test to get into a higher level?

No. A full semester of evaluation by an instructor is a better measure of your skills than a two-hour placement test. When you re-enroll in the course, you will be given diagnostic tests and moved if you are at the wrong level.

I only want to take one ESL class. Which class should I choose—reading or writing?

In most cases, we recommend that students take the reading class first to help them increase their vocabulary and become more fluent. However, you may receive different advice depending on your needs and background. Don’t hesitate to speak to an ESL faculty member before you register if you need help deciding which class to take.

What is a “hybrid” ESL class? How do I know if this kind of class is good for me?

If you take a hybrid class, you will generally meet 50% of the class time on campus with your classmates and teacher and spend the other 50% working online through a course website. In addition to the roughly 2½ hours of distance learning, students in hybrid classes should expect to receive the same amount of homework as students in regular face-to-face classes.

Students who take hybrid classes need basic computer skills and good, reliable access to the Internet and email outside of school. If you like to learn with computers and are an active independent learner, you might benefit from a hybrid class

Please note that if you have F-1 visa status, you may enroll in no more than two hybrid courses or one course that is offered completely online.

I’m an au pair with a J-1 visa. Which NOVA classes are available to me?

If you are placed into Level I, you may take only ACLI classes. If you are placed into Level 2 or higher, you may take College ESL courses at the recommended level. In addition, if your placement is Level 4 or higher, many NOVA credit classes are available to you. Keep in mind that with your visa status you will have to pay out-of-state tuition for College ESL or other credit classes. Both credit classes and non-credit classes fulfill the academic requirements of the J-1 visa.

When can I begin taking courses outside of the College ESL program?

Since Level 2 and 3 are each 15 credits, most students wait until they qualify for Level 4 before beginning their general education courses. In addition, it is recommended that you complete ESL Level 5 or even ENG 111 with ENF 3 before enrolling in some credit-bearing classes. If you are interested in taking courses in a particular department, you are strongly urged to contact that department for guidance on their English recommendations for particular courses.

How do I move out of College ESL into ENG 111?

You must pass ESL 51: Composition III (or ESL 58) and ESL 52: Reading III before you can register for ENG 111 with ENF 3.

How can I speak to an ESL faculty member?

Faculty members hold office hours weekly. Visit the ESL office on your campus to contact an associate dean or an ESL faculty member. You may be able to talk with a faculty member by phone or communicate via email. You can also contact us here with any questions.

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