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Levels of College ESL

  • students engage in a discussion during class

There are four levels in the College ESL program. Our lowest level is Level 2, low-intermediate. Our highest level is Level 5, an advanced, pre-college ESL course.

What Will I Work on in College ESL?

Through the four levels of College ESL you will become more fluent in reading, writing and speaking English. You will improve your ability to understand academic English and express more complex ideas in writing and speaking. You will expand your vocabulary and generally gain greater control of the linguistic complexities of English.

Placement into College ESL

Who needs to take the ESL Placement Assessment?

  1. Students who did not complete high school in the United States, whose primary language is not English, and who do not have TOEFL/IELTS/ACT/SAT test scores.
  2. International students (F/M/J) whose primary language is not English and who do not have TOEFL iBT or IELTS-Academic test scores from 2015 or later. International students should work with their International Student Advisor.
    • TOEFL iBT score of below 19 in each of the four sections: Writing, Reading, Listening, and Speaking.
    • IELTS-Academic score below 6.5 in each of the four sections: Writing, Reading, Listening, and Speaking.
  3. Students who completed high school in the United States, for whom English is not a primary language, and who did not meet the criteria for placing into ENG 111/ENF 3, may contact the ESL department to speak with an ESL advisor about placement options.

What is the ESL Placement 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 do I take the ESL Placement Assessment?

  • Contact the Testing Center at NOVATesting@nvcc.edu to take the assessment.
  • You can take this assessment only once, so be sure you take it at a time you can do your best.

How do I get my results for the ESL Placement Assessment?

  • You will receive your assessment result by email.
  • Contact the ESL Department for questions about your placement and class registration information or any other follow up questions.
  • Each ESL class will have a diagnostic (pre-test) on the first day of class. Your placement may need to be adjusted based on the results.

How can I prepare for the ESL Placement Assessment?

You may use any online resources to review or check out these links below.

If you show a high enough level of English proficiency, you will place directly into college English (ENG 111 or ENG 111/ENF3). You will not need to study ESL.

If you have F-1 visa status, some special rules apply to you.

  • If you have the goal of obtaining a degree from NOVA, we strongly urge you to submit a TOEFL or IELTS score when you apply for your visa. If you do not submit scores, or if your scores are low, you will be issued an I-20 for language training only.
  • If you have an F-1 visa for language training and you place lower than Level 4, you will take classes in NOVA’s American Culture and Language Institute Intensive English Program (IEP). When you finish the highest level in the IEP, you may enter College ESL.
  • However, if you are program placed and come to NOVA with an academic I-20, you have a choice if you place into Level 3. You may enroll in College ESL Level 3 or you may attend the ACLI IEP for one semester. Students with academic I-20s who place at Level 4 or higher or in ENG 111 begin taking general education (credit) courses along with their ESL or ENG course(s).

Some non-native English speakers may have strong English skills and may not need ESL classes. If you think you read and write better in English than in your native language, please review the placement guidelines. If you are not sure, staff at our Testing Centers or Student Services Centers can help you understand which process is right for you. You can also contact the ESL Department with any questions.

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