Graduate FAQs

What is the English Language Placement Exam (ELPE)?

The ELPE consists of two examinations, written and oral. The written ELPE is a two-hour written exam administered to new international students at UCSB. You will be asked to write a response to a general academic topic. Your writing is then evaluated by EMS Program faculty to determine whether you should receive specialized instruction in graduate writing. The oral ELPE is a five- to ten-minute interview administered to new graduate students. You will respond to a prompt by recording a video on your computer. Your responses are evaluated by EMS Program faculty to determine whether you should enroll in an EMS oral skills course to improve your speaking fluency or pronunciation.

Am I required to take the ELPE?

The university expects all nonnative English-speaking graduate students to demonstrate proficiency in English. In order to help graduate students fulfill this expectation, The Graduate Division requires all international students whose first language is other than English take the ELPE. Students with qualifying TOEFL or IELTS scores may be exempt from the ELPE, and there are some other exceptions to the requirement, explained in the next sections.

I finished my undergraduate degree at an English-medium university. Do I have to take the ELPE?

Nonnative speakers of English are exempted from both the oral and the written ELPE if they have completed all of their undergraduate degree (equivalent to a U.S. Bachelor’s degree) at a recognized English-medium institution. The Graduate Division determines which institutions meet this criterion; this is done when they receive and review all application materials for admission. If you are a new incoming student and have any questions on whether you are exempt, please contact the EMS Program Manager in July. Continuing students should check with their departments.

I recently took/will take the TA Language Evaluation at UCSB. Do I also have to take the ELPE?

International Graduate students who have been offered a teaching assistantship are selected to take a special oral English examination called the TA Language Evaluation. Students who have taken or who will take the TA Language Evaluation in the fall do not take the oral ELPE. (There are exceptions for TAs who will teach courses in a foreign language.) Graduate students who are exempt from the oral ELPE may still be required to take the written ELPE.

I was supposed to take the ELPE but I missed the date of the exam. What should I do now?

Contact the ELPE administrator. You may be eligible to take a makeup exam.

I recently took the ELPE. How can I find out my score?

If you took the fall quarter written ELPE, your result will be sent to you by email. It usually takes 10-12 days for the exams to be processed; see the EMS Program home page for news about when results will be posted.

I have an ELPE placement of Ling 2G/3G/4/5/6. Do I have to take this course/these courses?

The university and many individual departments expect students to take the EMS courses into which they are placed. The EMS Program does not enforce placements; however, your own department may require that you successfully complete any EMS/Ling courses into which you have been placed as a condition for receiving your degree. Please discuss your ELPE placement with your department’s Graduate Advisor.

My written ELPE result says I should take a writing course, but I think my writing placement should be higher. May I re-take the ELPE?

Students cannot re-take the ELPE. If you feel your EMS placement is incorrect or is going to cause you problems at UCSB, you should discuss this with the Director of the EMS Program or your department’s Graduate Advisor.

I have an ELPE result of Exempt. What does this mean?

Make sure you know the result of both your oral and written ELPE, as they may differ. If your written ELPE result is Exempt, this means we do not recommend any writing skills course for you. If your oral ELPE result is Exempt, this means we do not recommend any oral skills course for you. However, if you received a result of Exempt on your oral ELPE, and later take the TA Language Evaluation, your placement could change. See our TA Evaluation FAQs for more information.

My ELPE result is Exempt. May I take a course anyway?

Yes. However, you should consult with the instructor of the course you wish to take.  The EMS faculty want to help you get the course that is best suited to your needs and goals, as well as assess whether or not the class has available space. Students with Exempt placements may be suited for EMS/Linguistics 4. See the next section for more about EMS/Ling 4.

I received a Linguistics 4 placement. What is this course?

EMS/Linguistics 4 is a two-unit class that provides individualized instruction for students in specific areas of English for academic purposes.  The focus of study can be either written or oral English, depending on a student’s placement.

When students are placed into EMS/Ling 4 on the basis of the ELPE, a type of tutorial is recommended by one of the EMS faculty. (For example, there may be particular grammatical problems that occurred with some frequency in a written ELPE or an area of pronunciation difficulty that was identified in an oral ELPE).  Students placed in this course will work individually or in small groups with an instructor on targeted skills. 

If placed in EMS/Ling 4, you should attend the orientation meeting scheduled during the first week of class in order to enroll. More information, including the day, time and location of the orientation meeting are available here.

I have an ELPE result of EMS/Ling 2G/3G/5/6/7. I am interested in EMS/Ling 4. May I take this course instead?

Normally, students who take Linguistics 4 for writing have a higher proficiency level than those who are placed in levels 2G and 3G. Likewise, students who take Ling 4 for oral skills are higher in proficiency than those who are placed in Ling 5, 6, 7 or 9. If your placement is 2G, 3G, 5, 6, or 7, then you should take the course into which you have been placed.

I have a placement for a course that is not offered this quarter. What should I do?

You should check the course search tool to see if the course you need will be offered later in the academic year. We cannot always offer every course during every quarter, so you may have to wait one or more quarters.

All the sections of the class I need to take are filled. May I take a lower class instead?

Possibly, but you should consult with the instructor before you sign up for a class whose level is lower than your placement. In general, a lower-level class should not be considered to be a substitute for a higher-level class. The EMS faculty want you to get the course that is best suited to your needs and goals. Talk to the instructor to decide if a lower level class is right for you.

All the sections of the class I need to take are filled. May I wait until next quarter?

If all the sections are full, your first step should be to try to get on the class’s waiting list. Please consult the EMS Wait List Policy. In some cases you may be able to take your course later in the academic year. However, you should check the EMS Program website to find out if the course will be offered later in the academic year. We cannot always offer every course during every quarter, so you may have to wait one or more quarters.

I have a course conflict with the EMS/Ling  course I am supposed to take. What should I do?

You should contact the EMS assessments administrator and explain your course conflict. As noted above, not every class is offered every quarter; in some cases, if you fail to enroll in your required class, you may have to wait two quarters or longer. In some cases, a student should enroll in the Ling course and drop the other course. You should consult with your graduate department advisor or faculty to make sure.

I am a visiting scholar/researcher. May I audit an EMS course?

Some courses may be open to visiting scholars and others who qualify. In general, we do not allow auditors in our writing courses; however, it is sometimes possible to audit an oral skills class at the instructor’s discretion. Please consult the course’s instructor to learn more.

I have enrolled in an EMS/Ling course, but I am traveling abroad and will not be able to attend the first meeting. What should I do?

Contact your instructor immediately. Sometimes, if there are students on a waiting list, an instructor will have to drop students who miss the first day of class without prior notification. Also, EMS/Ling courses have a mandatory attendance policy, and this kind of absence may affect your grade.