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English Placement Examination for
Entering Stanford Graduate Students - Fall 2015

If you have received a notice from Graduate Admissions requiring you to take the 2015 English Placement Exam, the test will begin at 9:00 AM, Wednesday, September 16, in 200-002 (History Corner of the Main Quad). Please be sure you show up on time for that exam if required to do so. There will be follow-up interviews by arrangement on Thursday and Friday (9/17 and 9/18). You will receive information on how to make those appointments later.

NOTE: Early Exam Option. We will be offering an early exam to interested students on Monday, September 14 at 10:00 AM, with follow-up interviews later in the week by arrangement. This is intended for students who have conflicts with the regular exam time, such as mandatory department orientations or training on Wednesday morning.

If you would like to sign up for the early exam, please send an email to Allison Kopp: be sure to include your full name and Stanford ID number. We will let you know if there is still space and provide you with information on the location. Note that we can only accommodate a limited number of students (up to 40) for the early exam, so please make your request as soon as possible. Only those who pre-register for the early exam will be allowed to take it.

You do not need to contact us if you are taking the exam on Wednesday the 16th. However, if you cannot come at that time, contact to arrange to take the early exam or a later makeup exam as soon as possible. See below for more information about the content of the exam.


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. Contact Graduate Admissions rather than EFS if you have any questions about whether or not you are required to take the exam: email or call +1 866-432-7472 Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm Pacific Time.

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.

  • Written Composition
    This is a 60-minute exam in which you will read a short passage and write an essay based on it. Write in an academic style. You may not use a dictionary or other aids. The topic will be suitable for students from any country and field of study.
  • Listening Comprehension
    This is a 30-minute, 50 item exam 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.
  • Oral Interview
    This is a 30 minute interview with an EFS lecturer, typically scheduled a day or two after the other exams. It is used to assess your conversational English proficiency and to give you the results of the other parts of the exam.

There are no preparation guides for this examination. We advise you to practice listening and writing as much as you can in the weeks before the exam.

At the end of the exam, you will be given a form listing any required or recommended courses. Required courses must be completed before graduation will be allowed. Note that it is possible to challenge specific EFS requirements through additional examinations, but 1) students must wait at least six months after the placement exam to request the challenge and 2) only one challenge is allowed for a given requirement. Please contact for further information.

Note that this is different from the Teaching Assistant Screening Exam. For information on that exam, click here.

Updated July 19, 2015