English as a Second Language (ESL)

English as a Second Language (ESL) Placement Exam Information

What is an ESL Placement Exam Condition?

English proficiency is a requirement for admission to all graduate programs and is necessary for success at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering.

If you were admitted with an English as a Second Language (ESL) Placement Exam condition, you are required to take a placement exam administered by the NYU American Language Institute (ALI) to determine the level of your English language proficiency. This is required in order to pursue your academic degree program.

Note: the information below applies to students admitted for the Spring 2015 semester and earlier. Students admitted for Fall 2015 will follow a different set of policies which will be updated on this page soon and be communicated to all students admitted with an ESL Placement Exam condition for Fall 2015.

Placement and Registration

If you are a new student with an ESL Placement Exam condition, you should check in with the School of Engineering Graduate Enrollment Management & Admissions office and sign up for an exam appointment as early as possible during New Graduate Student Orientation (NGSO). You will not be allowed to register for School of Engineering courses until you have taken your ESL Placement Exam and been placed in an English Placement Level (EPL); once the exam is taken and the Graduate Enrollment Management & Admissions office verifies the results, the 'ESL' registration hold will be removed from your student account.

The Placement Exam will be administered at ALI in Manhattan and will have a $20 USD fee that must be paid in cash at the exam location. The exam is paper-based and will include reading, writing, listening, and spoken conversation with an in-person instructor. You should go to your placement exam prepared and ready to do your best - the exam cannot be retaken. You may download a sample placement test here.

The result of the exam will be an EPL from 1 to 9. EPL explanations follow:

  • Levels 1–3: Students who place into Levels 1-3 are not ready to begin graduate study at the School of Engineering and need to register for full-time English language study at ALI. The School of Engineering's Office of Global Services (OGS) will facilitate the student’s I-20 transfer to ALI. Upon successful completion of Level 3 ESL courses, the student will be permitted to begin his/her graduate studies at Polytechnic SOE while continuing part-time ESL courses as described below (Levels 4-6).
  • Levels 4–6: Students who place into Levels 4-6 need to register for part-time ESL studies at ALI while beginning part-time graduate studies (exactly 6 credits per semester) at the School of Engineering.  During the first semester of study, a student can obtain reduced course load authorization from OGS, but if ESL is required for more than one semester (i.e., if the student places into Level 4 or Level 5), the student will be required to transfer his/her I-20 to ALI.  As long as the student remains in good academic standing (maintains a 3.0 or higher GPA in School of Engineering graduate courses), he or she may continue part-time graduate studies while completing ESL requirements at ALI.  After successful completion of Level 6, OGS will transfer the I-20 back to the School of Engineering, and the student may commence full-time graduate study.
  • Levels 7–9: Students who place into Levels 7-9 will be granted an ESL waiver, and may immediately pursue full-time graduate studies at the School of Engineering.

Note: ALI instructors and administrators have sole authority to conduct placement testing and determine EPL. Decisions made by ALI are final and cannot be appealed to School of Engineering faculty or administrators. ESL coursework does not count as quality points toward graduation and therefore is not included in the student’s Cumulative Grade Point Average.


ESL course waivers will be granted by the School of Engineering Graduate Enrollment Management & Admissions office only to students who take the ALI Placement Exam and are placed at Levels 7, 8, or 9 for both reading/writing and listening/speaking (see “Level 7–9” above).

Previous study at an English Language Center or School may not be applied toward a waiver, and retaking an English language exam (TOEFL, IELTS, etc.) after admission will not be cause for a waiver. Students who were given an ESL Placement Exam condition and who have subsequently improved their English language skills prior to beginning studies at Polytechnic SOE may demonstrate their improved ability by taking the Placement Exam at ALI.  If the student places at Level 7 or above, he or she will not be required to take ESL instruction, and may commence full-time studies at the School of Engineering.

Requirements for Successful Completion of an ESL Condition

Students who placed below Level 7 on the ESL Placement Exam and were required to take ESL courses at ALI may complete this requirement only by successfully completing all required courses up to and including ESL Level 6. Upon passing the Level 6 course, the student’s requirement will be fulfilled, and the student may commence full-time graduate studies. No other actions or waivers will complete this requirement for students who placed below Level 7 on the ESL Placement Exam.