Home   |   Academic Year   |   Summer Programs   |   Language Center   |   Linguistics   |   Contact

English Placement Examination for
Entering Stanford Graduate Students

The 2014 English Placement Exam took place on Wednesday, September 17. If you were required to take the exam but missed it, please contact Allison Kopp ( to arrange a makeup exam as soon as possible.


The Stanford English Placement exam is given by the English for Foreign Students Program (EFS) 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. Please 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 for graduate study using English as the medium of instruction.  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 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 September 20, 2014