Frequent Questions

Where is the ALI office located?

The ALI office is located at 649 West 34th Street.  The office is located on the first floor of the Royal Street Structure in Room 106. The Royal Street Structure was formerly named Parking Structure D or PSD. The office entrance is off of W 34th Street. There is no entrance from Jefferson Blvd.










What is a Continuing Registration Requirement at USC?

If your admission letter states that you have a continuing registration requirement, it means that you must satisfy a certain requirement before you register for classes.  One of these requirements may have to do with English proficiency. If you have the ALI 01 restriction, it means that you need to take the International Student English (ISE) Exam before registering for classes. You should take the ISE Exam as soon as possible since you will not be able to register until you receive your ISE Exam results.

Students admitted for the Spring 2018 semester (and beyond) who meet the following conditions may not be required to take the ISE Exam:

  • Ph.D. and undergraduate students who have achieved an Internet Based TOEFL (iBT) score of 100, with no less than 20 on each sub-score; or an IELTS score of 7, with no less than 6 on each band score, taken within the past 2 years.*
  • Students admitted to master’s degree programs who have achieved an iBT score of 90, with no less than 20 on each sub-score; or an IELTS score of 6.5, with no less than 6 on each band score, taken within the past 2 years.*
  • Students who hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university located in the United States or in another country in which English is both the language of instruction and the only official language of the country. The entire program (typically four years) must be completed in the qualifying country. Please note: a graduate degree from a U.S. college or university does not exempt students from taking the ISE Exam.*
  • Students whose native language is English.

*Some departments may have higher requirements for English proficiency than what is listed above. USC must receive scores electronically from the testing service for them to be considered official. Photocopies or paper copies of scores are not acceptable. Scores must be received the Friday before classes begin (Spring admit: January 5th, 2018). Students should contact the American Language Institute (ALI) Office  before the deadline to confirm that their scores have been received.

If you meet one of the above criteria and still have an ALI-01 hold, please email with your name and USC ID number.


What is the ISE Exam?

The ISE Exam is a free placement exam given to determine the English proficiency of international students. After taking the ISE Exam, students are either “released” from any ALI requirement or will receive an ALI placement.

The ISE Exam is a two-part exam:

  1. Written section: Students have 40 minutes to write an essay on a given topic.
  2. Oral Interview: Students are interviewed by 2 raters for approximately 10 minutes.

Both parts of the test are graded on a scale of 0-7. Students who score 6 or above will not be required to take ALI courses. The oral interview may be on a different day than the written section. You will be given information about the time of your oral interview when you take the written section.

What should I bring to the ISE Exam?

In order to take the ISE exam, you will need the following items:

  1. Your USC ID card or passport
  2. Your USC admission letter
  3. A pen

After completing the ISE Exam, results will be available online and you will receive an email to your USC email account when they are ready.

How do I sign up for the ISE Exam?

You can sign up for the ISE Exam at

If I can’t come to the ISE Exam on the date that is on the website, what should I do?

If you cannot attend the ISE Exam that is currently posted on the website, you may check back on or after that test date for additional tests. We recommend that you take it as soon as possible because you will not be able to register for any classes until after you receive your ISE Exam results.

I signed up for the ISE Exam but now my plans have changed and I can’t make it. What should I do?

Please email with your USC ID number to be removed from the exam. You may check back on or after that test date to sign up for the next exam.


I am a new international student. How do I register with an ALI-01 hold?

  1. Make sure your USC email account has been activated. This will allow you to get your scores on-line. If you haven’t activated your email account yet, go to and click on “Activate your USC NetID”.
  2. Take the ISE Exam.
  3. After taking the exam, you will receive an email instructing you to login to the ALI web site to get your test results.
  4. On the web site you will receive your test results and further instructions. You can then click on a link to USC Web Registration to register for classes.
  5. Before registering online you may need to clear any other registration restrictions you have and see an advisor in your department.

Why do I have an ALI hold even though I already took the ISE exam and am registered in an ALI course?

All students who have an ALI requirement will continue to have the restriction until the requirement is satisfied. During registration, the restriction is removed so that you can use web registration. You will be notified via email of these times.

If you need to add or drop a class after the designated times to use web registration, you may do the following:

  • If you need to add or drop a non-ALI class, you may do so by going to the registration office (JHH lobby) or by emailing Your email must be sent from your USC email account and must include your student ID number and the 5 digit section numbers of the classes you want to add or drop. All requests will be processed by the Registration Office as soon as possible during normal business hours.
  • If you would like to add or drop an ALI course, please come into the ALI office at PSD 106.


When must I take required ALI courses?

ALI courses must be taken starting the first semester and continued each semester thereafter until all required course(s) are completed.  ALI courses cannot be deferred. ALI courses are taken concurrently with major courses.

How much do ALI courses cost?

ALI classes are billed at the regular USC tuition rate.

How many ALI courses do I need to take?

The number of ALI classes you need to take will depend on your English proficiency level which will be determined from the ISE Exam. Your writing and oral skills will be evaluated when you take the ISE Exam. You may be placed in a writing and/or oral skills class. After taking the required ALI course, you may have another course assigned or be released from ALI courses.

It’s after the first week of class and I want to change sections. Can I change sections since I have until the add/drop deadline to do so?

Given the nature of the curriculum and the format of ALI classes, joining a section after the first week of the semester places a student at a severe disadvantage in terms of the goals and requirements of the course. For this reason, requests to change sections after the first week are usually denied. On the basis of extraordinary circumstances, a student may initiate an exception request to the ALI Advisor (, such requests require both administrative and instructor approval.


Where do I go if I have questions about my I-20, Visa, or Immigration Status?

Please visit the Office of International Students (OIS) for more information.


For additional advisement, the ALI Advisor is available to help with any questions. You may email

Academic and Professional English Language Instruction