International Student English (ISE) Exam

You must have a picture on file with the USCard Office before taking the ISE Exam. You don’t need your actual USCard to take the exam. Your photo just needs to be available in the USCard database. It can take 2-5 business days before your picture is available and you can sign up for the exam, so please submit a picture as early as possible.

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Upcoming Exam Schedule

About the International Student English (ISE) Exam

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

Scheduling your ISE Exam

The ISE Exam will be given in August for students beginning their studies in the fall semester; January for the spring semester; and May for the summer session. The ISE Exam may only be taken once in any given year.

To find out if you are required to take the exam, check your letter of admission, or you may have an ALI Hold. There is no fee for taking the exam. Bring your USCard, or passport, or other official ID with a picture and signature to the Exam.

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 the exam as soon as possible because you will not be able to register for any classes until after you receive your results.

Description of ISE Exam

There are two parts to the ISE Exam (writing and oral skills) which may be given on two different days.

Writing skills are assessed by a written exam. Students are given 50 minutes to write on a given topic. Students are evaluated on their ability to write a well-organized essay using accurate and appropriate English. Students must bring their personal laptop with LockDown Browser downloaded to type their essays. The Written Exam is administered in-person at the University.

Oral skills are assessed in an oral interview that takes approximately 12-15 minutes. The interview is carried out on Zoom with two interviewers who ask students to talk about their personal and educational background, the written exam that students wrote previously, and a topic chosen by the interviewers. Students are evaluated on fluency, pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar.

Exemptions From Taking the ISE Exam

Students who meet certain conditions may not be required to take the ISE Exam.