Student Affairs Information Technology

University of Southern California
    USC Student Affairs
Student Affairs Information Technology
Office of the Provost

International Student English Placement Exam (ISE)

The ISE exam is required of all newly admitted international students whose first language is not English.

  • The Center for Testing and Assessment administers the ISE at the beginning of the first term of study.
  • To find out more information on who must take the test go to the American Language Institute (ALI) website and click on "International Student English Exam".

The results of the exam determine whether or not students must take special courses in English in the American Language Institute (ALI). Contact the Center for Testing and Assessment for test registration, dates, and location, or click here.

On the day of the examination, bring the following:

  • Your letter of admission to USC (not necessary in the summer);
  • Your passport or other official document with your picture and signature;
  • Two (2) sharpened Number 2 pencils;
  • A pen.

The examination can take up to 3 hours and may be divided over two days. THIS EXAMINATION MAY ONLY BE TAKEN ONCE. It consists of two parts:

You will be asked to write an essay on a given topic.
You will have a total of 40 minutes to complete your composition:

  • 10 minutes to plan it
  • 30 minutes to write it

You will be given an oral interview, which will last 5 to 8 minutes. It will be conducted and scored by two experienced interviewers.
You will be asked to talk about

  • Yourself, your life, and your opinions,
  • The composition which you wrote for Part 1 of the ISE, and
  • A topic chosen by the interviewers.

The interview is carried out in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. You are encouraged to speak as much as possible so that the interviewers can make an accurate assessment of your oral proficiency in English.

Test Dates

The ISE Exam is administered to all newly admitted students by the Center for Testing and Assessment at the beginning of each term of study.
For all test dates listed below, You can sign-up online at the ALI website: .

On the day of the test, be sure to bring with you your letter of admission to USC (not necessary in the summer) and your passport or picture identification.

No ISE Exam dates scheduled.

A picture identification is required to obtain results. An announcement will be made during the test as to where and when your results may be picked up.