Placement Tests

Placement Tests

USC requires placement tests for undergraduate students to ensure that you are advised properly and enroll at the appropriate level to begin your studies. Placement tests are offered in Math, Chemistry, Foreign Language, Writing Composition, and English proficiency.

To determine which placement tests you are required to take, and how to complete these requirements, please review the links below.


Math Placement Test

The Math Placement Test is available online to all incoming undergraduate students as a part of the Pre-Orientation Homework.

Students admitted to the following majors are required to complete the Math Placement Test, regardless of previous course work, or AP/IB scores.

  • Architecture
  • Astronomy
  • Biological Sciences
  • Biochemistry
  • Business
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Earth Sciences
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Engineering (all majors)
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Global Economy
  • Global Health
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Human Biology
  • International Relations
  • International Relations Global Business
  • Math
  • Neuroscience
  • Physics
  • Public Policy (all majors)
  • Psychobiology
  • Psychology

You may choose to take the paper and pencil version on site at the USC Center for Testing and Assessment. For a list of test dates, click here.


Chemistry Placement Test

The Chemistry Placement Test is available online to all incoming undergraduate students as a part of the Pre-Orientation Homework.

Students admitted to the following majors are required to complete the Chemistry Placement Test, regardless of previous course work, or AP/IB scores.

  • Astronomy
  • Biochemistry
  • Biological Sciences
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Earth Sciences
  • Engineering
  • Environmental Studies
  • Exercise Science
  • Global Health
  • Health and Humanity
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Human Biology
  • Neuroscience
  • Physics
  • Pre-Medical/Pre-Health 

You may choose to take the paper and pencil version on site at the USC Center for Testing and Assessment. For a list of test dates, click here.


Foreign Language Placement Test

The Foreign Language Placement Test is offered during all of the on-campus freshman sessions. Students who plan to enroll in a foreign language course, either by choice or because it is required by their major (see below for a list of majors with a foreign language course requirement) should take the Foreign Language Placement Test. Students attending the off-campus or transfer sessions should make arrangements to take the Foreign Language Placement Test with the USC Language Center.

The following majors have a foreign language requirement:

  • Cinematic Arts (B.A. only)
  • College of Letters, Arts and Sciences (all majors)
  • Communication
  • Fine Arts (B.A. only)
  • Global Health
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Journalism (Broadcast and Print)
  • Music (B.M. in String Instrument and Vocal Arts Performance; B.A. in Music) 
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Public Relations
  • Theatre (B.A. only)


Foreign Language Requirement at USC
Students may satisfy the foreign language requirement only by (1) earning a passing grade in Course III of a foreign language sequence at USC or its equivalent elsewhere or (2) scoring on the placement examination at a level considered by the department as equivalent to the completion of Course III or (3) scoring on a national or statewide examination at a level set by the department and approved by the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. 

International students whose native language is not English are exempt from the foreign language requirement. Students with advanced skills in languages other than those taught at USC may request exemption from the foreign language requirement if (1) they can supply proof of at least two years of full-time secondary schooling taught in a foreign language beyond the age of 14, or (2) if they can pass a competency exam testing for advanced language skills and administered at USC subject to the availability of suitable academic examiners; the competency exam will test proficiency in speaking, reading and writing skills.

For more information about the Foreign Language Placement Test of the Foreign Language Requirement, please contact the USC Language Center at 213.740.1188 or by e-mail at language@usc.edu


Writing Composition Placement Test

The Writing Composition Placement Test is offered during all of the on-campus freshman sessions. All entering freshman students with a score of less than 1100 on the Critical Reading and Writing sections of the SAT (or a score lower than 24 on the ACT English exam) should take the Writing Composition Placement Test. Information about this requirement can be found in your letter of admission to USC.

For more information, contact the Writing Program at 213.740.1980.


International Student English Exam (ISE)

The International Student English (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 receive an ALI placement. A student's ALI placement may vary from 2 units to more than 18 units depending on their ISE exam scores. With few exceptions, international students whose native language is not English must take the International Student English (ISE) Examination.

The USC Center for Testing and Assessment will administer the exam in August for students beginning their studies in the fall semester; and in January for the spring semester. To find out if you are required to take the ISE exam, review your letter of admission and your I-20. There is no fee for taking the ISE exam. Bring your letter of admission to USC, your passport (or other official document with a picture and signature), and a pen to the examination room.

Exemptions from Taking the ISE Exam
Students who meet the following conditions may not be required to take the ISE exam:

  • Students who have achieved an Internet Based TOEFL (iBT) score of 100 or higher with no less than 20 on each individual section of the test, 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 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. This applies to native English speakers from countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada (except Quebec) where English is both the only official language of the country and the language of instruction.

 

Description
The ISE examination may only be taken once in any given year. There are two parts to the exam which may be given on two different days. Students' English language proficiency is assessed in writing and oral skills.

Writing skills are assessed by an essay. Students are given 40 minutes to write an essay. A team of experienced graders read the essays and grade students on their ability to write a well-organized essay, using accurate and appropriate English. Students are assessed on comprehensibility, academic style, vocabulary, grammar, development, and coherence.

Oral skills are assessed in an oral interview that takes approximately ten minutes. The interview is carried out in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere by two interviewers who ask students to talk about their personal life, the composition that they wrote previously, and a topic chosen by the interviewers. Students are assessed on fluency, pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar.

For more information, please contact the American Language Institute at 213.740.0079.