ESL Students: Here's Where to Begin

  • Before taking any course in English as a Second Language (ESL), you must complete the ESL assessment process, so you can be placed in the right course.
  • The assessment process will help decide the best place for you to start in the ESL course sequence.

Who Should Take the ESL Assessment?

Consider taking the ESL assessment if English is not your native language and you

  • Want to learn English for personal or professional reasons, OR
  • Want to attend a four-year university in the U.S. but you are not ready for transfer-level, or university-level English classes, OR
  • Attend schools where all your subjects were taught in a language other than English.

There is a different assessment process for placement into transfer-level English courses. But if English is not your first language, you must demonstrate English proficiency before you can be assessed for transfer-level English. You can do that by

  • Submitting your U.S. high school transcript information for assessment – provided that you completed at least grades 9-11 in a U.S. high school  OR
  • Completing the De Anza ESL assessment

De Anza will NOT accept any other assessments for ESL or English course placement, such as iTEP, O-Level Exams, TOEFL or IB.

The ESL assessment is designed to find the right course placement for your language level and to help you succeed in your English learning goals. On this page, you will find more information about the ESL assessment process and about the pathway from ESL to English at De Anza. You can also find information for beginning English learners.

F-1 Visa Students

If you're attending De Anza on an F-1 visa, you should contact the International Student Programs (ISP) office before making an appointment for the ESL assessment. New students are assessed during the mandatory ISP Orientation program.


More About the ESL Assessment Process

Online ESL Assessment

How It Works

Please use our online contact form to request the online ESL assessment.

  • If eligible, you'll be provided with instructions on how to access the ESL assessment which is offered though Canvas.
  • Once you are enrolled in the Canvas ESL assessment, you will have 2 business days to submit your responses.
  • Within 2 - 3 weeks your assessment results will be processed and you'll receive a placement in the ESL course sequence.

What to Expect

Part 1: You'll answer a few background questions (these have no impact on your assessment results).

Part 2: You will be given 30 minutes to write about an assigned topic. The topic will not require specialized knowledge. Try your best to write as much as you can.

  • You will only be told the topic at the time of the assessment.
  • You will type your response.
  • You won't be allowed to use a dictionary or the internet.

After you turn in your writing sample, two teachers will read it and evaluate your written fluency, critical thinking, organization, development, content, grammar, spelling, punctuation and capitalization.

Some Helpful Tips

  • You should plan to find a quiet space to complete the assessment.
  • Be sure you are rested and aren't hungry before you start the assessment.

In-Person ESL Assessment


This service has been suspended due to the campus closure.


How It Works

You must complete the process in person and you must make an appointment to do so.

  • The assessment process includes the CELSA ESL multiple choice assessment and an ESL writing sample.
  • Within 2 - 3 weeks your assessment results will be processed and you'll receive a placement in the ESL course sequence. You will be notified via email when your results have been posted on your MyPortal account.

What to Expect

The ESL Assessment has two parts: writing and multiple choice.

Part 1: Writing

You will be given 30 minutes to write about an assigned topic. The topic will not require specialized knowledge. Try your best to write as much as you can.

  • You will only be told the topic at the time of the assessment.
  • You will write by hand.
  • You won't be allowed to use a dictionary or the internet.

After you turn in your writing sample, two teachers will read it and evaluate your written fluency, critical thinking, organization, development, content, grammar, spelling, punctuation and capitalization.

Part 2: Multiple Choice

This part will assess your knowledge of grammar, vocabulary and reading comprehension. You will be asked to read and answer questions about a series of short passages and dialogues. As you answer more questions, the passages will get longer and more complex.

  • There are 75 questions.
  • You will have 60 minutes to answer the questions.
  • You will take this part of the test on a computer.
  • You won't be allowed to use a dictionary, notes or the internet.


Some Helpful Tips

  • Know where to go! The Assessment Lab is located in the RSS Building, Room 146. The entrance faces Parking Lot A, on the Stevens Creek Boulevard side of campus.
  • You must present a valid photo identification – such as a driver's license or school ID card – when you check in.
  • Bring a few pencils.
  • We will provide scratch paper.
  • Be sure you are rested and aren't hungry before you come to take the assessment.

Repeating the ESL Assessment

  • After you complete the assessment, you may repeat the process once within six months of receiving your placement.
  • You can enroll in classes based on the placement that results from either your first or second assessment.
  • However, you're not allowed to repeat the assessment if you have earned a grade of D, F, NP or I grade in any course that's part of the ESL sequence.
  • Your assessment results do not expire. If you want to try the self-assessment again after the six month window is past, you should contact the Assessment Center and provide your full name and CWID, or student identification number. 
  • If, after taking the ESL assessment two times, you feel that your ESL results are not an accurate reflection of your skills and abilities, you may participate in the ESL Placement Challenge Process.

A Pathway from ESL to English 

De Anza's English as a Second Language (ESL) program provides a pathway for students who want to take transfer-level ESL and English courses. 

View the ESL course sequence

  • Depending on your educational goal, you may need to complete transfer-level ESL courses, transfer-level English courses, or both.
  • If you are an ESL student, you must complete at least two courses – ESL 272 and ESL 273 – before you can be assessed for English.
  • We strongly recommend that you meet with your counselor to understand which course sequence is best for you!

Frequently Asked Questions 

  • What is the ESL program?

  • What is the difference between English and ESL?

  • What is advanced ESL?

  • What if I am a beginning English learner?

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