Questions and answers about
the English Language Institute Placement Test (ELIPT)

 

  1. Why are students required to take the ELIPT? We were admitted to UHM, so doesn’t that mean we can handle university classes?
  2. Do other universities in the United States have an ELI and an ELIPT?
  3. Who made the ELIPT?
  4. How did the ELI decide what level was "exempt" for their exemption criteria?
  5. Why can’t you just use TOEFL (or SAT, or GRE) scores? Why do you need a special test?
  6. I have taken college courses before at a community college or during UHM’s summer session, and I got good grades. Doesn’t this prove that my English is good enough to study at UHM?
  7. My English ability is higher now than when I applied to UH. Do I still need to take the ELIPT?
  8. What is a passing score on the ELIPT?
  9. I might need help in reading, but I think that my listening skills are fine. Will I have to take listening classes anyway if I don’t do well on the ELIPT?
  10. What if I’m sick on the day of the ELIPT?
  11. I didn’t do well on the ELIPT but that’s just because I’m bad at taking tests. I don’t think I need help in English.
  12. My friends didn’t need to take ELI classes. Why do I have to take them?
  13. I want to finish my studies at UHM as quickly as possible, and having to take ELI classes slows me down. I don’t have enough money or time to stay here as long as it would take to finish my ELI requirements and my degree, so can’t I be allowed to waive the ELI?

Why are students required to take the ELIPT? We were admitted to UHM, so doesn’t that mean we can handle university classes?

There are actually two levels at which students’ academic English ability is reviewed. The first level is for admission to the university, and the second level is for English Language Institute (ELI) placement or exemption.

Level 1: Admission. When students apply to the university, the Admissions office looks at a variety of information for evidence of a strong potential to succeed in the university. One of these pieces of evidence is academic English ability. Students who have been admitted to UHM have met the minimum academic English requirements for study here. In other words, the university believes that, as long as the students are taking ELI courses in their first two semesters, they can also handle a partial load of other university courses (the ELI classes and other classes a student takes add up to a full load of university-level coursework). Although the university does not officially call this "conditional admission," it’s probably a good idea to think of it this way. It might help to keep in mind that, if the university did not have an ELI, the minimum academic English requirements for admission would be much higher. (And of course, if you can demonstrate a level of academic English ability that is far above the minimum requirements, you might be exempt from the ELI.)

Level 2: ELI Placement or Exemption. For all admitted students who have English as a second language, the ELI reviews a variety of information (from their application to UHM) for evidence that they can succeed in taking a full load of courses without any help from the ELI. Any student who meets one or more of these criteria is automatically exempted from the ELI without needing to take the ELIPT. Every year, the majority of students who have English as a second language (usually between 75-80%) meet one or more of these criteria and are automatically exempted. Only those students who do not meet any of the exemption criteria are required to take the ELIPT.

ELI exemption criteria can be found in the UHM catalog or on the ELI website (click here).

 

Do other universities in the United States have an ELI and an ELIPT?

Yes. Almost all universities in the United States have a program similar to the ELI. Some universities make students complete their "ELI" courses before they can even be admitted to the university, others have an ELI like ours, for students who have enough academic English proficiency to be admitted to the university. Each university will be a little different, but almost all universities will have some kind of "ELI." As a result, almost all universities also have some system for placing students into appropriate classes. For making placement decisions, some programs may use only TOEFL scores, others may use other types of standardized tests, and others, like we do, may develop their own test to better fit their specific situation.

 

Who made the ELIPT?

The ELIPT was developed under the direction of testing specialists in the internationally renowned Department of Second Language Studies here at the University of Hawai`i at Manoa (UHM). Many of the professionals who have worked on the ELIPT have acted as consultants for various testing projects around the world, including the TOEFL program and the National Foreign Language Resource Center. The ELIPT is reviewed each semester to ensure that it is producing reliable scores and accurate placements, and other research is regularly done on the test and its subtests. Additionally, from time to time the ELIPT is revised, updated, and improved.

 

How did the ELI decide what level was "exempt" for their exemption criteria?

The exemption criteria used to be much stricter than they are now. Over the years, after testing a very large number of students, we found that those who were at or above a certain level for some of the criteria were consistently exempting on the ELIPT, and so we suggested that those criteria be lowered to match the ELIPT results, and the university agreed to our recommendation. However, below the levels listed in the exemption criteria, there is no consistent evidence — that is, below the criterion level, there may be an occasional student who gets high enough ELIPT scores to be exempt, but most students below that level place into ELI courses. In the future, if we find that our exemption criteria need to be adjusted again (either down or up), we will recommend that the university do so, but at this time, there is no clear evidence to suggest any adjustments.

 

Why can’t you just use TOEFL (or SAT, or GRE) scores? Why do you need a special test?

We could use just the TOEFL (or other test used for admissions purposes), but there are two problems related to this. First, the TOEFL was designed to indicate a wide range of academic English proficiencies, from very low (far too low to meet the minimum requirements for admission to UHM) to very high (well above the ELI exemption criteria). In contrast, the ELIPT was designed for assessing the needs for additional academic English instruction for students in a narrow range of proficiency (between 500-600 on the paper based TOEFL, or between 173-250 on the computer-based test). Second, a TOEFL score is valid for two years — some students may have taken the TOEFL two years prior to admission to UHM, and it’s very likely that their proficiency has changed since that time. In a sense, then, the ELIPT gives a more up-to-date assessment of students’ proficiency.

 

I have taken college courses before at a community college or during UHM’s summer session, and I got good grades. Doesn’t this prove that my English is good enough to study at UHM?

Yes and no. All students who are admitted to the university have shown evidence of college-level English proficiency. This means that all students at UHM are considered to be proficient enough to take courses at UHM. However, it does not automatically mean that all admitted students are ready to take a full load of courses at UHM without help from the ELI. The ELIPT is used to measure students’ strengths and needs in academic English, so if your proficiency has improved to our exempt level as a result of the college classes you have already taken, you should have no trouble doing well on the ELIPT.

 

My English ability is higher now than when I applied to UH. Do I still need to take the ELIPT?

Most students’ English proficiency continues to improve between the time they apply to UHM and the time they begin their first semester of study. This is for various reasons — some students attend community colleges or other universities, others continue to study TOEFL or other academic materials, and a few even choose to retake the TOEFL. Once in awhile, as a result of this additional study, a student will be able to meet exemption criteria. (If this happens to you, come to the ELI office and, once you provide us with official documentation to prove you meet the criteria, we will be able to exempt you from the ELI, as long as you met the exemption criteria before the beginning of your first semester at UHM.) For most students, however, there is additional improvement, but not in a way that meets ELI exemption criteria. Even so, any continued study should help you to do better on the ELIPT. If you feel you have improved to the point that you do not need to take ELI classes, then you should have no problem reaching exempt levels on the ELIPT.

 

What is a passing score on the ELIPT?

The ELIPT is designed as a placement test, so there is no pass/fail decision. All students who have been admitted to UH have already "passed" the minimum requirements for college level study. ELIPT scores are used to determine how many additional academic English classes, if any, students need. Students who do well on the ELIPT are exempted from further academic English study and students who show need for improvement in one or more of the curriculum areas are required to take ELI classes to better prepare them for success at UHM.

 

I might need help in reading, but I think that my listening skills are fine. Will I have to take listening classes anyway if I don’t do well on the ELIPT?

The ELI has separate courses in listening/speaking, reading, and writing, and the ELIPT has subtests for each area. Placement for each area is treated separately. If you do well on the listening section, you will be exempted from listening/speaking classes. In any one semester, approximately 40-50% of the students who take the ELIPT are exempted in one or more curriculum areas, so if your listening (or reading, or writing) is really as good as you think it is, you should have no problem exempting in this section of the ELIPT.

 

What if I’m sick on the day of the ELIPT?

If you are sick, and you feel sure that your sickness will interfere with your ability to perform on the ELIPT, don’t come to take the test. Call the ELI office and make arrangements to take the test on another day.

 

I didn’t do well on the ELIPT but that’s just because I’m bad at taking tests. I don’t think I need help in English.

Although the ELIPT has proven to be very reliable, we realize that no test is perfect. While we fully understand that some students are poor test-takers, it has been our experience that students are rarely misplaced. Additionally, since there are many university courses that require tests, we strongly recommend that you contact the Learning Assistance Center here at UH-Manoa for help with strategies for becoming more effective at taking tests.

My friends didn’t need to take ELI classes. Why do I have to take them?

Your friends must have met criteria that you were not able to meet. Perhaps they met one or more of the exemption criteria, or reached exempt levels on the ELIPT. Each person is different, and each is placed based on the evidence available.

 

I want to finish my studies at UHM as quickly as possible, and having to take ELI classes slows me down. I don’t have enough money or time to stay here as long as it would take to finish my ELI requirements and my degree, so can’t I be allowed to waive the ELI?

We are sorry, but no, that’s not possible. We truly sympathize with students who have limited time and limited funds, but our decisions must be made based on evidence of academic English ability, not personal problems. Every student has several chances to be exempt from the ELI, but if you did not meet exemption criteria, and if you were not exempt as a result of the ELIPT, then we have every evidence that you need the ELI courses you were assigned, and no evidence that you do not need them. However, there is now a UHM policy that allows most ELI students to get back credits for their native-language ability. Although you do not, at this time, get credits for ELI classes, you may be eligible for up to 16 back credits, which can help undergraduate students to graduate in roughly the same amount of time as others who enter the university at the same time.

 

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