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English as a Second Language (ESL) Placement Tests

Contra Costa College uses the COMPASS ESL tests for non-native English speakers' abilities in three areas—Listening, Reading and Grammar Usage. In addition to the COMPASS ESL tests, the ESL Department requires a timed writing assessment as well, all these tests are used to place students in the appropriate ESL courses.

ESL Listening ESL Listening Sample Questions

This test assesses a student's ability to understand Standard American English. Listening tasks increase in difficulty across multiple proficiency levels with the rate of speech, vocabulary, diction, and use of idiomatic and metaphorical language all increasing at higher levels. Students are allowed to take notes as they would in a lecture setting. The intent of the test is to measure listening skills rather than short-term memory.

ESL Reading ESL Reading Sample Questions 

This ESL Reading placement test assesses a student's ability to recognize and manipulate Standard American English in two major categories:

  • Referring (reading explicitly stated material)
  • Reasoning (inferential reading)

Most materials are reading passages, ranging in length from several sentences to many paragraphs. Students also may be asked to interpret photographs, tables, charts, or graphs, or to follow directions using a map or other diagram.

ESL Grammar/Usage ESL Grammar/Usage Sample Questions

This ESL Grammar Usaga placement test assesses a student's ability to recognize and manipulate Standard American English in two main areas:

  • Sentence Elements
  • Sentence Structure and Syntax

Sentence Elements include verbs, subjects and objects, modifiers, function words, conventions (punctuation, capitalization, spelling), and word formation.

Sentence Structure and Syntax include word order, relationships between and among clauses, and agreement, as well as how grammar relates to communication beyond the sentence level.

Some items in the ESL Grammar/Usage test use a modified cloze format, with blanks in sentences and choices to fill in the blanks, other items in this test offer a question with four options, based on a reading passage. These items test students' understanding of how words function within a text.

For all three ESL COMPASS tests items range from recognizing pictures that go with spoken words or phrases at the lowest level to answering inferential questions about overall academic materials at the highest levels.
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Page was Last Modified on 3/16/2010