Placement testing for ESL students

The English as a Second Language (ESL) placement test is required for non-native English speaking students

TCC requires most non-native English speakers to take the ESL placement test prior to enrolling in classes. The test is used to determine your placement levels for English, reading and speech courses. This test does not include any math questions. You cannot pass or fail the placement test, and test scores are valid for 2 years.

What’s on the test

The ESL placement test is made up of 2 parts. There is no limit on how much time you will have to complete the test. For most students, the test usually takes between 2 ½ to 3 hours.


This computer-based test consists of 20 multiple choice questions in each of the following areas:

  • Listening – to measure your ability to listen to and understand one or more people speaking English
  • Reading – to measure your ability to read English through the comprehension of short passages
  • Language usage – to measure your proficiency in using correct grammar in English sentences
  • Sentence skills – to measure your ability to understand meaning of English sentences


Part 2: Writing sample

You will be required to hand write an essay on a topic provided to you. TCC ESL faculty will review your essay to assess your writing skills.

Preparing for the ACCUPLACER ESL test

Whether or not you have studied English recently, you will want to prepare in order to do your best. Not reviewing before taking the placement tests could possibly place you in an ESL course that is lower than your actual skill level.

These ACCUPLACER ESL Sample Test Questions and Answers can help you prepare.

You are exempt from ESL placement tests if you:
  • have a degree (associate, bachelor's, master's, Ph.D., or J.D.) from a college or university at which English is the primary language of instruction
  • successfully completed ESL program course work (with a grade of “S”) at TCC or other VCCS school
  • earned a score of 7.0 on the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) Exam
  • earned the following scores on the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) Exam:
    • 587 (paper-based)
    • 240 (computer-based)
    • 95 (internet-based)


Your test scores

You will receive your ACCUPLACER test score once you complete it. Your placement report and course recommendations will be sent to your TCC email address approximately 3 business days later, after your writing sample has been reviewed.

Once you receive these items, set up an appointment to meet with a campus counselor or advisor to enroll in the appropriate classes. Be sure to bring your placement report and course recommendations to your appointment.

Testing Centers

Hours for Chesapeake, Norfolk, and Portsmouth campus testing centers:

Monday - Thursday: 8:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Friday: 8:30 a.m. – 3p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Hours for the Virginia Beach campus testing center:
Monday & Tuesday: 8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday - Friday: 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Additionally, campus testing centers will remain open until 9 p.m. on the following rotation:

Monday: Portsmouth campus
Tuesday:  Chesapeake campus
Wednesday: Norfolk campus

View Testing Centers' closing schedule


George B. Pass Building, Room 211


Phone: 757-822-5131


Martin Building, Room 2505


Phone: 757-822-1310


Building A, Room A153


Phone: 757-822-2194

Virginia Beach

Bayside Building, Room B209


Phone: 757-822-7390

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