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English Course Placement for ESL Students

Four courses—English 121, 122, 131, and 132—focus on teaching advanced English academic literacy to UT students whose first or strongest language is not English. To register for any of these classes, you must be a regularly admitted UT student and be placed into the class by the ESL Writing Program based on your TOEFL (or equivalent)  scores used for admissions. More information about UT’s English proficiency admissions policy can be found here. All undergraduate students must eventually complete both English 131 and 132; some undergraduate students may also be required to first take English 121. Graduate students may either be required to take English 122, or may be exempt from English.

Placement Guide

Undergraduate Students

A combination of scores and subscores will determine English course placement.  You will be contacted by the English Department as soon as you confirm attendance.

Students with the following score combinations will be placed into English 131: 

TOEFL (iBT)
90+ total, with:
24+ writing subscore
20+ speaking subscore
IELTS
7+ total, with:
6.5+ writing subscore
6.5+ speaking subscore

Students with any of the following three score combinations will be placed into English 121:

TOEFL (IBT)

a. 90+ total, with:
18-23 writing
18-19 speaking
OR 
b. 80-89 total, with
18+ writing
18+ speaking
OR
c. 70-79 total, with:
24+ writing
20+ speaking

IELTS

 7+ total, with:
6.0 or below writing
6.0 or below speaking
OR
b. 6.5 total, with:
6.0+ writing
6.0+ speaking
OR
c. 6 total, with
6.5+ writing
6.5+ speaking

Students with any of the following two score combinations will be placed into ELI (English Language Institute) 110:

TOEFL (iBT)

a. 70-79 total, with:
23 or below writing
19 or below speaking
OR

b. Any subscore 17 or below
(with any total)

IELTS
a. 6 total, with:
6 or below writing
6 or below speaking
OR
b. Any subscore 5.5 or below
(with any total)

ELI 110: Fundamentals in Academic English is offered by the English Language Institute (ELI). For more information, contact the ELI at eli@tennessee.edu and Jim Hamrick (jhamric1@utk.edu).

Graduate Students

The ESL Writing Program uses standardized test scores to place graduate students into ESL writing courses. If graduate students do not have test scores or are not satisfied with their test scores, they can choose to take an English Placement Exam, which usually takes place in August and January about a week before classes begin.

No English Required:

TOEFL iBT 100 and above, OR
IELTS 7.5 and above, OR
TOEFL CBT 250 and above, OR
TOEFL PBT 600 and above

English 122 Required:

TOEFL 99 or below, OR
IELTS 7.0 or below, OR
TOEFL CBT 247 or below, OR
TOEFL PBT 597 or below


Exchange Students

Exchange students are not required to take English courses. However, if you would like to take English, please refer to the placement guidelines for undergraduate students above. Please also send an email to esl@utk.edu telling us (1) your full name (2) your student ID #, and  (3) which English class and section you would like to take. If you do not have official scores (TOELF or IELTS) and would like to take English, please read the descriptions below and choose the course best suited to your English proficiency level.

ESL Courses

English 121 (undergraduate)

This 3-credit hour course is open to undergraduate students who place into the course based on their TOEFL or IELTS scores.

English 121 focuses on academic literacy (including academic reading, writing, vocabulary, and grammar) and also focuses some attention on listening and oral presentation skills. This course does not meet university undergraduate requirements for freshman composition. Note to exchange students without scores: This class is recommended if you have not previously had extensive practice in English academic composition.

English 122 (graduate)

This 3-credit hour course is open to graduate students who place into the course based on their TOEFL or IELTS scores.

English 122 focuses on intensive reading and writing instruction for international graduate students, focusing on a variety of critical and rhetorical approaches to academic writing in the disciplines. The class also includes strategies for improving professional oral communication. There will also be comprehensive review of the essential grammar for research writing.

English 131 (undergraduate)

This 3-credit course meets the university’s undergraduate requirements for freshman composition (equivalent to English 101). This class involves intensive instruction in writing, focusing on analysis and argument. The class also covers strategies for developing substantive arguments through systematic revision, addressing specific audiences, integrating sources, and expressing ideas with clarity and correctness. Note to exchange students without scores: This course is recommended if you already have experience with English academic composition.

English 132 (undergraduate)

Before enrolling in English 132, all students must have passed English 131 with a grade of C or higher. This 3-credit course meets the university’s undergraduate requirement for freshman composition (equivalent to English 102). The goal of this course is to advance concepts introduced in English 131. The course involves intensive writing instruction focused on inquiry and research. It covers strategies for formulating and investigating questions; locating and evaluating information; using varied sources and research methods; developing positions on intercultural and interdisciplinary issues from diverse texts (print, digital, and multimedia); and presenting research using appropriate rhetorical conventions.

For more information about placement, please refer to our FAQs page.

For more information about ESL courses, contact esl@utk.edu.

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