Contents of the English Placement Test

The UW English Placement Test (EPT) consists of three subtests. These subtests are English Usage, Sentence Correction, and Reading Comprehension. The entire English Placement Test is designed to be completed in 90 minutes, which requires an average of approximately 30 seconds per test item. This is sufficient time for most students to complete the test.

 

Follow this link for a Practice English Placement Test

 

Background of the Test

In the early 1970's, the College Writing Association, consisting largely of composition teachers in the University of Wisconsin System, began to discuss the increasing need for remedial work in composition on UW System campuses. There was agreement to the necessity of finding quick, reliable ways to identify students needing such work for survival in college, and to establish fair, uniform standards for measuring student abilities within a statewide university system in which writing requirements vary from campus to campus. There was also an agreement that teachers of college English had very little data on the writing skills of their new students in Freshman English classes. The Association decided, therefore, that one of its immediate tasks was the construction of a placement test whose content and standards would suit the particular needs of the University of Wisconsin System and would be completely determined by practicing classroom teachers of composition. This test would have as its major purpose the identification of those students who need immediate remedial help and, at the other end of the scale, those students who could justifiably be placed into advanced courses.

Six instructors, from various UW System campuses, agreed to serve as the test construction committee. In a series of formalized meetings with the membership of the College Writing Association, and with members of their own and other English departments, the committee members collected and articulated the various opinions of their fellow teachers on the skills students ought to be able to display in writing and reading. The result of this work took the form of a list of problems generally identified as worth testing. At the same time, the committee attended workshops on test construction directed by a consultant from the Educational Testing Service, and in the following months met with the Office of Testing and Evaluation Services at UW-Madison to gain an understanding of statistical problems of validating and interpreting data. Thus prepared, the committee turned to its major tasks: the creation of test items on the skills deemed necessary for good writing, the collecting, refining, correcting and approving of such items for inclusion in the test, and the orchestrating of test items into the complete test. The experimental form of this test was given to about 3,000 students in 1975. Through the use of statistical analysis, the test continues to be refined and improved so that it effectively distinguishes the students with the strongest language skills and the students with the weakest language skills from the general population of students.

Test Description

The English Test Development Committee decided on three broad categories of items which became the three subtests of the UW System English Placement Test. These subtests are Usage, Sentence Correction and Reading Comprehension. The entire English Placement Test is designed to be completed in 80 minutes, which requires an average of approximately 30 seconds per test item. This is sufficient time for most students to complete the test. Both the English Usage and Sentence Correction subtests deal with a student's ability to distinguish problems in the following classifications:

Verb Problems - agreement, tense consistency and weak construction;

Pronoun Problems - consistency, case, agreement and reference;

Diction Problems - diction and idiom;

Modifier Problems - adjective and adverb form, placement and comparison;

Sentence Problems - fragment, comma fault, parallelism, subordination, punctuation for clarity, economy, word order and logic.

English Usage items require a student to identify deviations from standard written American English. Sentence Correction items require a student to select he most effective expression from among five choices.

The Reading Comprehension subtest requires students to demonstrate the ability to understand and interpret prose passages comparable to those they will read in college. These items specifically require students to comprehend the literal meaning, to interpret figurative language, to draw inferences from what they read, to recognize principles of organization and to identify the function of prominent stylistic features.

 

Sample Items

English Usage Items

Directions:

Some of the following sentences contain an error in grammar, usage, punctuation, or word choice. Some sentences are correct. No sentence contains more than one error. You will find that the error, if there is one, is underlined and lettered. Assume that all other elements of the sentence are correct and cannot be changed. In choosing answers, follow the requirements of standard written English.

If there is an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed in order to make the sentence correct and blacken the corresponding space on your answer sheet.

If there is no error, mark the final answer space, E.

EXAMPLES

1. Allan is afraid of the rain, he likes the thunder.   No error.
          A        B           C     D                     E  
Because two sentences divided only by a comma create a comma fault, either a conjunction   
must be added or the punctuation must be changed to a period, a semicolon, or a dash.    
Therefore, C must be changed, and you would mark C on your answer sheet.    
Note: when the punctuation is in question, the underlining may extend beneath a space, as in 1C.        
2. Maria, who had just eaten, thought concerning having a candy bar or ice cream.   No error.
                   A                      B         C                D                 E                

Because we do not generally say "thought concerning," but "thought about," B must be changed, and you would mark B on your answer sheet.

 

The following items are samples of the type used in the Usage section of the English Placement Test:

3. The public is not so angry about corruption in government than it is disgusted with inflation.  No error.
              A               B                                C               D                      E    
4. While inspecting the ranks, the officer seen that the new recruit had laid his rifle in the mud and gotten it dirty.   No error.
           A	                       B                                       C                             D                 E        
5. How well the new comedy series does in the ratings depends almost entirely on its competition. No error. A B C D E 6. Having enjoyed the scenery, the steamer next took us to Bird Isle, an island whose history was hardly known until 1900. No error. A B C D E 7. Earl and me were left a legacy by an aunt who had always liked us both. No error. A B C D E
The correct answers for the above questions are:   
3. C   
4. B   
5. E   
6. A   
7. A 



      

Sentence Correction Items

Directions: This is a test of correctness and effectiveness of expression. In choosing answers, follow the requirements of standard written English; that is, pay attention to acceptable usage in grammar, word choice, sentence construction, and punctuation. Choose the answer that produces the most effective sentence -- clear and exact, without wordiness or ambiguity. Do not make a choice that changes the meaning of the original sentence.

In each of the sentences of this section, one portion is underlined. Beneath each sentence you will find five ways of writing the underlined part; the first of these always repeats the original, and the other four are all different. If you think the original sentence is better than any of the suggested changes, choose the first answer A; otherwise, select the best revision and blacken the corresponding space on your answer sheet.

EXAMPLE     

1. Heavy smoking and to overeat are activities which a heart patient must forego.
	A. Heavy smoking and to overeat   
	B. Smoking heavily and to overeat   
	C. To smoke heavily and overeating   
	D. Heavy smoking and overeating   
	E. Smoking heavy and to overeat      

Because standard English requires the same grammatical form for two units connected by and, 
either smoking or to overeat must be changed to gain parallelism. Among the options offered, 
only the form  Heavy smoking and overeating is parallel, and you would mark your answer sheet D. 

The following items are samples of those used in the Sentence Correction section of the English Placement Test:

2. In the smaller towns of Wisconsin, where one can quickly walk to the greening hills of Spring.      
	A. , where one can quickly walk   
	B. where one can quickly walk   
	C. , where one can quickly walk,   
	D. , one can quickly walk   
	E. one can, quickly walk     

3. Coach Jones is a remarkable physical specimen: although sixty, he is as vigorous as ever.    
	A. although sixty, he is as vigorous as ever.   
	B. he, seeing that he is sixty, is as vigorous as ever.   
	C. he is sixty, being as vigorous as ever.   
	D. as vigorous as ever, he is sixty years of age.   
	E. he is as vigorous as ever; however he is sixty.   


4. The swashbuckling hero was without moral convictions, acceptable manners, and he had little
else in his favor
. A. without moral convictions, acceptable manners, and he had little else in his favor. B. without moral convictions or acceptable manners and had little else in his favor.
C. without moral convictions, acceptable manners or little else in his favor.
D. without moral convictions and acceptable manners or little else in his favor.
E. without much else in his favor, including moral convictions and acceptable manners.
  5. One method of ending discrimination in business and industry is to demand quotas to be met by employers.
A. to demand quotas to be met by employers.
B. demanding employers to meet quotas.
C. to demand that employers meet quotas.
D. that employers be demanded to meet quotas.
E. that of demanding employers to meet quotas.
 
6. Mr. Bole's recommendation was believed to be sufficient and that it would guarantee my getting a job.
A. and that it would guarantee my getting a job.
B. , and that it would guarantee my getting a job.
C. , and that it would guarantee me to get a job.
D. that it would guarantee me getting a job.
E. to guarantee my getting a job.
 
 The correct answers for the above items are:
 2. D
 3. A
 4. B
 5. C
 6. E 

Reading Comprehension Items

Directions:

The passages below are followed by questions on the vocabulary, style, and meaning of the passages. After reading each passage, choose the best answer to each question. Answer all questions for each of the passages in terms of the context within the passage.

The prevalence of positive or negative feelings about physique
is a sign of which traits are valued and appreciated by a society
or by the world community. Where there is conspicuous
subordination of a social group on the basis of real or attributed
(5) physical features, the members of a subordinated group may come
to repudiate their own physical characteristics and in mixed
populations even penalize those individuals who manifest the
disapproved characteristics to the most marked degree. The concept of
negritude in Africa is an example of a vigorous attempt to reassert the
(10) primacy, for a given group, of its own physical type. We must
recognize the rising demand for the kind of world in which people can
enjoy the way they look, be proud of the way their parents looked, and
look forward to the way their children will look.

Margaret Mead, "Racial Differences and Cultural Attitudes";

  1. In its context, the word "attributed" (line 4) means most nearly
    A. praised.
    B. wide-spread.
    C. imagined.
    D. ideal.
    E. secondary.

  2. In this passage "physique" (line 1) refers to all of the following except
    A. style of dress.
    B. height.
    C. facial features.
    D. degree of hairiness.
    E. skin color.

  3. The subject of "look forward" in line 13 is
    A. I.
    B. we.
    C. people.
    D. minorities.
    E. the world.

  4. The "concept of negritude" (lines 8 and 9)
    A. refers to the subordination of a social group.
    B. is a national political movement.
    C. refers to people discriminating against their own race.
    D. occurs in mixed populations.
    E. involves pride in black physical features.

  5. Which of the following comes closest to expressing the author's opinion?
    A. How one looks is of no importance to anyone.
    B. Slavery is the worst evil.
    C. People with faults of their own should not criticize others.
    D. We must learn to tolerate physical differences.
    E. Some people like what other people hate.

The correct answers for the above questions are:
1. C
2. A
3. C
4. E
5. D