The Michigan English Placement Test (or Michigan EPT) is a computer-based exam designed to quickly and reliably place ESL students into homogeneous ability levels. It provides an accurate assessment of a test taker’s general receptive language proficiency by reliably measuring performance in the following key skill areas:
- listening comprehension
- grammatical knowledge
- vocabulary range
- reading comprehension
The number of ability levels and the associated cut scores an institution sets depends on the English language program in which the Michigan EPT is used. Specific cut scores must be determined in the local context. We strongly recommend that only overall scores be used for placement decisions.
Separate section scores (listening, grammar, vocabulary, and reading) are not recommended for placement decisions.
Forms D, E, and F of the Michigan EPT were released in 2013. In order to provide additional content, Forms G, H, and I were developed in 2015. All forms were developed in response to user feedback on the original EPT, which was created at the University of Michigan. Users of the original EPT wanted:
- a highly reliable placement test that could be administered quickly and easily
- a test that allowed teachers to stream students into appropriate ESL courses
- new content for the test
- a reduction in the number of items
The Pilot Process
Each Michigan EPT form is an 80-item multiple-choice test. The 240 items that make up Forms D, E, and F went through an intensive pilot testing process.
- More than 400 items were pilot tested on 573 students at thirteen different institutions—universities, community colleges, and language schools—across North America. Select items from the original EPT Form A were embedded in the pilot test.
- A subset of the pilot test population took the original EPT Form A to create the score conversion data between the original EPT and the Michigan EPT.
The 240 items that make up Forms G, H, and I went through a similar pilot testing process.
- More than 400 items were pilot tested on 382 students at a number of institutions across nine different countries.
- A subset of items from the D, E, and F pilot forms were embedded onto G, H, and I pilot forms to link the two datasets.
After the piloting process, the performance of the new items was analyzed. Items that performed poorly were rejected. Items that performed strongly were compiled into Michigan EPT forms using item response theory, ensuring that the forms are parallel in difficulty.
The 80 multiple-choice items in the Michigan EPT cover listening comprehension, grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.
In each form of the test, 25 items assess listening comprehension. There are two types of listening comprehension items.
- In one type, test takers hear a question or a statement requiring a response and then must select the most appropriate response from the three options provided.
- In the other type, test takers hear a short conversation between two speakers. After the conversation, test takers must answer a question about the conversation, selecting the correct answer from the three options provided.
Following the listening comprehension section are 20 grammar items. In each grammar item, test takers must select the word or phrase from four answer options that correctly completes the sentence.
After the grammar questions, there are 20 vocabulary items. In each item, test takers must select the word, from four answer options, that correctly completes a sentence that has had one word removed. All words selected for inclusion in the vocabulary section have been carefully sourced from a range of corpora that provide detailed information on word frequencies. The word frequencies targeted in the vocabulary section are representative of the proficiency levels at which the Michigan EPT is aimed (high beginner to low advanced).
Finally, there are 15 reading comprehension items.
- Five items assess sentence-level reading comprehension. Each item consists of one sentence followed by a question concerning its meaning. Test takers must select the correct answer from four options.
- Two reading passages of different lengths—with a total of ten reading comprehension items—tap a range of reading skills. Test takers must select the correct answer from four options.
Our online test platform automatically scales the scores of each form to match Form D, maintaining the exact same measure of assessment across forms.
Regarding Cut Scores and the CEFR
There are no preestablished cut scores for the Michigan EPT. Test users need to establish their own cut scores at their institution, because cut scores will vary depending on the language proficiency of the students and the number of levels that students are being streamed into.
One resource that test users may find helpful when establishing cut scores is the Common European Framework of Reference (Council of Europe, 2001). The CEFR has become widely used to interpret test scores. The CEFR describes what learners can do with language at six main levels (A1, the lowest, to C2, the highest). In order to link Michigan EPT scores to the proficiency levels of the CEFR, a standard-setting project was conducted by Michigan Language Assessment staff. The table below shows the results of this project. Specifically, it shows how score ranges on the EPT link to levels on the CEFR. Additionally, the table indicates the EPT cut scores previously used in the University of Michigan’s Intensive English Program.
It should be noted that both CEFR level score ranges and skill level score ranges are based on Form D. If you are using other forms, use the score conversion table.
Transitioning From Other Tests
If your program still uses the old University of Michigan EPT, there is a table that shows how scores on the Michigan EPT correspond to scores on the 100-item University of Michigan EPT in the EPT Administration Manual. This makes it easy for programs to transition from the older version to the new test. If your program used Compass ESL, contact us for guidance.
Benefits of a computer-based test
- No complex preregistration needed—students can enter their information when they arrive to take the test
- Supported and backed by Michigan Language Assessment research
- Simple system requirements: a student can take the test on any computer with headphones and an up-to-date web browser
- Easy-to-navigate interface for the test taker: test sections are clearly marked, with separate time limits and instructions provided
- You can run score reports immediately—no hand-scoring or scantron sheets
Contact us prior to your first purchase to ensure the test is right for you. The Michigan EPT requires a minimum purchase of 25, but any quantity above that can be purchased.