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ESL Intake Interview Sample

ESL Evaluation

Introduce yourself first!

Level 1: Beginner
few words, many hesitations, no ability to extend conversation
Level 2: Low – Intermediate
simple answers, little conversation, many errors
  • What's your name?
  • Where are you from?
  • What time is it?


  • Where is the teacher?
  • Where are the flowers?
  • What is Jane doing?
    (point to picture 4)
  • How many pictures are there?
  • How long have you lived in Colorado?
  • What did you do yesterday?
  • Do you have a hobby? >> What is it?


  • What are Mike and Sue doing?
    >> Why?
    (point to picture 3)
  • What's happening in this picture?
    (point to picture 5)
  • Where are the people in picture 1?
Level 3: Intermediate – High
some elaboration, can converse with errors and some hesitations
Level 4: Advanced
lots of elaboration & interaction, errors don't hinder communication
  • Have you ever taken the TOEFL test?
    >> What was your score?
    (paper 525 / computer 197 >> try L4)
  • Can you tell me what some of the differences are between Colorado and your country?
  • What's your favorite season? >> Why?


  • In picture 1, who will not get wet?
  • What happened to Sam and what should he do next?
  • What did Tom Smith do? >> Why?
  • What's the most memorable vacation you've ever had? >> Can you tell me more about it?
  • Can you describe the health care system in your country? >> What do you think about it?
  • What do you want to be doing in five years? >> Do you think it's possible?
  • If I were to go to your country as a tourist, what should I see?


  • Choose one of these pictures and tell me a short story about it.

ISI 2003 Photocopiable www.isifc.org

Instructions for testing:

1. Introduce yourself first.

2. If the student appears responsive and able to converse, begin with level 3 questions. If the student appears confused or very shy, begin with level 2.

3. Speak at a normal pace while testing, slowing down and offering explanations only if the student is unable to understand. (If this occurs often, try a lower level.)

4. When finished, please circle the appropriate level number on the intake form.

Levels – 1 and 2 are pre-conversational, 3 and 4 are conversational

Level 3 questions: Ask a couple of questions of your choice and listen for hesitations, errors, and vocabulary problems. If you are maintaining a conversation but find yourself asking for clarification or correcting the student frequently, or if the pace is slow, you have a level 3 student. If you experience no difficulty, move on to level 4 without asking all level 3 questions. If you have a lot of trouble maintaining conversation, drop down to level 2 questions.

Level 4 questions: If the student is able to continue with little difficulty and gives extended answers and keeps a steady pace with few hesitations, you have a level 4 student. Some errors are expected but they should not hinder communication. If the student has difficulty, go back to level 3 questions. You may have a level 3 or level 3/4 student.

Note: a high TOEFL score does not mean the student is automatically level 4.

Level 2 questions: Ask a couple of questions and if the student answers quickly and easily, try level 3 without asking all level 2 questions. If level 3 is too difficult, you may have a level 2/3 student. If the student does not understand or cannot answer easily, move to level 1.

Level 1 questions: Whether or not the student can answer any of the questions, you have a level 1 student if level 2 is too difficult.

Used by permission. This is an ESL intake test used by International Students, Inc. (a nonprofit organization) at Colorado State University. It assesses oral communication ability. A separate page of drawings has not been included due to copyright. The drawings are: 1) Ann and Bill standing in the rain, Sara and Peter walking with an umbrella; 2) Sam with a paintbrush in his hand and his foot stuck in a paint bucket, another painter on a ladder behind him; 3) Mike and Sue reading a travel guide; 4) Jane sitting on a stack of books, reading; 5) Peter Jones handing Sally Jones a pot of flowers; 6) Tom Smith carrying shopping bags filled with painting supplies, a paint store with a 'big sale' sign behind him; 7) Mrs. Adams sitting behind a table with a book and an apple, pointing to a math equation on a blackboard.