FAQ about ESL Writing Courses for Credit

Q: Can I complete my undergraduate English requirement by taking these courses?
A: Yes. As a non-native speaker of English, you may complete the English portion of your General Education Requirements (GER) for your bachelor's degree by taking ESL writing courses instead of the writing courses designed for native speakers of English.

If you take ESL writing courses for credit, you will not need to take English 095 or 101. You will need to take English 102, but you may choose to take a section of English 102 reserved for students who grew up using a language other than English at home. Contact Larry Kuiper (kuiper@uwm.edu, 229-6660 or Curtin 674) to register for an ESL section of English 102.

Q: What is the ESL-PIC test?
A: The English as a Second Language-Placement in Composition (ESL-PIC) test is the placement test for the ESL writing courses for credit. (It is not required for ESL 120 or ESL 115.) The ESL-PIC test is not the same as the English Placement Test (EPT), which is the placement test for writing courses designed for native speakers of English. The ESL-PIC test takes about 75 minutes and asks you to write an essay on a specific topic, such as "Do you think it is better to eat at home or at a restaurant?" If you have already taken the EPT, you may also take the ESL-PIC test. You may take the ESL-PIC test more than once. There is no fee for taking the ESL-PIC test. Schedule a time to take the ESL-PIC test at the Testing Center, Mellencamp B28, 414-229-4689.

Q: How are the ESL writing courses different from the writing courses for native speakers of English?
A: The ESL writing courses are designed to meet the specific language needs of people who grew up using a language other than English at home. The specially-trained ESL writing teachers provide one-on-one instruction for non-native speakers of English. In the ESL writing courses, you will learn the same kinds of college writing skills that native speakers of English learn in their college writing courses, but you will get additional English language instruction that is not available in the writing courses designed for native speakers of English. Non-native speakers of English often have difficulty passing the English courses designed for native speakers of English because they need instruction on specific language problems.

You need to take the ESL-PIC test, even if you have already taken the EPT, to see which ESL writing course is right for you.

Q: I've lived here a long time and speak English very well although my first home language was not English. Should I still take the ESL-PIC test?
A: Yes. Taking the ESL-PIC test will give you more information to help you decide which writing course sequence is better for you. Unless the EPT places you in English 102 or higher, you will benefit by taking ESL writing courses instead of the writing courses designed for native speakers of English.

Q: I already took the TOEFL or IELTS. Do I still need to take the ESL-PIC test?
A: Yes. TOEFL and IELTS measure your English proficiency to see if you are ready to study at the university level. These are pre-admission tests. The ESL-PIC test is intended for people who have already been admitted to UWM for university studies at the undergraduate (bachelor’s degree) level. The ESL-PIC test is a placement test to see which ESL writing course you should take to complete your GER English requirement for a bachelor’s degree at UWM. There is no fee for taking the ESL-PIC test.

Q: I am a graduate student. May I take an ESL writing course?
A: Yes. Graduate students are welcome to take ESL writing courses. ESL 120 (3 credits) and ESL 115 (6 credits) are especially popular courses for graduate students who are not native speakers of English. You may take ESL 120 or ESL 115 without taking our placement test (the ESL-PIC test).

You may take ESL writing courses on a credit/no-credit basis so that the grade does not appear on your transcript.

As a graduate student, if you are already registered for 8 or 9 graduate credits, you will pay no additional tuition to take an ESL writing course. You may register on PAWS for ESL 120 (3 credits) without any special permission.

If taking ESL 115 (6 credits) or another ESL writing course means that you would be registered for more than 12 credits, you will need special permission from the Graduate School to take more than 12 credits—even though the undergraduate credits from an ESL writing course will not count towards your graduate program and will not be counted in your grade point average (GPA). To get permission to take more than 12 credits, you need to go to the Graduate Student Services office in Mitchell 261 and ask for an “exemption form” to take more than 12 credits. (They will not allow you to take more than 15 credits, but they usually give permission for graduate students to take 13-15 credits for the purpose of taking an ESL writing course.)

Q: I am not a UWM student, but I would like to take an ESL writing course. May I do that?
A: Yes, but you will need to apply and be accepted as a “special” student at UWM. At UWM, “special” students are people who qualify for university admission but are not currently working on a degree at UWM. For more information and to apply to take one or more classes at UWM, visit Special Student Information.

The cost of taking an ESL writing course will depend on how many credits you take and whether UWM considers you a resident of Wisconsin. For information about tuition and for UWM classes, visit Tuition and Fees and look for the current semester; then look for tuition and fees for undergraduates for on-campus courses (not “audit”).

ESL 120 (Grammar and Editing in English as a Second Language, 3 credits) and ESL 115 (Basic Writing in English as a Second Language, 6 credits) are especially popular courses for people who want to strengthen their English. You may take ESL 120 or ESL 115 without taking our placement test (the ESL-PIC test). For brief course descriptions, visit the Course Descriptions page.

You may take ESL writing courses on a credit/no-credit basis so that the grade does not count in your Grade Point Average (GPA) or appear on your transcript.

Q: I would like to audit an ESL Writing course. What should I do?
A: Sorry, but we do not allow auditors in ESL writing courses.

Questions?

Larry Kuiper, ESL Interim Director
e-mail: kuiper@uwm.edu
phone: +1-414-229-6660
office: Curtin Hall 674