English Language Testing


Scroll down to questions below to find the answer.

What is USEPT?

The test is designed for use within the University of Sheffield. It aims to help admissions officers decide whether a student’s level of English is sufficient for them to follow a course of academic study. It was established to allow departments to receive an accurate and rapid assessment of an applicant’s language ability.

What does the USEPT test consist of?

The test consists of four sections: Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking:

Writing (40 minutes)

Students must write an essay of approximately 250 words on given topic.

The score is based on an assessment of task achievement, coherence, vocabulary, and grammatical range and accuracy. Writing scripts are double-marked by two experienced and standardised writing assessors.

Reading (40 questions, 60 minutes)

Questions are based on 3 texts of approximately 300 - 600 words. The range of topics is of general interest, typically from broadsheet newspapers and magazines. Question types may include: multiple choice, choosing the correct headings for paragraphs and summary completion.

Listening (35 questions, approx. 50 minutes including 10 minutes transfer time)

Students listen to an audio recording divided into three sections and answer written questions. The first two sections will involve listening to a dialogue relating to general living in England, possibly requiring a form to be filled in, or an excerpt from a radio programme on a topic of general interest. The third section, the lecture, requires students to listen and take notes before completing a task. Question types can include: form completion, multiple choice, short answers, and sentence/text completion. Students write their answers directly on the question sheet then transfer their answers to the answer sheet at the end of the test. Both written and oral instructions are given at the beginning of each section and time is given for students to read the questions before listening. Sections one and two are heard once only, and section three is heard twice. Questions are in the same order as the text and at the end of each section students should turn immediately to the next section.

Speaking (approx. 15 minutes)

Students are tested in pairs by two experienced language teachers (one speaking, one observing). The test has a structured format and is divided into three sections. In part 1, individual candidates answer questions related to general, everyday topics. Part two is a paired discussion on more challenging topics such as current issues or a more in-depth discussion of everyday topics. The students will have time to prepare and make notes. Part three follows on with questions loosely based on the topic of discussion part two.

The following criteria are used to assess the candidates speaking ability- fluency and coherence, pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and interactive communication.

What skills does the test score reflect?

The USEPT can show the English language level of a student, through the assessment of reading, writing, listening and speaking. However, further sub-skills, including grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary, interaction and organisation of ideas, are tested.  Although the test uses general academic texts and subjects, it does not assess a student’s academic ability, nor specialist subject knowledge. This is in line with other international tests, such as IELTS or TOEFL.

When can they take the test?

The USEPT is held at least 4 times a year and open at no charge to all UoS students and applicants who hold a firm offer. However, ad hoc tests can be arranged at the discretion of the ELTC with academic departments’ agreement. Individual candidates and departments should contact the centre directly at eltc.exams@sheffield.ac.uk.   External students or those without a firm UoS offer cannot take the test and are asked to consider taking the IELTS test instead. See https://ielts.britishcouncil.org/universityofsheffield for details.

How long do the results take?

During normal test periods, results can take up to 7 days. However, if departments need them sooner, they can request this.

What scores do the candidates receive?

Candidates receive a USEPT certificate, an officially stamped document that details a score for each of the four components and an overall score.

Scores range from 30 to 90 in multiples of 5.  A USEPT certificate might typically report scores as follows;

Listening Reading Writing Speaking Overall
60 50 55 60 55

Please see the link below to compare how these scores relate to IELTS and other recognised language tests.

How can the results be interpreted?

IELTS offer a useful range of resources designed for institutions to make decisions on acceptance based on IELTS scores, but they can equally apply to USEPT scores as well.  Please see links to IELTS information below.  The table below is a useful starting point in interpreting the results.

A table showing IELTS results

Who recognises the test?

The USEPT certificate gives scores for each component and an overall score. This is recognised by most departments at the University of Sheffield and occasionally some other local institutions. Each decides their own entry requirements though minimums are set for undergraduate and postgraduate study. For more information please visit;



How does it compare to internationally recognised English language tests (e.g. IELTS, TOEFL)?

For comparisons with recognised tests, please visit this link.  

How can I contact the ELTC?

Questions related to the USEPT should be directed to eltc.exams@sheffield.ac.uk

For further information about IELTS;

See upcoming sittings of IELTS at the ELTC; http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/eltc/englishtests/ielts

See a more detailed description of the various elements of the IELTS test; http://www.ielts.org/test_takers_information.aspx

Download a detailed PDF document in which the IELTS partners, The British Council, IDP and Cambridge English Language Assessment,  detailing the relevance of the IELTS test for educational, professional and governmental organisations; http://www.ielts.org/pdf/Guide_for_Institutions_and_Organisations2011.pdf