Frequently Asked Questions
What is Conditional Admission to USC?
Conditional Admission means that you are admitted to USC with certain conditions. One of these conditions may have to do with English proficiency. If you have the ALI 01 restriction, it means that you need to take the International Student English (ISE) exam before registering for classes. You should take the ISE exam as soon as possible since you will not be able to register until you receive your ISE exam results.
All international students are required to take the ISE exam except:
- Ph.D. and undergraduate applicants who have achieved an Internet Based TOEFL (iBT) score of 100, with no less than 20 on each sub-score; or an IELTS score of 7, with no less than 6 on each band score, taken within the past 2 years, will be exempted from taking USC’s ISE Exam.
- Applicants to master’s programs who have attained an iBT score of 90, with no less than 20 on each sub-score; or an IELTS score of 6.5, with no less than 6 on each band score, taken within the past 2 years, will be exempted from taking USC’s ISE exam.
- Students with a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited university located in the U.S. or in another country in which English is both the language of instruction and the only official language of the country. The entire program must be completed in the qualifying country. Please note: a graduate degree from a U.S. college or university does not exempt students from taking the ISE exam.
- Students whose native language is English.
Please note that departments may require additional English proficiency. You may refer to your official admission letter for your conditions of admission.
If you meet any of these conditions but still have the ALI-01 hold, see the ALI Advisor in JEF 206 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your USC ID number and name.
What is the ISE exam?
The ISE exam is a free placement exam given to determine the English proficiency of international students. After taking the ISE exam, students are either "released" from any ALI requirement or will receive an ALI placement. A student's ALI placement may vary from 2 units to more than 18 units depending on their ISE test scores.
The ISE exam is a two-part exam:
- Written section: Students have 40 minutes to write an essay on a given topic.
- Oral Interview: Students are interviewed by trained raters for approximately 8–10 minutes.
Both parts of the test are graded on a scale of 0-7 (where a score of 6 or above represents sufficient English proficiency so as to require no supplemental English coursework for academic success). The oral interview may be on a different day than the written section. You will be given information about the time of your oral interview when you take the written section.
In order to take the ISE exam, you will need the following items:
- Your USC ID card or passport
- Your USC admission letter
- A pen
After completing the ISE exam, score results will be available online and you will receive an email to your USC email account when they are ready.
How do I register for the ISE exam?
You can find out when and where the test will be given by visiting the ISE exam page at https://aliweb.usc.edu/ise/signup.jsp or by calling the American Language Institute at (213) 740-0079.
If I can’t come to the ISE exam date that is on the website, what should I do?
If you cannot attend the ISE exam that is currently posted on the website, you may check back on or after that test date for additional tests. Tests are posted one at a time.
We recommend that you to take it as soon as possible because you will not be able to register for any classes until after you receive your ISE exam results.
Email email@example.com with your USC ID number and name for more information.
I signed up for the ISE exam but now my plans have changed and I can't make it. What should I do?
You may email firstname.lastname@example.org with your USC ID number to be removed from the exam. You may check back on or after that test date to sign up for the next exam.
I am a new international student. How do I register with an ALI-01 hold?
- Make sure your USC email account has been activated. This will allow you to get your scores on-line. If you haven’t activated your email account yet, go to email.usc.edu and click on “Activate your email account”.
- Take the ISE exam.
- After taking the exam, you will receive an email instructing you to login to the ALI web site to get your test results.
- On the web site you will receive your test results and further instructions. You can then click on a link to USC Web Registration to register for classes.
- Before registering online you may need to clear any other registration restrictions you have and see an advisor in your department.
I would like to retake the TOEFL/IELTS. What should I do? When should I take it?
We recommend that you take the TOEFL/IELTS before the semester begins.
You may email email@example.com a copy of the online score report as soon as it is available along with your USC ID number.
For TOEFL takers, online scores are processed in about 10 days. You should also have ETS send the scores to USC. When you take the test, you may select USC as your institution (our code is 4852.) For more information, visit http://www.ets.org/toefl/ibt/faq/
For IELTS takers, online scores are processed in about 13 calendar days. For more information, visit http://www.ielts.org/test_takers_information/test_takers_faqs.aspx
For additional advisement, the ALI Advisor is available to help you with your planning. You may email firstname.lastname@example.org.
When must I take required ALI classes?
ALI classes must be taken starting the first semester and continued each semester until all required classes are completed. Master's degree students have the additional option of completing their ALI requirement before arriving on campus by enrolling in ALI Online. ALI classes cannot be deferred.
How much do ALI classes cost?
ALI classes are billed at the regular USC tuition rate.
How many ALI classes do I need to take?
The number of ALI classes you need to take will depend on your English proficiency level which will be determined from the ISE exam. Your writing and oral skills will be evaluated when you take the ISE exam. You may be placed in a writing or oral skills class, or both. After taking the required ALI course, you may have another class assigned or be released from ALI classes.
It's after the first week of class and I want to change sections. Can I change sections since I have until the add/drop deadline to do so?
Given the nature of the curriculum and the format of the ALI class, joining a section after the first week of the semester places a student at a severe disadvantage in terms of the goals and requirements of the course. For this reason, requests to change sections after the first week are usually denied. On the basis of extraordinary circumstances, a student may initiate an exception request to the ALI Advisor (email@example.com): such requests require both administrative and instructor approval.
Why do I have an ALI hold even though I already took the ISE exam and am registered in an ALI course?
All students who have an ALI requirement will continue to have the hold until the requirement is satisfied. During registration, the hold is removed so that you can use web registration. You will be notified via email of these times.
If you need to add or drop a class after the designated times to use web registration, you may do the following:
- If you need to add or drop a non-ALI class, you may do so by going to the registration office or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Your email must be sent from your USC email account and must include your student ID number and the 5 digit section numbers of the classes you want to add or drop. All requests will be processed by the Registration Office by 5pm Monday through Friday on the day requested.
- If you would like to add or drop an ALI course, please come into the ALI office at JEF206.