The History of English as a Second Language (ESL) Testing at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA): A Critical Analysis



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), like other community colleges, does not require Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) scores or similar entrance examinations for admission. However, new college applicants must demonstrate their levels of reading, writing, and mathematics skills to determine whether they need developmental courses to prepare them academically for college-level work. NOVA uses two different English placement tests: one for native English speakers (the Virginia Placement Test in English), and the other for non-native speakers of English (ACCUPLACER). The focus of this study was English placement testing for English as a Second Language (ESL) students. It chronologically recorded various placement tests adopted by the college from its founding in 1965 until 2019 and investigated the historical background of various English placement tests used over the years. The historical research method was used for this study. The study examined and explored old records and archives to chronicle the ESL placement process at the college through the lens of critical discourse analysis (CDA). The findings of this study suggest that there is a double standard in English placement testing for ESL students and native English-speaking students at NOVA. ESL courses are considered remedial and ESL students don’t get any foreign language credits being native speakers of their respective foreign languages. This is an issue of equal opportunity and fairness. It also creates extra financial burden for these students. The findings of this study will help the college to improve its ESL testing procedures for better placement of incoming students.