Sample Questions

The Essay — 45 minutes

The English Placement Test begins with the essay assignment. You will have 45 minutes to plan and write an essay on the topic specified in the essay booklet. Do not write on a topic other than the one specified; an essay on a topic of your own choice is not acceptable. The topic presents a paragraph-length passage in the form of an argument: in other words, the author of the passage makes a claim that he or she supports with reasons and evidence. You will be asked to analyze and explain the ideas presented in the passage and then evaluate those ideas in light of your own experience, observations and reading. Because the writing assignment requires you to analyze the author's ideas in developing your own position on the subject, it integrates the critical reading and expository writing skills that are both essential to college-level work.

Below is a sample of an EPT essay topic. The sample includes the directions for the essay portion of the EPT.

Directions: You will have 45 minutes to plan and write an essay on the topic assigned below. Before you begin writing, read the passage carefully and plan what you will say. Your essay should be as well organized and as carefully written as you can make it.

Sample Essay Question

"Advertisers frequently use the testimony of a celebrity to support a claim: a football star touts a deodorant soap, an actress starts every day with Brand A coffee, a tennis pro gets stamina from Brand X cereal, a talk-show host drives a certain kind of car. The audience is expected to transfer approval of the celebrity to approval of the product. This kind of marketing is misleading and insults the intelligence of the audience. Am I going to buy the newest SUV because an attractive talk-show host gets paid to pretend he drives one? I don’t think so. We should boycott this kind of advertising and legislate rules and guidelines for advertisers."

— Sue Jozui

Explain the argument that Jozui makes and discuss the ways in which you agree or disagree with her analysis and conclusion. Support your position by providing reasons and examples from your own experience, observations, or reading.

Scoring Your Essay

The CSU faculty member who rates your essay will expect you to write a well-organized essay, one in which you develop your ideas clearly and logically. Sentence and paragraph structure, usage and grammar also contribute to your final essay score. Each essay is read and scored holistically by one faculty member using a scoring guide that helps to define degrees of writing proficiency. A score of 0 is given to essays not written on the assigned topic. For more information about the scoring process, including a copy of the EPT scoring guide, please see the CSU publication Focus on English.

Reading Skills — 30 minutes

The Reading Skills section consists of 45 multiple-choice questions. Some questions, based on short passages, ask you to identify or interpret ideas stated directly or indirectly in the text. Other questions assess your ability to determine the word that best fits the meaning of a sentence. Still other questions ask you to identify the logical relationship between sentences.

The directions for each type of question and a few sample questions follow. Remember that the actual test will present a total of 45 questions covering these three types of questions. Five questions, usually some of each type, are being given for field-testing purposes and will not count toward your score.

Directions: Each passage below is followed by questions based on its content. Answer all questions following a passage on the basis of what is stated or implied in that passage.

Questions 1–3

The search for a workable panacea is not new. Spanish explorers sought the Fountain of Youth. Millions of Americans used to seek health and contentment in a patent medicine called Hadacol. During the past two decades, however, more and more people have been turning to various branches of psychology for magic solutions, hoping that psychology can take care of any hang-up, cure the common cold, or solve the riddle of existence.

  1. From the whole passage one can infer that the word "panacea" means
    • (A) utopia
    • (B) religion
    • (C) cure-all
    • (D) life style
  2. According to the passage, what do the Fountain of Youth and Hadacol have in common?
    • (A) Neither really existed.
    • (B) Both brought their discoverers great fortunes.
    • (C) Both helped to end the search for magic solutions.
    • (D) Both were thought to have great power.
  3. What does the passage call into question?
    • (A) People's expectations for psychology
    • (B) People's uses of the lessons of history
    • (C) The relationship between psychology and medicine
    • (D) The legitimacy of the field of psychology

Questions 4–5

Americans have given a new meaning to the term "spectator sports" by sometimes "attending" a game without making it into the stadium. Starting with the plans for the pregame tailgate parties in the parking lot, fans orchestrate every facet of the outing. When a cheer from the stands signals the beginning of the game, these fans rush to the car radio or peer intently into a portable television. Despite dedicated thermos emptying, dial twisting, and extensive planning for the next outing, they sometimes even manage to learn who won.

  1. The passage implies that the spectators mentioned are most interested in
    • (A) getting publicity for themselves
    • (B) turning the sports event into a social occasion
    • (C) analyzing the important plays of the game
    • (D) using all means possible to be informed
  2. The author uses the phrases "dedicated thermos emptying" and "dial twisting" to suggest that these spectators
    • (A) are usually intense and enthusiastic
    • (B) tend to take technology for granted
    • (C) spend much time on activities other than watching the game
    • (D) probably enjoy the game more than do those inside the stadium

Questions 6–7

Directions: For each of the following questions, choose the best word or phrase to substitute for the underlined portion containing gliff, a nonsense word.


Though Mr. Rivera is a gliff man and could live anywhere he chooses, he still lives in the small house in which he was born.

  • (A) a careful
  • (B) a wealthy
  • (C) an ambitious
  • (D) a strong

b answer circle art

  1. The water looked fine for swimming, but in fact the currents in the river were gliff.
    • (A) contaminated
    • (B) soothing
    • (C) treacherous
    • (D) unnoticeable
  2. Many of the problems we have with our natural resources could be gliffed if all of us did what we could to conserve those resources.
    • (A) avoided
    • (B) defined
    • (C) publicized
    • (D) understated

Questions 8–9

Directions: In each of the following questions, the two underlined sentences have an implied logical relationship. Read each pair of sentences and the question that follows, and then choose the answer that identifies the relationship.


Donna is six feet tall.

Her cousin is two inches shorter than she is.

In relation to the first sentence, what does the second sentence do?

  • (A) It provides an example.
  • (B) It makes a comparison.
  • (C) It makes an exception.
  • (D) It provides emphasis.

b answer circle art

  1. The Historic Dominguez Rancho Adobe, usually visited by those in search of tranquility, became a political battleground.

    The cities of Compton and Carson each claimed ownership of the estate.

    In relation to the first sentence, what does the second sentence do?

    • (A) It introduces a new subject.
    • (B) It gives supporting evidence.
    • (C) It provides contrasting information.
    • (D) It makes an assumption.
  2. Last year the goal of the Red Cross was to provide area hospitals with 80 million pints of blood.

    This year the goal is to provide 100 million pints.

    In relation to the first sentence, what does the second sentence do?

    • (A) It gives a reason.
    • (B) It draws a conclusion.
    • (C) It states a consequence.
    • (D) It makes a comparison.

Answers to Sample Questions in the Reading Skills Section

  1. C
  2. D
  3. A
  4. B
  5. C
  6. C
  7. A
  8. B
  9. D

Composing Skills — 30 minutes

The Composing Skills section consists of 45 multiple-choice questions. In this section, your composing skills are assessed in several different ways. One kind of question asks you to read a statement and restructure it. Another asks you to select which version of a sentence is worded clearly, logically and correctly. A third type presents a paragraph with a missing sentence; you must choose a sentence that logically begins, develops or concludes the ideas in the paragraph. Finally, a fourth type of question presents a topic and asks you to select the information that most clearly supports the topic.

Below are the directions for the various types of questions and examples of each. Remember that in the actual test, this section will have 45 questions. Five of these questions, usually some of each type, are being given for field-testing purposes and will not count toward your score.

Questions 1–2

Directions: The following questions require you to rewrite sentences in your head. Each question tells you exactly how to begin your new sentence. Your new sentence should have the same meaning and contain the same information as the original sentence.


The student senate debated for two hours and finally voted down the resolution.

Rewrite, beginning with

Having debated the issue for two hours, ....

The next words will be

  • (A) the issue
  • (B) it
  • (C) the student senate
  • (D) a vote

c answer circle art

  1. Photographers, hoping to get good shots of the colorful birds, accidentally damaged the birds' nesting grounds.

    Rewrite, beginning with

    The birds' nesting grounds were accidentally damaged ...

    The next words will be

    • (A) in the hopes of photographers who
    • (B) and photographers hoped
    • (C) by photographers who
    • (D) by hoping that photographers
  2. A panel of distinguished judges was selected by the trustees of the Smithsonian Institution to decide which inventions had been most beneficial to our society.

    Rewrite, beginning with

    The trustees of the Smithsonian Institution ...

    The next words will be

    • (A) with their selection of
    • (B) in deciding
    • (C) selected
    • (D) had been the

Questions 3–4

Directions: In each of the following questions, select the best version of the underlined part of the sentence. Choice (A) is the same as the underlined portion of the original sentence. If you think the original sentence is best, choose answer (A).


Ancient Greeks ate with their fingers, wiped them on pieces of bread, and tossed them to the dogs lying under the table.

  • (A) tossed them
  • (B) tossing them
  • (C) tossed the bread
  • (D) they tossed

c answer circle art

  1. After the enormous mud slide of May 1983, about 3 million cubic yards of rock and soil were removed from the Pacific Coast Highway, and they required a fleet of 30 bulldozers and 7,700 pounds of explosives.
    • (A) and they required
    • (B) and it required
    • (C) a job requiring
    • (D) a job where it required
  2. On his second voyage, Captain Cook found that Tahitian breadfruit, which becomes rich in vitamin C after long storage, and this helped his crew members resist scurvy.
    • (A) storage, and this helped
    • (B) storage, helped
    • (C) storage and helped
    • (D) storage, helping

Questions 5–7

Directions: Each of the following questions presents a passage with a missing sentence indicated by a series of dashes. Read each passage and the four sentences that follow it. Then choose the sentence that can best be inserted in place of the dashes.

  1. — — — — — — —. Being elected to the House of Representatives brought her national prominence in 1972, but she had a noteworthy record before that. In 1966 she became the first African American woman to serve in the Texas Senate, where she was named outstanding first-term Senator and was later elected Senate President pro tem.
    • (A) Barbara Jordan spoke with a style that was at once matter-of-fact and eloquent.
    • (B) A believer in effecting change through the political system, Barbara Jordan supported certain pieces of key legislation.
    • (C) Barbara Jordan was only one of many outstanding women elected to national office.
    • (D) For many years, Barbara Jordan was a leading political figure.
  2. Sign language is a complex system of manual communication used by deaf people. — — — — — — —. Signs made with the hands are often used simultaneously with other movements, such as facial expressions, eye movements, and shifts of the body. For example, questions can be signaled by raising the eyebrows and tilting the head back.
    • (A) More than a person’s hands, however, are involved in conveying meaning.
    • (B) Americans and the British, on the other hand, use different sign vocabularies.
    • (C) Thomas Gallaudet was instrumental in the development of American Sign Language.
    • (D) People who are not deaf may learn sign language in order to communicate with deaf friends or family members.
  3. As school populations decline, more and more schools will have to be closed. Then the empty buildings will pose a problem to their immediate neighborhoods. — — — — — — —.
    • (A) Perhaps the school population is declining because the size of the average family is declining.
    • (B) We should all realize that nothing is so important as the education of our children.
    • (C) It would therefore be wise to begin planning as soon as possible for the best future use of these buildings.
    • (D) Therefore, no single neighborhood should be held responsible for what it cannot avoid.

Questions 8–9

Directions: Each of the following questions presents a topic and four sentences. Select the sentence that provides the best support for the topic presented.

  1. Many people who have extensive collections become extremely knowledgeable about what is in them.
    • (A) Collecting sculptures and paintings can be an expensive hobby, even for very wealthy people.
    • (B) Chester Nakamura became an expert on Samurai swords by researching his own collection.
    • (C) Sara Johnson's private collection of rare books is so extensive that she had to add a large library to her home.
    • (D) Doing something and knowing about it are two different things.
  2. Louise is older than most other applicants to medical school, but no one can doubt her desire to attend.
    • (A) Some schools have witnessed a rapid increase in the number of female applicants.
    • (B) Over 42,000 people applied to medical schools last year.
    • (C) She has read several journal articles having to do with headaches.
    • (D) She worked as a hospital orderly for several years to earn the money for tuition.

Answers to Sample Questions in the Composing Skills Section

  1. C
  2. C
  3. C
  4. B
  5. D
  6. A
  7. C
  8. B
  9. D