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7-Week Intensive ESL

VIU’s 7-week ESL program for second language English learners offers instruction at seven levels of proficiency: low beginner, beginner, elementary, low intermediate, intermediate, high intermediate and advanced. Each level can be completed in one term of full-time study. The overall length of the program depends on the student’s initial placement and how quickly the student progresses from one level to the next.

Each level includes 140 academic hours of classroom instruction per level, per term. Each term is seven weeks long and full-time students receive 20 hours of classroom instruction per week. In addition to the regular ESL classes, students placed in the high advanced level or higher are given an option of selecting intensive TOEFL courses, the focus of which is TOEFL iBT preparation.

Please click here to view the current intensive ESL program schedule.

CEA LogoThe Virginia International University 7-Week English Program is accredited by the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA).

Level Courses
 Low Beginner (200) 2 core courses:
Speaking, Listening & Pronunciation
Reading, Writing & Grammar
Levels 0200 – 0500 are Foundation Level Courses
 Beginner (300)
 Elementary (400)
 Low Intermediate (500)
Level University Preparation Courses TOEFL Track
Intermediate (600) Speaking, Listening & Pronunciation Reading, Writing & Grammar Not offered at this level
High Intermediate (700) Speaking, Listening & Pronunciation Reading, Writing & Grammar TOEFL & Academic Listening
TOEFL & Academic Reading
(Not offered every term)
Advanced (800) 1 required course for all students:
Academic Writing & Research Skills
1 – 2 elective courses:
Public Speaking & Presentation Skills
Accent Reduction
Critical Thinking: News Around the World
Grammar Workshop & Editing
English for Business Professionals
IELTS Preparation
(Not every class will be offered every term)
TOEFL & Academic Listening
TOEFL & Academic Reading
(Not offered every term) 
  • General Expectations: Full-time ESL students attend 20 or more hours of classes each week. The ESL tuition includes the cost for textbooks, which will be given to students upon receipt of tuition payment. All VIU students are expected to participate in class discussions and activities and to come to class prepared. Students are bound by the VIU’s Academic Integrity and Code of Excellence and are responsible for the integrity and originality of their work. VIU expects students to be respectful of all students’ ethnic, religious, and language backgrounds. VIU is a diverse community, with as many as 60 nations represented in the student body. We value sharing those experiences in cooperative learning environments.
  • Attendance: F-1 student visa regulations and VIU’s own attendance policy require all students to attend at least 75% of their scheduled classes and to arrive to class on time. VIU maintains meticulous attendance records and will cancel students’ I-20s if they cannot maintain their visa status. Furthermore, low attendance will have a negative effect on a student’s grades and may result in a failing grade. Failing more than one course per semester means that the student will have to repeat the whole level.
  • Program Advancement and Completion: Level 300-700 students must pass all core courses to advance to the next level. Full-time 0800 students who pass 140 hours of the 0800-level courses including ESL 806 and earn a higher score on the Program Exit Test than was earned on the placement test will receive a certificate of program completion. For students who fail to meet the Exit Test requirement, the Exit Test may be taken one additional time for a fee of $30. The program completion certificate serves as evidence of sufficient English proficiency for admission to VIU’s degree programs.

I am not satisfied with my placement test score. May I take it again?

You cannot take the test again if you have already taken it for this term. You are allowed to take the placement test once per term.

May I change my class?

You may only change your classes during the add/drop period (the first week of the term).

How can I go to the next level and get a certificate for the level I have completed?

Students in levels 300-700 must pass ALL core courses to advance to the next level.
Level 800 students must pass 20 hours at that level and take the program exit test to receive a program completion certificate.

F-1 students (full-time international students) who pass the abovementioned number of courses will receive a certificate of completion for the term.

Why are my grades S/U instead of A-F?

VIU ESL is a non-credit program and therefore has a pass/fail grading system. S means “satisfactory,” which means that they student has received a 75% or higher in the course and is a passing grade. U means “unsatisfactory,” which means that the student has received below a 75% in the course and is a failing grade.

Can I pay my tuition online?

If you are a new student, you cannot register for your courses or pay your tuition online.
If you are a continuing student, you may register by emailing your academic advisor. You may then pay your tuition online once registration is complete.

I passed all of my courses! When can I get my certificate?

Once you complete the course, you need to fill out a certificate request form which can be found outside of room 232. The form has to be signed by the director of the program and then turned into the registrar’s office.
It takes about a month after the term ends for all departments (Registrar’s Office, Accounting Office, Library, etc.) to clear you. When your certificate is ready for pick-up, you will get an email at your VIU campus email account. Pick up your certificate in the Registrar’s Office.
If you are no longer in the US, you can request a scanned copy of your certificate (free), ask a friend or family member to pick it up (free), or have it mailed to you (requires a fee).

I don’t feel well enough to attend a class. What should I do?

If you are not feeling well and would like your absence to be excused, please go see a doctor and get a doctor’s note. The doctor’s note MUST be submitted to the SLS Director within two weeks of your absence. (Note: A doctor’s note that has multiple, non-consecutive dates will not be accepted.)

Email all of your instructors and inform them that you will be absent. (Note: This will not excuse your absence.)

What does “excused absence” mean?

If your absence is excused it means your instructors will allow you to make up your missed work which was due on the day of your absence. In other words, you may submit your homework late or take any quizzes you missed.

I was sick, but I didn’t go see a doctor. I just wanted to rest at home and take medicine that I brought from my home country. Can my absence be excused?

Unfortunately, we cannot excuse your absence unless you provide us with a doctor’s note.

What is considered an excused absence? Can you give some examples?

Below are a few examples of types of absences. Please note that these don’t cover everything!

EXCUSED (Supporting Documents Required) UNEXCUSED
Doctor appointment (with note from doctor) Picking up a friend or family member at the airport
Your child’s doctor appointment (with note from doctor) Taking a driver’s license test
Family emergency Traveling for pleasure
Alarm clock malfunction
Stayed home sick (without note from doctor)

I am in level 500. May I take TOEFL classes?

We currently offer intensive TOEFL courses to students in levels 700 and 800 only. Student benefit most from TOEFL classes when they have high English proficiency.

I am in level 800. What happens if I don’t take the exit test?

You will not be able to get your program completion certificate if you do not take the exit test.

I am going out of the country. Who should I talk to?

Talk to your academic advisor and Camila McTighe who is the DSO officer that assists ESL students. Camilla’s office is located at 4401 Village Drive in the DSO office on the first floor. You will need to get travel documents.

I have complaints about my teacher/classmate. Who should I talk to?

Most complaints are the result of a misunderstanding. Talk to your teacher/classmate first and see if you can resolve the problem together by agreeing to a solution. If that does not work, consult your advisor. If you still need assistance, please see the SLS Director.

Do I have to take the TOEFL to get into the academic program?

No. As long as you successfully complete VIU’s ESL program, you will automatically be admitted to one of VIU’s academic programs without having to submit a TOEFL or IELTS score.

If I do poorly on the exit test, does that mean I cannot get into my degree program?

No. The exit test is for us to track your progress. It is also a great opportunity for you to see your own progress from the time you started studying ESL at VIU. The results do NOT determine whether or not you can start your degree program. As long as you pass 20 hours of 800-level courses, you will be able to start taking to degree courses.

When may I take a break?

Full-time ESL students may be eligible for two types of break: annual break or grace period.

Annual break is for students who have taken four (4) consecutive terms of ESL classes and wish to continue with the ESL program after the break. To apply for this break, you need to submit the Annual Break Request Form and get an official approval email from the DSO.

Grace period is only given to ESL completers or students who have successfully completed Level 800 and do not wish to continue with the ESL program. ESL completers may use this 60-day grace period to complete the paperwork for their academic studies. Please contact the DSO for more details at dso@viu.edu.

I’m overwhelmed by all of the assignments! May I take less than 20 hours of ESL per week?

If you are an F-1 visa holder, you MUST take 20 hours of ESL to maintain your status.
If you have another type of visa or you are a US resident, you do not have to be a full-time student.

I like challenging myself. May I take more than 20 hours of ESL per week?

We do not encourage students to take more than 20 hours per week because of the heavy workload. However, if you feel strongly about taking additional ESL courses, you may request it by submitting the Course Overload Request Form, which must be signed by the SLS Director.

How can I improve my English?

There are no shortcuts to language learning! Watch TED videos, American movies, and TV shows. Listen to radio programs such as NPR, BBC, and VoA. Speak English with your friends and classmates when you’re not in class, even if you speak the same first language! Check out local events and start talking with native speakers.

Please click here to view the current intensive ESL program schedule.