Levelling and Placement Testing

When a new student arrives to join the school their English ability will need to be tested to better understand which group would be best suited for him. To do this the school normally starts by giving the student a grammar and vocabulary test. It’s known as a placement test. The test covers most aspects of grammar and vocabulary ranging from questions for beginners to questions for advanced students. The result normally is a good gauge to the level of the student.

Unfortunately, assessing a student’s level doesn’t stop there. Many students’ communicative abilities differ from their ability on paper. There are as many students who are better on paper as there are those who are better communicators. It is often the native teacher’s job to level the student (judge the level) by carrying out a levelling interview. The interview involves you asking questions about the student’s life, their plans and their experiences looking for signals as to their level.

The levelling interview

The interview normally lasts 5-10 minutes. You should cover present, past and future tenses as well as present perfect, idioms and conditionals. Examples of some of the questions you could ask:


  • Where do you work / What is your job?
  • What is your favourite ………?
  • Describe a normal day.


  • Describe your last holiday.
  • Tell me about your life history.


  • What are your plans for next weekend?
  • What are your plans for your next holiday?


  • If you won the lottery, what would you spend it on?
  • If you were having a dinner party and could invite anybody dead or alive, who would you invite?

Present Perfect

  • Have you ever been to….. ?
  • Have you ever…?