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English as a Second Language (ESL)

Credit courses in English as a Second Language

The Department of Education offers a sequence of two intensive 6-credit courses in ESL for academic purposes to non-native speakers of English who are accepted by Concordia University but who must upgrade their reading and writing skills.

Two 3-credit courses in ESL oral communication are also available for students whose mother tongue is not English and who would like to improve their pronunciation and academic speaking skills.

If English is not your mother tongue and you wish to take a Credit ESL course, you are required to take the Concordia Comprehensive ESL Placement Test (ConCEPT).

Written Communication Courses:

ESL 202 – Developing Academic English Language Skills (6 credits)

This course helps non-native-speaking students develop the language skills necessary for academic work through an integrated program of grammar, vocabulary, reading, and writing. The coursework will enable students to build a wide range of vocabulary and grammatical structures and apply them to essential university tasks such as paraphrasing, expository writing, and processing academic texts.  Prerequisite: Placement by the Concordia Comprehensive ESL Placement Test (ConCEPT).

ESL 204 – Refining Academic English Language Skills (6 credits)

This course helps non-native-speaking students strengthen their English language skills and apply them to high-level academic tasks such as critical reading, synthesizing, and integrated writing assignments. Attention will be paid to analyzing patterns in written English and making appropriate language choices as well as identifying, integrating, and referencing appropriate academic source material.  Prerequisite: ESL 202 or placement by the Concordia Comprehensive ESL Placement Test (ConCEPT).


Oral Communication Courses:

ESL 205 – Academic Oral Communication I (3 credits)

This course helps students develop the oral skills necessary for speaking and listening in an English-speaking academic environment. The focus of the course is the improvement of students' overall pronunciation skills, including native-like production of English speech at the level of individual sounds, words, and sentences, as well as the development the listening skills necessary for effective oral communication. This course includes a multimedia language lab component.  Prerequisite: Placement by the Concordia Comprehensive ESL Placement Test (ConCEPT).

ESL 206 - Academic Oral Communication II (3 credits)

This course helps students achieve greater intelligibility and fluency by practicing oral communication skills in meaningful discourse, as part of communicative activities and public speaking assignments. Emphasis is placed on the learning of speech phenomena at the discourse level such as production of native-like stress, rhythm, intonation, and speaking rate.  Prerequisite: ESL 205 or placement by the Concordia Comprehensive ESL Placement Test (ConCEPT).

What are credit ESL courses?

ESL courses are courses in English as a Second Language. The core credit-level ESL courses offered at Concordia are designed to help students whose first language is not English develop their written and oral communication skills for academic purposes.

Who may take credit ESL courses?

Registration priority for credit ESL courses goes to students who have been admitted with ESL requirements based on their English proficiency test scores.  However, any student admitted to a Concordia degree or certificate program whose first language is not English, and whose language proficiency or placement test score indicates that the student would benefit from credit ESL courses, may register. Credit ESL courses are not normally open to independent or visiting students.

How do I know which ESL course to take?

All students interested in taking a credit ESL course must complete the Concordia Comprehensive ESL Placement Test (ConCEPT).

Can ESL courses be taken concurrently with courses in my major?

Yes.  It is not necessary to complete all ESL course requirements before starting other degree/certificate program courses.  However, any ESL courses required at admission should be completed within the first academic year.

Do ESL courses count as electives?

The number of ESL credits applicable to a degree or certificate program varies by faculty.  Students in the Faculty of Arts and Science can count a maximum of 6 credits of ESL as part of their program.  Students in the John Molson School of Business, the Faculty of Fine Arts, or the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science should consult their degree program worksheets or their faculty advisor.

Are other kinds of ESL courses available at Concordia?

Students whose language proficiency scores are below the level required for admission to Concordia, or those not interested in gaining university credits, may wish to contact Concordia Continuing Education (CCE), where non-credit ESL courses are available. CCE is located at 1600 Saint Catherine Street West, 1st floor, telephone (514) 848-3600.

What is the ConCEPT?

The ConCEPT is a theme-based test drawing on lecture and reading material characteristic of first-year undergraduate courses in terms of linguistic difficulty.  The test is aligned with the performance objectives of our ESL courses.  For students accepted with ESL requirements, the ConCEPT is a “second look” at productive skills in English.  A strong performance can potentially exempt you from one or more of the ESL courses assigned according to the English proficiency score submitted at the application stage.  These ESL courses are listed in the Deficiencies section of your Offer of Admission.

When should I take the ConCEPT?

You should take the test at the earliest opportunity after admission so that there will be time to adjust your class schedule if your test results exempt you from ESL.

Is the ConCEPT required?

Yes.  While it is possible to pre-register for ESL courses before taking the test, the ConCEPT must be completed by all students.  Failure to complete the ConCEPT may result in deregistration from ESL courses.

How can I make an appointment for the ConCEPT?

If your Offer of Admission specifies ESL course requirements, log into your Student Centre and

Click on “Event Web Registration” in the “Personal Information” section.  Then click “Register for Events”, choose “ConCEPT Test”, and select from the list of available dates. 

If you see “There is no event for you to register at the moment,” you may lack the necessary permissions to enter an appointment request.  In this case, send an e-mail with your name and ID number to

Does it cost anything to write the ConCEPT?

Yes.  There is a test administration fee of $23.25 which must be paid in advance either online or in person at the Birks Student Service Centre.

How can I prepare for the test?

Students with confirmed appointments are given access to an online practice exam approximately 5 days prior to their scheduled test date.  The purpose of the practice test is to familiarize students with the test interface and the types of tasks they will encounter on the real test.  No other preparation is required or recommended.

I have a disability.  How can I get accommodations for the test?

All accommodations are arranged through Concordia’s Access Centre for Students with Disabilities (ACSD). 

When and how will I get my ConCEPT results?

Test results are sent via e-mail within 5 business days of the test.  Please retain the e-mail as the results are not accessible via your Student Centre.

Can I take the ConCEPT more than once?

No; the test can be taken only once, and any required ESL courses should be taken in the first academic year. 

Can I submit a new IELTS or TOEFL score to exempt myself from ESL courses?

No.  After admission, the ConCEPT is the sole means of potentially earning an exemption from ESL courses.

What happens if I perform poorly on the test?

A weak performance on the ConCEPT will not affect admission to the University, but students with low results should  reach out to the ESL coordinator for advice on handling their course load in the first semester.

All students who take the ConCEPT are given placements for both written communication (ESL 202 and 204) and for oral communication (ESL 205 and 206). 

If you are not sure which courses are required and which are optional, consult your Offer of Admission.  The maximum number of ESL courses that you may be required to take should be listed in the Deficiencies section.

Your ConCEPT result report indicates your starting levels for written communication and for oral communication.  For example, if you are placed at the ESL 202 level, you must start with ESL 202, complete ESL 202 successfully, and then take ESL 204.  If you are placed in ESL 204, you are exempt from ESL 202 and need to take only ESL 204.

Oral communication courses are optional for most students.  The John Molson School of Business requires ESL 205 for students who place at that level but does not require ESL 206.

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