Level Placement

Class Changes

Course Overview

Grades & Recognition

Academic Probation


Level Placement

All new students are required to attend two days of orientation which will include an English Placement Exam. If you do not test during the scheduled placement test period, you will be charged a $100 late testing fee for individual placement testing.

Pre-Master’s and Master’s Preparation students are waived from the English Placement Exam by submitting an official TOEFL or IELTS or PTE Academic Test Score Report by the application deadline.

During the first few days of classes you will take diagnostic tests and your English ability will be carefully observed to be sure your placement is correct.

Class Changes

Students in the Pre-Master’s & Master’s Preparation Program: 
Students in the Pre-Master’s and Master’s Preparation programs will move up in level by successfully completing coursework and maintaining a B average. A Placement Reevaluation Form will not be accepted for any Pre-Master’s or Master’s Preparation students. Students that do not meet the expectations of the level based on the diagnostic tests may be advised to move down one level.

Students in the Intensive English Program:
New students may submit a Placement Reevaluation Form by the third day of class. Requests are reviewed carefully. Placement decisions are based on class performance, English ability, and test results. Placement changes are made for language reasons only. We do not make changes to class schedules because of classroom location, teacher preference, or class time. Continuing students are not eligible for a placement review. Level changes will be made based on your performance during the first few days of class.

Focus Skills Courses

Focus Skills courses run for seven weeks. You will not be able to change your Focus Skills Course during the first seven weeks. At the end of seven weeks, you may change your Focus Skills course if you pass the course with a grade of “C” or higher.

Pre-Master’s students:

  • If you are required to take the GRE or GMAT courses, you will be enrolled in these courses and may not be able to change until you achieve the required score for admissions to your department.
  • All new students must take the Academic Integrity course for seven weeks in their first semester.

Pre-Master’s & Master’s Preparation Diagnostic Testing

At the beginning of each term, students in levels 5, 6 and 7 take diagnostic tests involving listening, speaking, reading, and writing. These tests help determine what a student already knows and if they will be successful in their initial level. These tests do NOT affect students’ course grades. Academic advisor will meet with all new students who scored in the at-risk category in one or more areas on the diagnostic tests. The advisors counsel students on what the score means and how it will affect their study plan. The student will then decide if they would like to continue in their initial level or move down a level. If students are advised to move down, but choose to remain in their initial level, they must take a tutorial in each of the skills they scored at-risk.

Pre-Master’s & Master’s Preparation Tutorials

Tutorials are offered in Writing, Speaking & Content. Each tutorial meets once a week for one-hour. Students are expected to attend and positively participate. The tutorials cover material both that is in the core curriculum (e.g., grammar) and supplemental to it (e.g., writing formal emails to professors). The tutorials provide additional support for students so they can be successful during their time at the USC International Academy. Tutorials are free of charge.

Program & Course Overview

USC International Academy offers three programs. Below you will find a summary of what each program offers. For more detailed information, please visit our website, international.usc.edu.

Pre-Master’s Program

Pre-Master’s students have already been accepted to select USC master’s programs and take courses to prepare their English and academic skills for the rigors of USC graduate coursework.

In the Pre-Master’s program, you will learn how to read and critically assess academic texts, communicate effectively in writing and speech, develop a graduate-level vocabulary, and improve your GRE/ GMAT test-taking strategies to help you reach your required score for your degree program. Split into two tracks, courses are tailored to the reading and writing styles of your discipline and will introduce you to topics and content relevant to your field of study.

Academic Tracks:

  • Business, Social Science, and Arts (BSA)
  • Science, Technology, and Health (STH)

Core Courses:

  • Academic English Skills for Graduate Studies
  • Graduate Communication Skills

Focus Skill Courses:

Students take two Focus Skill Courses every session (seven weeks). Every session, you will receive a Focus Skill Class selection form where you can indicate your course preferences. Placement is based on required courses, availability, and schedule.

Please note: All new students are required to take Academic Integrity and Graduate Study Expectations course in their first semester. Students with GRE/GMAT requirement are registered for a test preparation course until they reach the target score.

Minimum Entry Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • Cumulative GPA 3.0
  • High-intermediate English level (depending on your chosen master’s program)

Meeting minimum requirements does not guarantee admission to any USC degree program. Please check the website for more details. If you have any questions about the Pre-Master’s Program, please contact iapm@usc.edu.

Master’s Preparation Program

Master’s Preparation students have the opportunity to follow the same academic tracks and take the same courses as those offered in the Pre-Master’s Program plus TOEFL or IELTS test preparation, Focus Skill Courses and comprehensive academic advising.

Minimum Entry Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • High-intermediate English level (equivalent to TOEFL iBT 61+ / IELTS 5.5 / PTE Academic 44+ OR completing International Academy IEP Level 4 )

If you have any questions about the Master’s Preparation Program, please contact Chiara Mirabile: cmirabil@usc.edu.

Intensive English Program

Full-time Intensive English Program students at the USC International Academy study in three different classes each week for a total of 20 hours per week.

Reading, Writing and Grammar

Reading, Writing, and Grammar classes are taught at any academic level. In lower levels, you build reading skills. In intermediate levels, you read stories, articles and authentic texts, write about them, study vocabulary, and discuss the content. In higher levels, the focus is on academic reading and writing.

Listening and Speaking

Listening and Speaking classes teach students about speaking, listening and pronunciation. At the lower levels, you will gain the confidence in speaking English inside and outside of the classroom. At the higher levels, the focus is on listening, speaking, and note-taking in natural and academic contexts, and students practice public speaking and presentation skills.

Focus Skills Courses

Typical focus course options include TOEFL/IELTS Test Preparation, Vocabulary, Pronunciation, and Life in Los Angeles. Focus Skill course options are subject to change.

Undergraduate Admissions Support

Students looking to transition into a U.S. college or university are uniquely supported with expert admissions advising, test preparation and Intensive English courses.

Optional SAT Preparation

High school graduates who reach Level 5 can choose to enroll in our SAT Preparation course, specifically designed to meet the needs of international students, at an additional cost.

Conversation Groups

Each week, you can sign up to join a conversation group. This is a great option to practice your English language skills with USC students in an informal setting. Conversation topics include American culture, university life, current events and other topics of interest. Sign up for conversation groups online here.

Drop-in Tutoring

Available by drop-in or schedule appointments, the Tutoring Center provides one-on-one support for students needing test preparation, writing support or speech preparation practice. Check the schedule for Drop-in Tutoring sessions here.

Grades & Recognition


At the end of each semester (Pre-Master’s and Master’s Prep) or session (Intensive English Program, IEP), USC International Academy students receive final grades which represent their achievement of the learning objectives for each course. Students are expected to make satisfactory progress in their program by earning passing grades for all courses.

Passing Grades

In order to pass a course, students must earn a B grade (83%) or higher in core classes, and a C grade (73%) or higher in focus skills courses.

  • Intensive English Program: If you do not pass a course, you will have to repeat that course in the next session. In general, a student is only allowed to repeat a course only once.
  • Pre-Master’s & Master’s Preparation: If you do not pass one or both core classes, you will have to repeat the entire level the next semester. In general, a student is allowed to repeat each level only once.


Students will receive a grade report which lists the final grade received in each course and the student’s overall grade point average (GPA).

Pre-Master’s Grade Policy

Pre-Master’s students must pass all their classes and maintain an overall B grade point average in order to successfully meet the conditional requirements of their USC admission offer. Pre-Master’s students must also meet any other requirement set by their university department (e.g. GRE score) before they can successfully progress into their graduate program.

Academic Recognition

Academic Recognition

The Academy chooses several students each term to be recognized with an “Outstanding Student” award. These students have perfect attendance and the highest grade point averages in their program.

Academic Probation

When a student has failing grades at the end of a term, the student may be placed on academic probation. Academic probation is a university warning system designed to alert a student that he/she has a GPA or grade performance that is lower than the program requirement. Students on academic probation are required to meet with their academic advisors at the International Academy.

If a student is on academic probation and is not able to pass his/her classes in the subsequent term, the student may be asked to leave the program. Students are expected to make sufficient progress in their language studies as required by their student visa. When a student on academic probation completes a term with passing grades, the academic probation status is removed.


Students are expected to attend every class every day regardless whether classes are on-campus or online. Students who are absent too often will be warned in writing that they must attend class or risk being dismissed from the school and being out of status with SEVIS. Students who are absent more than 20% of Academy courses are not awarded a certificate of completion.

All absences are counted, even those for reasons caused by medical, legal or family emergencies (there are no excused absences). Students with serious medical illnesses should notify their Program Advisor as soon as possible.


• By five to fifteen minutes: you will be marked absent for half an hour (30 minutes).

• More than fifteen minutes late, up to 60 minutes: you will be marked absent for one hour.

• If later than that, you will be marked absent for the entire class.

• If the total hours of absence reach 20% of class time at any point in the semester, you will be placed on probation.

• If a student who is on probation continues to miss or be late for classes, the student will be dismissed from the language program and his/her I-20 will be terminated.

Attendance Probation

Students who have too many absences are put on probation. Students on probation are in serious danger of losing their full-time student visa status.

In order to maintain full-time student visa status with the university, a student who is on probation must attend all classes and improve attendance.

Students who meet the requirements of their probation and who finish the semester in good standing are allowed to register for the next semester. Those who fail to improve their attendance will be dismissed from the program without refund, will lose their full-time status, will need to leave USC housing, and will not be allowed to register for the next semester.

Students who are absent more than 20% are automatically considered “out of status.” Students who are out of status will not be allowed to enroll again at the Academy.

Students starting any term on probation may be dropped from the program and their I-20 may be terminated if they don’t attend all scheduled classes. Once an I-20 is terminated, students will need to leave the U.S. immediately.