Credit English as a Second Language (Credit ESL)

Credit English as a Second Language courses (Credit ESL) are for undergraduate and graduate students who have met the minimum language requirements for full admission to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln but still need additional support in certain language skill areas in order to truly excel in their academic studies.

Undergraduate Students

Many non-native English-speaking undergraduate students will begin their academic careers at Nebraska by taking one or more of the following required Credit ESL courses along with other courses in their programs of study.

Undergraduate CESL Courses
ENGL 186: Academic Reading A reading course designed to prepare students for comprehending and responding to entry-level university texts. Students will demonstrate understanding of both explicit and implied main ideas and main supporting details, take notes in a variety of methods, respond meaningfully to texts both orally and in writing, evaluate the credibility of sources, and develop visual literacy skills, vocabulary acquisition strategies and active reading strategies.
ENGL 187: Academic Writing A composition course designed to facilitate students’ success in university writing courses. Students will learn to apply the concepts of audience, purpose, voice and tone; avoid plagiarism by using appropriate stylistic conventions to quote, paraphrase summarize and cite; employ the writing process to construct unified paragraphs and coherent essays in a variety of rhetorical modes; and demonstrate correct use of a variety of sentence structures and lexical items in their writing.
ENGL 188: Academic Listening & Speaking An oral skills course designed to facilitate student success in accomplishing listening and speaking tasks necessary for academic success. Regarding listening, students will learn to understand and take organized notes on authentic classroom language such as lectures, employ effective compensation strategies, and understand daily conversations on informal topics. Regarding speaking, students will demonstrate ability to participate actively and appropriately in group discussions, convey meaning and opinions effectively on both academic and nonacademic topics, and demonstrate the ability to present prepared materials in a large group setting.

These are official University courses and are accepted by many colleges for elective credit towards degrees (check with your program to determine how many credits will count).

For most new students, placement into CESL courses is based on section scores of proficiency tests results (TOEFL, IELTS, Duolingo English Test) submitted when they applied to the University. Students who were admitted based on ACT, SAT scores, or graduation from a high school in the United States are NOT automatically exempt from CESL courses. These students will enroll for one CESL course during their first semester advising session. They will have the option of submitting official English proficiency scores (if they have current IELTS, TOEFL, DET scores) as long as they are recieved by the University's official proficiency deadline.  CESL requirements will be updated based on the section scores achieved, and courses will be adjusted prior to the first week of classes if necessary. NOTE that TOEFL, IELTS, and DET scores must be officially delivered to or verified by UNL through the testing agency; scores will not be accepted if submitted by the student in person or through email. 

For students who have completed the UNL Intensive English Program (IEP), placement into CESL courses is based on their end-of-semester English Language Test (ELT) section scores or most recent TOEFL,IELTS or DET scores.

Students with English proficiency scores in the following ranges should plan on taking at least one of these courses during their first year of full-time study.

Credit ESL Course Placement Table
Credit ESL Course


Full Admission:

Composite ≥ 74


Full Admission:

Composite ≥ 70 with Writing section ≥ 20


Full Admission:

Composite ≥ 6.0 with Writing section ≥ 5.5

Duolingo (DET)

Full Admission:

Composite 100

ENGL 188




Listening section    < 80

 (Note: ELT does not have a speaking section)


average of Listening and Speaking section scores < 21


average of Listening and Speaking section scores < 6.5

AND any of the following section scores <110:

comprehension, conversation, or production

ENGL 187




Writing section <80


Writing section 20-22


Writing section 5.5-6.0

AND any of the following section scores <110:

literacy or production

ENGL 186




Reading section < 80


Reading section < 21


Reading section < 6.5


AND any of the following section scores <110:

literacy or comprehension

Note that students will be allowed to retake the sections of the ELT at the end of each semester for those skill areas in which they did not originally meet the requirements. If the required score is then achieved, the course will be waived for that skill area. Students will only be required to take the courses that they need based on proficiency test scores. Note that when writing is one of the skill areas required, ENGL 187 must be taken in the first semester of study. This allows students to take regular freshman writing courses like ENGL 150 or 151 (ACE 1) in their second semester. Students who took the AP English Language & Composition Exam and received credit for ENGL 150 at Nebraska will be exempt from ENGL 187 (Academic Writing). These students may still be required to take other CESL courses.

Graduate Students

International graduate students at Nebraska whose first language is not English often need more support in writing to be successful in their studies. For this reason, many students are required to take one CESL course during their first semester at UNL. Students with English proficiency writing sub-scores below 25 for the TOEFL, below 7.0 for the IELTS, and production or literacy below 130 for Duolingo exams are required to take ENGL 887.

Graduate CESL courses
ENGL 887 Academic Writing for Graduate Students

Please contact your CESL advisor, Chris Dunsmore, if you have any questions.

Chris Dunsmore
Phone: (402) 472-1874