Frequently Asked Questions

CLP Teachers and Courses

The majority of the teachers of the ESL integrated skills courses are graduate students in the Applied Linguistics & TESOL (AL/TESOL) program at Teachers College who are doing their teaching practicum. The majority of the teachers of the focused skills classes (Conversation, Pronunciation, Grammar & Writing, ESL Writing, and TOEFL) are doctoral students or graduates of the AL/TESOL program.

All of the teachers in the CLP are trained in and practice Communicative Language Teaching. This means that classes involve a lot of activities that use real-world materials and emphasize communication with others as the number one goal of the classroom.

The maximum number of students in any CLP course is 20. On average, however, the classes have 15 students or fewer. The size of the class does depend on the type of class as well as its popularity in a given semester.

We have three semesters: 1) Fall (late September to early December); 2) Spring (early February to mid-April); and 3) Summer (Late June-Early August). We do not offer courses outside these three semesters. Please see the website for semester-specific dates.

The CLP has an attendance policy which states: students who miss 10 hours of class or more, or who are late 10 times or more, cannot pass.

Yes, all CLP students who are registered for an in-person course get a CLP ID card to enter Teachers College. Students will be able to use TC's campus, access our wifi, and enjoy the use of our library and study rooms as a place to study with other classmates. However, students will not be able to enter or use any other Columbia campus facility that is not in Teachers College. 

If students lose their ID card, they will need to pay a $5 ID card replacement fee to get a new one. Please email the office at clp@tc.columbia.edu to get more information about how to replace an ID card. 

Our ESL Integrated Skills class offers levels from Beginner to Advanced, and it covers all skills: listening, speaking, reading, writing, pronunciation, and grammar. If you consider yourself a beginner, we recommend students take this class. 

None of our courses are considered intensive. A student may take a maximum of 3 courses with us in a semester, which would be a maximum of 12 hours of class per week.

No. Our program is not associated with the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the organization that offers the official TOEFL exam. You will prepare for the actual test, however, using materials designed to give you practice for the tasks on the actual test, and you will take a ‘mock’ TOEFL exam and receive a score that will give you an accurate idea of how you would do on the actual exam.

We do not have a course that is only focused on grammar. However, many of our courses (e.g., Grammar & Writing, ESL Writing, ESL Integrated Skills) have development of grammatical content as a main learning objective.

YES! Starting in Spring 2024, we will have an English for Professional Purposes course. This course is for professionals and pre-professionals (i.e., students). See the course description here


We have many au pairs who join us every semester. Please click on this document covering most information about taking CLP classes that is relevant to au pairs. *Please be advised that the CLP is not the authority to ask about whether our non-credit courses fulfill an au pair’s J1 Visa education requirements. Au pairs should always check with their agency, and/or their host family before deciding to take a CLP course. 

CLP Placement Exam

The placement test is required for all NEW students who register for any of the ESL courses. The test is not required for continuing students, unless it has been more than one year since their last CLP class. If a student has not taken an ESL class in the CLP in over a year (13 months or more), they will need to take the exam and they will pay the ‘continuing student re-test’ fee when they register.

No. The only time students can take the placement exam is on the dates provided on the website and in the registration form.

[UPDATE, Fall 2022] Yes. Students will have the option to take the placement test remotely at their home. The test will be proctored by the CLP. The test must still be taken on the scheduled day, at the scheduled time. To do the remote test, students must have a laptop or desktop computer that has a working camera and microphone.

To take the exam at home, students must have:

  • High speed Internet
  • A laptop or desktop computer that has a working camera and microphone. The test cannot be done on a phone or iPad/tablet.
  • The Google Chrome browser on their computer. Click here to download Google Chrome.
  • A quiet place without other people or distractions for the full appointment time (approximately 2.5 hours).

Students should expect to spend about 2.5 hours on the exam. Please review more details here.

The placement exam is a computer-based exam that has sections on: Grammar, Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing.

The results of the placement test are only used to place you in the appropriate level for the courses you select. Students will not receive their scores or feedback, but only their placement level that results from their test.

We do not share the scores of the placement test with students. Students will be informed of their proficiency level when they are placed in a specific level of a course in the CLP curriculum.

The placement test is designed specifically to determine which level students belong in within the CLP curriculum. New students cannot change their level once they have been placed. Absolutely no changes to classes will be made after Week 1.

Registration and Payment

You must be an adult, so you must be at least 18 years old to take CLP classes.

To register, go to the Registration page of our website. You will see a link/button to click on to register for classes. The registration process is simple. You will fill out some personal information, select your course(s), select a date/time for your placement test (required for NEW students and students who haven’t taken CLP courses in over 1 year), provide continuing student information (only for students who have already taken our courses), and pay by credit or debit card. You will get an automatic email receipt of your registration once you submit. You must save this receipt for your records. You will need this receipt if you change or cancel any classes.

This depends on the classes you want to take. You do not need to have a certain level of English to take the ESL integrated skills course (ESL AM or ESL PM). That curriculum accommodates students ranging from beginner to advanced levels. However, our focused skills classes (Conversation, Pronunciation, Grammar & Writing, ESL Writing, and TOEFL) do have a minimum level. If you already have some background in English and are around an Intermediate level, you can register for a focused skills course. If your placement test result shows that you do not meet the minimum level for the focused skills course you select, we will suggest that you take another course at the appropriate level. Students who do not qualify for a course will get a full refund.

You must pay in full by credit or debit card to complete your registration. You cannot pay later.

No. We do not offer a payment plan for CLP classes. You must pay the whole amount when you register.

The only other cost that students have to pay will be the textbook fee. Currently, all CLP courses except Conversation use a textbook, and students are expected to purchase it. The cost of the book varies depending on the class, but usually no book is above $50. Books can be purchased directly on campus at Teachers College for convenience, or online if students wish to buy them on their own.

We do not accept cash. If you do not have a credit or debit card to use in the U.S., we recommend asking a friend or family member to pay for you during registration, and you can pay them cash.

No. All registrations need to be done on the Registration page of our website.

As long as a course is available on the registration form, there is space in the class. There is no space limit in the ESL AM, or ESL PM integrated skills courses. When a focused skills course (e.g., Conversation, Grammar & Writing, TOEFL) becomes full, we will start a waiting list of people who are interested in taking a spot in the class if other students cancel.

The maximum number of courses a student may take in one semester is 3 courses. 

No. We do not require or consider any exams other than our own placement exam, which students will take after they register and about 1 month before the start of their classes.

Yes. Students are able to request a refund. Please click here to view our refund policy. 

Visas, Accommodations, and Official Documentation

No. CLP classes are non-credit, non-degree courses, and we do not sponsor visas or provide I20s.

No. Our students find their own housing if they are visiting New York.

No. There are no meal plan options for CLP students. However, there are several places at Teachers College and nearby where students can get food using cash or credit cards.

When you are a CLP student for the semester, you will receive a CLP ID Card. This allows you to enter into the Teachers College campus, where you may spend time in the library, if you wish. However, you cannot borrow materials. The CLP ID Card does not give you access to buildings on the main campus of Columbia - only to Teachers College. 

The only thing you need to have when you register for CLP courses is a credit or debit card that works to make purchases in the U.S. to pay for classes. Later, when you come to campus to take your placement test, you will need an official picture ID (for example, a passport, driver’s licence, or IDNYC card) to enter the campus and show when you check in for your test.

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