English as a Second Language

This is the first version of the 2023–24 General Catalog. Please check back regularly for changes. The final edition and the historical PDF will be published during the fall semester.

The University of Iowa offers English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction in three distinct, but related, programs: ESL credit classes, the Iowa Intensive English Program (IIEP), and the Teaching Assistant Preparation in English program (TAPE).

These programs meet the needs of students whose first language is not English. ESL credit classes help students raise their English proficiency so they can complete a degree successfully. IIEP provides intensive instruction for students who must raise their English proficiency to gain admission to a university or college. TAPE helps students improve their oral competence in English so they may assume classroom teaching responsibilities.

English as a Second Language is one of the academic units in the Division of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures.


ESL Credit Program

English as a Second Language credit classes bridge the gap between full-time language instruction and full-time academic work, serving students who have taken the English Proficiency Evaluation (EPE) and who have been found to need additional English language support. ESL courses are offered to help students increase their proficiency in four skill areas: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. A course in grammar also is available. Each course offers 3 s.h. of credit, which undergraduates may count as elective credit toward graduation. Courses are taught by ESL lecturers and by teaching assistants pursuing advanced degrees in linguistics.

Courses taken to meet the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences English proficiency requirement must be completed with a grade of C or higher. If a student earns a grade of C-minus or lower in an ESL course, the course must be retaken in order for the student to fulfill the ESL course requirement. An ESL course must be taken for a letter grade and may not be taken pass/nonpass or satisfactory/unsatisfactory. Students are not allowed to drop ESL courses once the semester begins. A student held for ESL courses may not enroll in a rhetoric course until the ESL requirement is completed.

Visit the ESL Credit Program website for more information.

Iowa Intensive English students posing by the Devonian Fossil Gorge sign in Coralville during a field trip.

Iowa Intensive English Program (IIEP)

The Iowa Intensive English Program (IIEP) serves students who have not yet achieved the language proficiency needed to compete successfully in a degree program. The program welcomes international students preparing to enter universities and colleges in the United States as well as other adults who want to improve their English skills. Conditional admission to the University of Iowa is possible for undergraduate students. For more details regarding conditional admission, visit International Students on the Office of Admissions website.

IIEP offers intensive English instruction and a cultural, social, and academic orientation to the United States. Instruction emphasizes proficiency in spoken and written English, which is crucial to college and university work. Grammar and the basic language skills of writing, reading, listening comprehension, and speaking are taught each day at all levels, from beginning through advanced. Instruction is by full-time professional ESL instructors.

Each IIEP student receives 20–22 hours of classroom instruction each week (27 hours per week in summer). IIEP students have full access to all university facilities. Field trips and cultural and social experiences are integral parts of the program.

International students admitted to the IIEP receive a certificate of eligibility (Form I-20), which enables them to apply for a student visa at the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy. Application materials are available from the ESL Programs Office and on the Iowa Intensive English Program website.

Teaching Assistant Preparation in English (TAPE)

The Teaching Assistant Preparation in English program (TAPE) is designed for graduate students whose first language is not English, who need additional work on English communication, and who will hold teaching assistantships while enrolled at the University of Iowa. Only students who need the program and who have sufficient competence in English to profit from it are eligible. TAPE courses are open to graduate students who have been evaluated for TA certification and to others if space is available. Students are taught by full-time professional ESL instructors.