School of Academic Advancement

211 North Carroll Street 
Madison WI 53703

CALL: (608) 258-2440

Se habla Español.

English Language Learners

At Madison College, English Language Learners can get the help they need to succeed in school and in life. Our English as a Second Language (ESL) classes provide the support students need to improve their reading, writing and oral language skills. We offer Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced ESL classes, so we have the right course for every student's needs. 

To take ESL classes at Madison College, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Reside in the state of Wisconsin

We do not currently offer classes to tourists or people holding a Student Visa (F1 or F2) and Au Pairs on a J-1 Visa including individuals with visas sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, WESLI, or another institution of higher education. 

  • New Students

    If you are new to Madison College and have never taken any classes:  

    Step 1: Create a New Student account

    • Call (608) 258-2440
    • Visit our Downtown office - D209

    Step 2: Attend Open Testing for ESL Classes

    • Your test score will determine your ESL level
    • You will need to arrive at least 2 hours before the end of Open Testing
    • Testing is offered the following days:
      • Monday: 9:00 am - 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm 
      • Thursday: 9:00 am - 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm 

    Step 3: Attend ESL Advising & Registration Session

    (For Intermediate and Advanced ONLY)

    At Advising & Registration, you will:

    • Listen to a brief overview and presentation about the ESL program
    • Select a track: Community, Technical Careers or College Transfer
    • Learn about the ESL Level classes that are offered
    • Get assistance with registration

    If you have a disability and need accommodations, please call (608) 259-2950 and we will make sure you have what you need in order to participate.

  • Returning Students

    Returning Students at Madison College

    Step 1: 

    If you have taken an ESL class at Madison College before you may need to take the ESL test to help determine which level course best meets your needs or attend an Advising and Registration Session.

    Step 2: 

    Please contact our office at (608) 258-2440 and we will tell you if you need to take the ESL Placement Test, sign up for Advising & Registration or help you register for classes.

  • Advising & Registration Session

    Intermediate and Advanced Level Students ONLY

    You will need to attend an Advising & Registration Session BEFORE you can enroll in classes. 

    YOU MUST REGISTER IN PERSON D209 OR CALL: (608) 258-2440

    • The Advising & Registration Session takes about 1-2 hours.
    • Advising & Registration Sessions are offered on Tuesdays 5:30 p.m. and Fridays 8:30 a.m.
    • There is NO childcare provided. 

    At Advising & Registration, you will:

    • Listen to a brief overview and presentation about the ESL program
    • Select a class
    • Learn about the ESL Level classes that are offered
    • receive assistance with registration
  • Classes

    Most of our ESL classes are held at the Downtown campus. We also offer some classes at our South Madison campus during the fall and spring semesters.

    Once you take a placement, you will be assigned an ESL level.

    What is my English language level?




    What ESL Classes should i choose?

    ESL for Community: Will teach you English for everyday living

    • Students who are not in the job market and do not currently have plans to look for a job.  
    • Students who want to improve their English skills in order to navigate life in our community more easily.  
    • Students who want to use English to make English-speaking friends, help their children with homework, read school-related documents, make appointments, etc. 


    • Students who have identified a specific career pathway but need to build language proficiency in a career-related domain.
    • Students who know they want to earn a certificate, diploma, or degree in less than two years (after they finish ESL).
    • Students who want to finish ESL and start a career in a chosen field as soon as possible.
    • Students who already have a job and want to improve their English skills to perform that job better or move up in their company.


    • Students who have a degree from their home country, and want to work in the same field in the US once they gain accredited certification. 
    • Students who know they want to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree from a four-year institution.
    • Students who intend to be in school for more than four years after they finish ESL courses.
    • Students who aspire to learn English for academic purposes.
  • Success Stories
    Meet Bertha Ortiz-ESL Success Story at Madison College

    Bertha (Mexico)

    Bertha started in beginning ESL and earned her GED at Madison College. She learned English so she can communicate better with her co-workers and her supervisors at her job. 



    Meet Lili Jones - Madison College ESL Success Story

    Lili (China)

    Lili was brand new to the country when she began taking ESL classes. She earned her GED at Madison College and is enrolled in the liberal arts transfer program at Madison College and wants to attend UW-Madison.



    Abondio - Madison College ESL Success Story

    Abondio (Sudan)

    Abondio started in ESL and finished his 5.09 HSED in 2014. He has a technical certificate in Machining from Madison College.

  • Community Resources

    Madison College also works together with community partners to offer ESL classes at other locations around the Madison area. These classes take place in a flexible lab setting so you can attend when it best fits your schedule. You don’t need an appointment to take ESL classes at one of these outreach locations, you can just drop in and register during scheduled class time. Contact the School of Academic Advancement at (608) 258-2440 for more information about off-campus options. (PDF)


English Language Learners may also find these Madison College resources helpful: