The 5 W’s of the MELAB
(Michigan English Language Assessment Battery)


Who takes the MELAB test?

The Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB) is an advanced-level English language proficiency exam offered by the University of Michigan’s English Language Institute. More advanced than both the ECCE and the ECPE, the MELAB exam is designed for non-native, adult English speakers interested in pursuing higher education opportunities in English speaking countries. As a result, it is frequently used by university admissions offices to judge whether applicants are equipped to handle the rigors of an English-language, university-level study program.

Why should you take the MELAB exam?

According to the University of Michigan’s English Language Institute, the MELAB is ideally suited for non-native, English-speaking students who are applying for higher education programs in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, or any other situation where English the language of instruction. As a result, as a well-recognized and well-regarded high-level proficiency exam, the MELAB would also be useful for professionals or anyone else interested in a formal certification of their English language proficiency. Moreover, like the English Language Institute’s other exams, the test uses the spelling, grammar, and pronunciation conventions of American English and is designed to replicate the level of English a student might encounter in a university setting in the United States. As a result of this focus, many applicants use their MELAB certifications when applying for language schools, job promotions, or when conducting business in the United States. In fact, many educational institutions both in the United States and elsewhere accept the MELAB as an alternative to the more widely-known TOEFL.

What exactly is the MELAB test like and what can I expect to see on it?

The MELAB test itself consists of 3 required parts (composition, listening, reading) and an optional speaking test.

  1. The Composition section is a writing section in which candidates will be asked to write a 200-300 word response to one of two written prompts in 30 minutes. Possible prompts may ask candidates to offer their opinion on an issue, describe a personal experience, or persuasively explain a solution to a problem.
  2. The Listening section is a 35 minute listening exercise without breaks. Candidates will be asked to answer 60 multiple choice questions about audio recordings of conversations, radio interviews, and other audio passages.
  3. The Reading section assesses grammar, cloze, vocabulary, and reading skills in several parts over 80 minutes. The grammar, cloze and vocabulary questions are assessed using multiple choice sentence completion questions and the reading section is assessed using reading comprehension questions based on a number short passages.
  4. The optional Speaking section, offered at only some MELAB testing centers, is comprised of a 15 minute, 1-on-1 conversation between the candidate and the examiner. Possible prompts include lengthy descriptions of the candidate, their opinions, or their experiences.

In all sections of the exam, candidates are evaluated on their fluency, grammar, vocabulary and your comprehension. Final results include the scores from each of the required components of MELAB exam and a final score is produced from their average.

Where and When can you take the MELAB exam?

Unlike the English Language Institute’s other exams, the MELAB exam is designed to be taken in the United States and Canada and is only offered at the University of Michigan and other approved test centers in North America. The exam costs US$80 without the speaking test or US$120 with the speaking test. The speaking test cannot be taken on its own. As of March 1, 2009, a new policy to allow applicants can sit for the MELAB exam every other month means that candidates can take the MELAB up to six times annually.

>> Learn more about other English language exams