College of Education & Human Services

Lesson 3: Access for ELL Students

Essential Background

ACCESS for ELLs™ stands for Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for Englishwida
Language Learners. It is a large-scale test that addresses the English language development standards that form the core of the WIDA Consortium's approach to instructing and testing English language learners. These standards incorporate a set of model performance indicators (MPIs) that describe the expectations educators have of ELL students at five different grade level clusters and in five different content areas.

 The grade level clusters include PreK-K, 1-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. There are five content areas of the standards. The first is called social and instructional language (SI), which incorporates proficiencies needed to deal with the general language of the classroom and the school. The others are English language arts (LA), math (MA), science (SC), and social studies (SS).

 For each grade level, then, the standards specify one or more performance indicators for each content area within each of the four language domains: Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing.

 The WIDA framework recognizes the continuum of language development within the four domains with six English language proficiency levels.

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

Level 5

Level 6







These levels describe the spectrum of a learner's progression from knowing little to no English to acquiring the English skills necessary to be successful in an English-only mainstream classroom without extra support. This final, exit stage for ELL status is designated Level 6 (formerly ELL). Level 7 is used for students who are native English speakers or who have never been designated as ELL.

Drawn from the PIs, the ACCESS for ELLs® incorporates all five standards and English language proficiency levels in sections that correspond to the four domains. The target administration times for each section of the test are:

1. Listening: 20-25 minutes, machine scored
2. Reading: 35-40 minutes, machine scored
3. Writing: Up to 1 hour, rater scored
4. Speaking: Up to 15 minutes, adminstrator scored

Tiers: Essential Information for Ordering the ACCESS for ELLs Annual Assessment

The goal of the ACCESS for ELLs® test is to allow students to demonstrate their level of proficiency through the PIs. However, there are far too many PIs altogether to present to any single test taker. A test with questions assessing each and every PI would be far too long to fit in any reasonable testing session. For any particular child, some of the questions on a comprehensive test might be dismissively easy, making it boring, while others would be exactingly hard, making it frustrating. It is important to avoid both possibilities to achieve a reliable test.

The solution to making the test appropriate to each individual was to present the test items in three tiers for each grade level: A, B, and C. The following chart shows how the different tiers map to the English language proficiency levels.


You can see from this test design that the tiers overlap, a necessity for making sure each tier is measuring to a common proficiency scale.

Each tier, of course, is only able to discriminate performance on its portion of the proficiency scale, so to make sure the whole ACCESS for ELLs® test works as intended, it is necessary to place each student into the tier that best matches his or her English language proficiency leve l. The decision as to where the student currently falls on the scale is best made by the student's teachers, based on the information they have about the student's language proficiency, including performance on other language tests.

The W-APT™ screener test yields a composite score which indicates which tier a child should be placed in for the ACCESS test, however, that score should be supported by additional criteria for tier selection. The following chart gives additional criteria which can support its results or assist with tier placement in the event that the W-APT™ is not available or practical for use with a particular child.

For placement into the appropriate Tier, English language learners must meet at least ONE of the criteria listed for the Tier.








English Language Proficiency Levels






Click here to download a PDF of the English Language Proficiency Levels.














ACCESS for ELLs™/ W-APT™ (Placement Screener) Test Administration Training

Online ACCESS for ELLs® test administration training and certification is accomplished by logging in to WIDA’s online course.

Getting a log-in is FREE for all Illinois educators. Follow the directions to obtain your user name and password...

How to Get a WIDA Log-In

This is how to read the online course materials and take the quizzes for certification to administer the W-APT (ACCESS Placement Test) and the ACCESS for ELLs™ English proficiency test.

Educators from Illinois must supply their Illinois Educator Identification Number (IEIN)

If you need to look up your IEIN, you may do so by going to the link below and typing your last name and Social Security Number under "District Administrators, Look Up Staff Here".

If you have not set up your ECS account, you will need to do so under the "New User?" heading.
Your IEIN # is located in the upper left-hand corner of your credentials page:

Please be advised that the instructions below have been updated for the 2008-2009 school year.

*SPECIAL NOTE: The Kindergarten ACCESS for ELLs™

The process described below is for teachers that are not currently certified to administer ACCESS for ELLs™
and the W-APT screener.

W-APT-The Placement Screener

What is the process for getting certified to administer ACCESS for ELLs and the W-APT™

  1. Go to click on login button at the top right hand corner of the website.
  2. Enter “illinois” and “lincoln” in the username and password cells.
  3. Click on the “Continue” button.
  4. Select “IL” in the pull down menu.
  5. Select district name from the pull down menu.
  6. Complete account information in cells provided.
  7. Click on “create account”

    For additional assistance in creating accounts and taking quizzes to administer ACCESS for ELLs™ and the W-APT™ Screener, see
    Once an educator successfully completes the quizzes to administer ACCESS for ELLs™ and the W-APT™ screener, it will take approximately 6-8 weeks for the record to appear on the Illinois Educator Certification System (ECS). 

    While the online training and certification quizzes meet minimum compliance requirements for administrating the W-APT™ and ACCESS for ELLs™ , we strongly recommend participating in a face-to-face training.

    Both the ISBE and cooperating Regional Offices of Education sponsor W-APT and ACCESS for ELLs™ Test Administrator Training Workshops. Area III ROE’s sponsor the following training regularly. Contact Debra Cole, Regional Coordinator for ELLs at, or 217-257-3042 for details. 

      Presentation Goals  

    • Provide a quick overview of English Language Proficiency Testing and the World-class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) Consortium
    • Describe test administration procedures and address individual questions
    • Practice administering and scoring different components (particularly Speaking) of the ACCESS for ELLs™
    • Practice administering and scoring different components of the WIDA ACCESS for ELLs™ Placement Test (W-APT).
    • Take certification quizzes on-line.

      boyW-APT stands for the WIDA-ACCESS Placement Test™. This assessment tool, known as the "screener", is used by educators to measure the English language proficiency of students who have recently arrived in the U.S. or in a particular district.


      As mandated in the Illinois School Code, any student who answers “yes” to either of the questions in the Home Language Survey MUST BE ASSESSED for English proficiency using the WIDA ACCESS PLACE TEST (W-APT). It determines whether or not a child is in need of English language instructional services, and if so, at what level.

      The W-APT™ test forms and administration manual (PDF files) are available to all authorized users from WIDA Consortium member states. You must enter your district's W-APT™ username and password in order to view or print these files. Please contact your district or state ESL or testing coordinator if you have not received your login information.
      The W-APT™ Score Calculator is a tool to save test administrators the time and trouble of manually converting raw scores and calculating the composite proficiency level (CPL) scores. With the click of a button, it calculates Speaking, Reading, Writing and Listening proficiency scores, along with the CPL score and a grade-adjusted CPL score. Unfortunately, it cannot be applied to Kindergarten scores at this time, but will be updated in Spring of 2008 to include Kindergarten in addition to grades 1-12.