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I think a good placement test is of critical importance. Students come to ESL classes with a broad range of proficiencies. It is not uncommon in the US for students to have gained a working knowledge of the language in an ad-hoc manner. That is, they only learn the English they need to survive. Therefore, although they are able to communicate in English on a rudimentary level, there are hard to understand and easily misunderstood. A good diagnostic test will place them in with other students who speak similarly. It will also tend to homogenize the students? skill levels; thereby making it easier for the teacher to hone in certain grammar points and word usages that are needed by the majority of the class.