Greenlee Language Primer (PIE)

Passing the Poynter Institute Exam (known in Greenlee as PIE) is a prerequisite for JL MC 201. The exam is offered as part of an online course, Iowa State University Language Primer Course Pack (Spring 2020), offered through Poynter’s News University. Students must receive a score of 78% or above to pass the PIE.

Although you can work through the course and the practice drills from any browser, you must take the exam in Hamilton Hall during a testing day for your score to count. You can only take the exam once per testing date.

Spring 2020 Testing Dates

  • Friday, Feb. 28
  • Friday, March 6
  • Friday, April 3
  • Friday, April 17
  • Friday, April 24

To sign up and study for the course:

  1. Create an account at At the top right corner of the page, you will see a link to “Register.” Follow the directions to create an account. Students who are not registered will not be able to complete the final exam. Your field should be filled out as follows:
    • Username: ISU Net-ID
    • Email: ISU email
    • Name: Full name (First and Last)
    • Organization: Iowa State University
    • Job Title: Student
  2. Log into your account, and search for “Iowa State” in the “search for courses” bar or follow this link to the course.
  3. Enroll in Iowa State University: Language (Spring 2020) by clicking the button that says “Add to Cart” or “Buy Now.” Be prepared with a credit or debit card to pay the $14.95 fee. This course will be available at the beginning of the semester, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020.
  4. Practice drills available through “Language Primer (Essays and Drills)”, a course you will be automatically enrolled in when you sign up for the Iowa State course. (Courses can be found by clicking on your username at the top right corner of the screen. Work through the practice drills and additional resources at your own pace. DO NOT take the comprehensive assessment outside of Hamilton Hall. Tests must be taken in Hamilton Hall on a testing day. Tests taken online outside of the Hamilton Hall will not count and you will have to pay $14.95 to retake the test.
  5. Additional resources can be found through our Study Links document, as well as our own Grammar Test Study Guide.

For additional guidance with photos, please follow this visual instructional guide.

To take the final exam:

  1. Arrive at Hamilton Hall 10A/10B on one of the assigned testing dates listed above.
  2. Tests will begin on the hour between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. (9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.). Students do not need to sign up for a specific time. Students should arrive 10-15 minutes to log in to the exam.
  3. Students will need to log into the exam using their username and password. It is highly recommended you write these down or remember them to easily log into the course on the day of the exam.
  4. Students may only take the exam once per day. Students have 5 attempts at the exam each semester.
  5. You are not allowed to use any notes or assistance for the exam. Students with disability accommodations should contact Kelsie Poe at

Students must receive a 78% on the exam to be qualified for JL MC 201.

All questions should be directed to Kelsie Poe at or 101 Hamilton Hall.


I am trying to enroll in the course but it says it is out of stock?

You are trying to enroll in a previous semester’s course. Please make sure you are enrolling for the current semester as that will be the only course available for purchase. You can always find current courses by searching for “Iowa State” in the search bar at the top of the webpage.

I took the test last semester, do I have to sign up again?

Yes. You need to enroll in the course each semester. You can use the same account, but will need to pay the fee for the current semester.

If I’ve taken the test once this semester, do I have to pay the $14.95 again?

No. You only have to pay the fee once per semester. You are welcome to take the final exam five times in Hamilton Hall before you need to repay.

Do I have to sign up for a specific time to take the exam?

No, you do not have to sign up for a specific time to take the exam. Students are welcome to come once per day for each of the assigned testing days. Tests are first come, first serve, so it is recommended you arrive 10-15 minutes early.

How can I use my SDR accommodation for the Language Primer test?

Please contact Kelsie Poe at to arrange accommodations.

What if I can’t make it to the exam on a testing day for reasons such as family emergency, illness or class schedule conflict?

Please contact Kelsie Poe at as soon as possible to make arrangements. Students who contact in advance for non-emergency situations will be accommodated.

How do I study for the exam?

Poynter offers essays, practice drills and other resources through the course pack. After you have enrolled in the course, you are able to access all study materials. Practice drills are reported as the most helpful, but you can also find assistance through our Study Links document, as well as our Grammar Test Study Guide.

What is the average studying time for the exam?

Most students report they study 6-10 hours before passing the exam. Time depends on students’ familiarity with the topics tested and individual differences.

How many students pass the exam?

75% of students pass the test each semester. Only about 25% pass the first time they take the exam. The average number of attempts to pass is two, but some students will take the exam up to five times.