Greenlee Language Primer (PIE)

Poynter Institute Exam – Fall 2020 Instructions

Passing the Poynter Institute Exam (known in Greenlee as the PIE) is a prerequisite for JL MC 201. The exam is offered as part of an online course offered through Poynter’s News University. Passing three assessments in grammar, punctuation, and word use will demonstrate a solid foundation for JL MC 201. Students must receive a score of 78% or more (39 out of 50) on each assessment to pass the PIE.

Students have three attempts to pass each of the three assessments with a 78% or more (39 out of 50). Students must use these attempts by 4 p.m. CDT Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. These attempts will be online on your own time and can be taken from any computer with internet access.

Students with accommodations through the Student Accessibility Office should contact Kelsie Poe at before registering for the test. Students wishing to use accommodations for the PIE should contact Kelsie as soon as possible.

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 three assessments. Your field should be filled out as follows:
    • First Name: First Name
    • Last Name: Last Name
    • Username: ISU net-ID
    • Email: ISU email
  2. Once logged into your account, follow this link for the “Iowa State University: Language Primer (Fall 2020).”
  3. Enroll in “Iowa State University: Language (Fall 2020)” by clicking the button that says “Enroll Now.” Be prepared with a credit or debit card to pay the $14.95 fee.
    • If you have any issues signing up for the course, please contact the Poynter Institute directly at
  4. Practice drills are 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. It is highly recommended that you complete all practice drills before attempting the assessments.
  5. Additional study resources can be found through our Study Links document, as well as our own Grammar Test Study Guide.

For additional guidance, please see the following videos:

To take the final course assessments:

  1. Locate “Iowa State University: Language Primer (Fall 2020)” in your course list. You can easily find this by clicking on your username in the top right corner and going to “My Courses.”
  2. Once you are in the Language Primer course, scroll all the way down to the “Course” box. There will be an option for “Language Primer College Edition.” Click “Expand.”
  3. You will be shown the three course assessments: Grammar, Punctuation, and Word Use. Students must take all three assessments and score a 78% or more (39 out of 50) on each to pass the PIE. These assessments can be taken at different times and in any order
  4. Once you have selected the approriate assessment, you will begin the assessment by clicking “Start Quiz.” You have 75 minutes to complete the 50 questions for each assessment.
  5. If you do not score a 78% or more (39 out of 50) on your first attempt, you may take each assessment as many as three times total before 4 p.m. CDT Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020.

To see your grades:

  1. You can see your grade for each assessment attempt on the “Iowa State University: Language Primer Course Pack (Fall 2020)”. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on “Gradebook for Iowa State University (Fall 2020)”. This page will show your individual grades for each assessment. Please note that each assessment must have a score of 78% or more (39 out of 50) to be eligible for JL MC 201.
  2. Once you have registered, you will be contacted about your progress by the department once a week (usually Fridays). You will either be confirmed of your three passing scores or reminded to complete the PIE by the end of the semester.

Students must receive a 78% or more (39 out of 50) on each assessment to be qualified for JL MC 201. Test scores will be recorded at 4 p.m. CST Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, and no other attempts will be accepted past that time.

All questions should be directed to Kelsie Poe at


I am having technical problems with the Poynter website. (Examples may include exam score not displaying, exams restarting, or study materials not being available.)

Please contact Poynter directly to notify them of the technical issues you are facing. This will help them adjust for you and for others who may run into the same problem. Email with a detailed account of your problem, as well as any screenshots if applicable.

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 but did not pass; 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 have three attempts for each of the three assessments.

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. All exams should be taken online through any computer with Internet access.

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

Please contact Kelsie Poe at to arrange accommodations.

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 to 10 hours before passing the exam. Time depends on students’ familiarity with the topics tested and individual differences.