This two-phase mixed methods sequential exploratory study adds to the scant literature on second language (L2) learners’ metaphoric competence in the post-secondary context by investigating: 1) the prevalence of English metaphor in engineering textbooks; and 2) first-year students’ metaphoric comprehension. The Phase 1 corpus analysis uncovered personification and family and relationship metaphors across all five engineering sub-disciplines, but greater concentrations in chemistry, less in engineering mechanics. In Phase 2, the responses to a metaphor comprehension task, administered to 42 newly admitted engineering students at a Canadian university as part of an overall diagnostic assessment, were rated on a 5-point scale. A bi-modal distribution differentiated high achievers (primarily English-speaking students) from low achievers (primarily foreign language students). The piloted scale and metaphor test were analyzed using item discrimination, Spearman’s rho, simple linear regression and Bachman and Palmer’s (2010) usefulness criteria. Implications are discussed for language teaching pedagogy and post-entry diagnostic assessment.