The purpose of the Oral English Proficiency Test  (OECT) for international teaching assistants (ITAs) is to assess how effectively they can communicate in English in typical everyday, academic, and classroom situations. OECT results help ISU departments and graduate programs make informed decisions when assigning teaching duties to their ITAs.

The OECT takes 20-25 minutes and consists of two sections: Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) and a TEACH mini-lecture. Test takers have one hour to prepare for TEACH. Both sections of the test are recorded.


1. Test Preparation: Students must arrive one hour before their appointed test time to prepare for TEACH. They are asked to choose a topic related to their academic field and receive material on that topic. The material is from a textbook textbook used in undergraduate courses. As they prepare, no dictionaries or other text or electronic sources are allowed. Pencils and paper are provided for note-taking.

2. The OPI section lasts for approximately 10 minutes

  1. Warm Up:  (not scored) Informal interaction, small talk.
  2. Impromptu speaking: Test-takers are expected to respond right away, as in a normal conversation. No preparation time is given. Three questions on different topics and follow-up questions (e.g, describing events and experiences or explaining ideas and opinions). Each continues for about 2 minutes.
  3. Role play: Test-takers are expected to act out a specific daily life situation (e.g. shopping, finding out information, or setting up an appointment). A card describing a specific situation and task is provided for test takers. One minute of preparation time is allowed before the role-play with the interviewer begins. This conversation continues for up to 2 minutes.

3.  The TEACH teaching simulation section takes approximately 10 minutes and immediately follows the OPI. Test-takers have up to 2 minutes to write notes on the board, such as a brief outline or a diagram. (Test-takers may also write as they present). Then, they teach their topics for 5 minutes, as if giving a lecture to a class of ISU undergraduate students. A 3-minutes question-answer session follows afterwards. “The class” usually consists of  2-3 raters, who ask questions after the presentation. Questions may concern the content presented or typical classroom business such as homework, attendance, office hours, or tests.

Note: Some students are exempted from the OPI section because of high scores in both speaking and listening on TOEFL iBT or IELTS.  These students begin TEACH. (See Who needs to take OECT for detailed exemption criteria.)

4. Rating Procedures:

  • Raters assign a score from eight bands  0 - 300 for the overall comprehensibility and effectiveness of the spoken language and listening ability in English.
  • Raters do not judge the content, but the way ideas are expressed--for example, how freely ideas are communicated, how comprehensible the speech is, how appropriate and complex the language is, and how accurately it is spoken and understood. 
  • Raters score independently; in other words, they do not know the score given by the other raters until all have finished the rating of both sections of OPI and TEACH.
  • Individual ratings are averaged.  If the raters do not agree, an additional rater evaluates the test. In addition, some recordings from each test room are rated again to ensure fairness.

Scores of OPI and TEACH sections are reported separately to students and departments as one of 4 possible levels of certification:  fully certified Llevel 1), conditionally certified (Level 2), certified with restrictions (Level 3), and not certified (Level 4).  Students in these four categories are each assigned different teaching duties and have different class requirements. See Understanding Results for detailed information. 

Check Our Test Guide.