Testing Policies

1.  The Oral English Certification Test (OECT) is a test for prospective international teaching assistants and other graduate students who will teach as part of their program of study and whose native-language is not English. These students must take OECT before they are assigned teaching duties. Departments and programs inform us about their students who have to be tested. (See Who Needs to Take OECT.)

2.  Students with scores below Level 1 are placed in English 180: Oral Communication Skills for International Teaching Assistants. They can re-test after having taken the course.

3.  Students who were required or placed in, but did not take the recommended section of the English 180 course are eligible for re-testing only after one year. We enforce these restrictive re-testing policies for the following reasons:

  • It is depressing and demoralizing for test candidates to retake the test but see little, if any, improvement in scores.
  • The test is thorough, but expensive and time consuming to administer.
  • Significant progress in oral English is generally slower than most students expect.  A number of students improve to scores of around 200 (a mid level-3) or even lower, and then plateau. (Plateauing around the score of 200 is not surprising.  200 scores mean that communication is somewhat effective. Students with these scores are able to operate in English fairly successfully thus having less reason to work on improving, although their English language abilities are somewhat limited and/or have errors. Persistent problem areas often include pronunciation, grammar and limited vocabulary.  Language proficiency needs constant practice and focused work on problem areas for improvement to take place.)
  • Most of ITAs who are not taking English classes retest at the same level as previously.  Students who moving up a level have at least 10 months of instruction, and in some cases over 2 years, between test dates. There have also been cases when students made no significant improvement on OECT for a long time.

4.  Postdoctoral associates applying for PFF are waived from the 1-year rule for retesting.