Oral English Certification Test  (OECT)


The purpose of the Oral English Certification Test  (OECT) is to assess how effectively international teaching assistants (ITAs) 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: an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) and a TEACH mini-lecture. Both sections of the test are video/audio recorded.

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.

OPI: The first part of OECT lasts for approximately 10 minutes and consists of:

  • Warm up - unscored informal interaction, small talk.
  • Impromptu speaking - three questions on different topics (e.g., describing events and experiences or explaining ideas and opinions). Test-takers respond without preparation, as in a normal conversation (2 minutes per response).
  • Role play - acting out a daily life situation (e.g., shopping, finding out information, or setting up an appointment). A card describing the situation and task is provided for test-takers. One minute of preparation time is allowed (2 minutes).

TEACH simulation: The second part of OECT lasts for approximately 10 minutes and consists of:

  • Preparing teaching notes on the board (2 minutes). Test-takers may also write as they present.
  • Mini-lecture on a topic selected by the test-taker (5 minutes), as if giving a lecture to a class of ISU undergraduate students.
  • Answering questions from "the class" (3 minutes). “The class” usually consists of 2-3 raters who ask questions that may concern the content presented or inquire about typical classroom matters such as homework, attendance, office hours, exams, etc.

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.)

Rating procedures:

  • Raters assign a score from eight bands of scores ranging from 0 to 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 (e.g., 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; they do not know the score given by the other raters.
  • Individual ratings are averaged. If the raters's scores are different, an additional rater performs additional rating of the video-recorded performance on the test. In addition, some recordings from each test room are rated again to ensure fairness.

    Score reporting

    Scores of OPI and TEACH sections are reported separately to students and departments as one of 4 possible levels of certification: 

    • Level 1 - Fully Certified
    • Level 2 - Conditionally Certified
    • Level 3 - Certified with Restrictions
    • Level 4 - Not Certified

    Students in these four level categories are assigned different teaching duties and have different class requirements.

    See Understand Results for detailed information. 

    Check Our Test Guide.


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    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. 2011