|Three times a year (November, April, August) the ICC tests
prospective TAs for English proficiency in accordance with Carnegie
Mellon University policy and the 1991 Pennsylvania law, “English Fluency in Higher Education,”
which requires that all nonnative speaking students pass a language
certification test before being allowed to work with undergraduates in classes, recitations,
labs or individual meetings (note: the university faces a $10,000 fine for each uncertified TA). Carnegie
Mellon has gone beyond the law to require that all nonnative speaking students pass the language test before being allowed to serve
as a TA for graduate classes as well as undergraduate classes.
The test is a teaching simulation that assesses a student's ability to communicate orally in the classroom.
Test candidates will meet with a panel of four to five raters. The test begins with a general conversation
related to the student's academic field and interests.
Next, the raters will assign a topic from the candidate's field (topics are not chosen by the candidates
in advance). Candidates should feel free to decline a topic if it is not appropriate for them. The candidates
will be asked to explain this topic for approximately five minutes, and are not expected to fully cover the
topic. The raters will ask questions to clarify misunderstandings and to assess additional aspects of teaching
Candidates are assessed on language skills such as comprehensibility (e.g., pronunciation, fluency and grammar),
the ability to explain a concept in English, and understanding and responding clearly to questions. Note that
candidates do not need to have native-like fluency or pronunciation to pass the ITA test. See Preparing for the ITA test and
Tips for Doing your Best on the ITA test.
ITA test candidates receive one of four scores.
Feedback and results
Each student returns for an individual feedback appointment in which an
ICC instructor will explain the score, review language strengths and weakness,
and prescribe further ICC training if needed. While the final test score is
based solely on language skills, ITAs will also get feedback on teaching skills
and cultural understanding to help them improve classroom performance. Both
students and their departments will receive copies of the final written evaluations.