|Three times a year 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, test candidates will
be asked to explain a topic from their fields to the panel (approximately
five minutes). The panel rates the candidate 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.
During the test the jury will assign each candidate a topic from his/her
field (topics are not chosen by the candidates in advance). Test takers
should not be concerned about the topic; if the proposed topic is not
appropriate, the candidate is free to ask for a different topic.
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.