|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 ITA test is an oral exam that assesses a candidate's ability to communicate orally with learners/people outside their field. Test candidates will meet with
a panel of four to five raters. The test consists of two parts (both will be recorded):
- A conversational interview in which the candidate is asked to discuss his/her academic field and interests.
- A more formal explanation of a topic from the candidate's field (topics are not chosen in advance). Candidates should feel free to decline a topic if it is not appropriate for them. The candidate will be asked to explain this topic for approximately five minutes, and is not expected to fully cover the topic. The raters will ask questions to clarify misunderstandings and to elicit additional aspects of academic fluency.
Candidates are assessed on language skills such as pronunciation, grammar, the fluency to explain and define academic terms and concepts,
and the ability to understand and respond clearly to questions. Candidates are not assessed on knowledge of their field nor on teaching skills.
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 candidate 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, candidates will also get feedback on presentation
skills and cultural understanding to help them improve their communication as TAs. Both candidates and their departments will receive copies of the final