- Understand your audience for the test. The raters are ESL professionals with a general knowledge of most fields at Carnegie Mellon,
but little in-depth knowledge of specific topics from your field. Do not pretend that the raters are "students" in a hypothetical class that you might TA.
Instead, work to explain clearly to the audience actually in the room.
- Explain or briefly define all technical terms used that you think a general audience might not understand.
Do not rely on formulas or technical jargon.
During the first part of the test (the conversational interview) the raters will ask questions to guide you through a variety of issues
related to your academic interests. The topic for the second part of the test (the more formal explanation) is chosen during the test; do not prepare anything
in advance. This allows for a more authentic sample of academic fluency; the real test of an ITA's fluency comes when he or she must respond to the unexpected
questions and comments from students (a key component of labs, review sessions, recitations and office hours).
- Finding a topic is a negotiation between the raters and the test taker. The ITA test is a test of spoken fluency; it is not a test of
knowledge nor of teaching skills. If you feel that you cannot talk about a topic we suggest, it is appropriate to ask for another topic. However, be sure to
explain why the first topic is not suitable and to give some guidance about some other possible areas in your field from which we can find a topic. This
conversation will give you an opportunity to demonstrate your academic fluency.
- You are not expected to fully cover your topic during the 5 minutes allotted for your presentation, so don't be surprised when the
raters stop you before you have finished. Focus your efforts on being as clear as possible during the test rather than attempting to complete an explanation
that could not realistically be completed in 5 minutes.
- Be careful not to speak too quickly. Many test takers are surprised to find out that excessive speed made their language less comprehensible.
- Expect questions throughout the test. Raters will ask questions both for clarification and, if needed, to help you get back on track,
(e.g., to clarify overly technical language, to ask for an example, or to remind you to slow down).
- Use good presenting techniques:
- Interact with the audience (e.g., to get them to better understand the issue)
- Use the board; the audience needs to see as well as hear.
- Use transitional language to help the audience understand the organization of your presentation (e.g., moving from general ideas to
specific examples, when rewording, moving on to new topics).
- Don't be surprised if you feel nervous before and during the test. Most people are and this is perfectly normal. Take a deep breath,
remember to go slowly and realize that even people who get the top score might make some mistakes with grammar, pronunciation or word choice.
- Be aware that the test is recorded for feedback and evaluation purposes.
- Review the ITA test webpage thoroughly; the more you know about the test,
the more likely that you will be able to demonstrate your true level of academic fluency.