Carnegie Mellon University

Tips for Doing your Best on the ITA Test

The ITA test is a test of spoken fluency that assesses your ability to communicate to learners. The test consists of two parts: a conversational interview and a more formal explanation of a topic from your field. The following tips will help you feel more comfortable and do better on the test.

  1. The raters are all highly experienced language professionals with a general knowledge of most fields at CMU, but are not experts in your field. 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.
  1. The test begins with a conversational interview on issues related to your academic interests. You will then be asked to explain a topic from your field in more detail (do not prepare anything in advance). This provides a more authentic sample of academic fluency; the real test of an ITA's fluency comes when responding to unexpected questions and comments from students.
  2. Remember that this is a test of spoken fluency; we are not assessing your knowledge or teaching skills. If you cannot talk about the topic suggested, 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 other possible areas in your field. 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. Focus instead on being as clear as possible.
  1. Slow down. Speed and monotone stress can greatly interfere with clarity.
  2. Raters will ask questions both for clarification and to elicit additional aspects of fluency.
  3. Use good presenting techniques:
    • Interact with the audience
    • Use the board
    • Use transitional language to help the audience understand the organization of your presentation
  1. Don't be surprised if you feel nervous during the test. Take a deep breath, go slowly and realize that even students do well on the test make some mistakes with grammar, pronunciation or word choice.
  2. Be aware that the test is recorded for feedback and evaluation purposes.
  3. Review ITA testing resources; the more you know about the test, the more likely that you can demonstrate your true level of academic fluency.