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UT ESL Servicesio

International Teaching Assistant English Certification

Note: First the department must register the student in the ITA database. Then the student may go to the website and register for an assessment date/time. See directions below.

For Departmental Use Only

Register students/check status

Certification Checklist

Registration Instructions

Certification Exemption Chart

ITA Program Calendar

For Students

Cover Letter

Checklist

ITA Program Calendar

Preparation for the Assessment

Video

ITA English Certification Registration

The ITA database now requires individual logon accounts. If this is your first time accessing the new system, contact us for logon information.

For Department Use Only

Register a New Prospective ITA or Check Status

For TIEP Use Only

TIEP Assessment Scheduling & Score Entry

International Office — (512) 471-2482
2400 Nueces, Suite B — Campus Mail Code A7000
PO Box A
Austin, Texas 78713
Email: itaprog@www.utexas.edu

 

ITA English Certification Checklist for Graduate Advisors and TA Coordinators

Notify prospective ITAs of English Certification requirements and procedures well before the semester of their potential appointment. A Student Packet containing detailed information regarding the certification process for ITAs can be found on the ITA Program web site.

Register students for English Certification (including non-automatic exemptions from Certification):

For Department Use Only: Register a new prospective ITA or Check Status

For TIEP Use Only: TIEP Assessment Scheduling & Score Entry

Give ITAs a description of what duties and responsibilities a TA appointment in your department entails.

Avoid putting newly arrived ITAs in freshman sections (rookies with rookies)

When possible, give conditionally certified ITAs a semester to work on communication skills, adjust to the culture and observe undergraduate classes before appointing them to positions with student contact.

If conditionally certified ITAs are given student contact positions, assign them a more experienced TA as a mentor or provide an upper-division undergraduate as a consultant.

Any graduate student who may eventually teach should be encouraged to take the Oral English Proficiency Assessment and finish the ITA Communication Workshop at the first available opportunity.

Please let your faculty and students know that English Certification is not just for those with pending appointments.

Have a pool of certified ITAs to make last-minute staffing easier.

You may wish to print the Student Packet and distribute it to potential ITAs in your department.

 

Registration Instructions for ITA/AI English Certification

  • Access the ITA Program registration. For Department Use Only: Register a new prospective ITA or Check Status
  • A window will appear for you to enter a username and a password. Department Chairs, Graduate Advisors and Graduate Coordinators may call the ITA Program at (512) 471-2482 or email itaprog@www.utexas.edu to request a username and password.
  • Enter the student's UT EID in the blank field on the form.
  • Click on the "Add NEW Student" button.
  • Complete the Student Record.
  • All fields for "Student Record" and for "Account Information" are required in order to submit the form.
  • If you would like to request that a student be exempted from the Oral English Proficiency Assessment and/or the ITA Teaching Workshop, please fill in the appropriate fields in the "Exemption Request" section.
  • When you have finished entering all required information, submit the form by clicking on the "SAVE changes" button.
  • You can then either "Log Out" to leave the database or click on the "Find/Add New Student Record" button to add another student.

Status Verification Instructions for ITA/AI English Certification

  • Access the ITA Program registration. For Department Use Only: Register a new prospective ITA or Check Status
  • Click on "Register a New Prospective ITA or Check Status" (on the left-hand side of the page)
  • A window will appear for you to enter a username and a password. Department Chairs, Graduate Advisors and Graduate Coordinators may call the ITA Program at (512) 471-2482 or email itaprog@www.utexas.edu to request a username and password.
  • Enter the student's UT EID in the blank field on the form.
  • Click on the "FIND Student" button.
  • Click on the "Certification" tab to see their certification status.
  • You can then either "Log Out" to leave the database or click on the "Find/Add New Student Record" button to add another student.

Troubleshooting note for Firefox users:

The first time you attempt to log in to our system, you may get an error message that says "Secure connection failed." To resolve this error:

  1. Click on the link at the end of the “Secure Connection Failed” page that says “Or you can add an exception...”
  2. Click on the button “Add exception” to confirm your choice. This should open a new pop-up window.
  3. Click on “Get Certificate” at the top of the pop-up window, and then “Confirm Security Exception” at the bottom of the window. Make sure that you leave the box “Permanently store this exception” checked. That way, you’ll only have to go through this procedure once.

 

ITA/AI Certification Requirements & Exemption Chart

Requirements Oral English Assessment ITA Online Workshop ITA Course - ESL 389T
International TA/AI required required required if Assessment score is 230-245
Foreign Language AI required required required if Assessment score is 230-245

Exemptions

The following cases DO NOT require that the department complete the online Exemption Requests section of the ITA/AI English Certification Registration page. These exemptions will be made automatically in the mainframe and can be checked in GSADM on the screen GS80. For access to GSADM contact the Graduate School.

Students who are Exempt/Reasons for Exemptions Oral English Assessment ITA Online Workshop
Native speakers of English from a country where English is the primary language, such as English-Speaking Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. EXEMPT EXEMPT
High school diploma or university degree (Undergraduate or Masters) from a US institution EXEMPT EXEMPT
English-medium schooling from elementary school through college (All subjects taught through English.) Most students from India are exempt based on this criteria. EXEMPT EXEMPT

The following cases DO require that the department complete the online Exemption Requests section of the ITA/AI English Certification Registration page. Departments should receive a response from the ITA program within two days of their request.

Students who are Exempt/Reasons for Exemptions Oral English Assessment ITA Online Workshop
A score of 55 or higher on the TSE (Test of Spoken English) EXEMPT EXEMPT
Foreign Language TA EXEMPT required
Two semesters of experience as a TA/AI with student contact at a US university EXEMPT required
Four semesters of experience as a TA/AI with student contact at a US university EXEMPT EXEMPT

Other exemption requests submitted by the Graduate Advisor or Department Chair will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

 

ITA Program Calendar

In order to be eligible for a TA or AI appointment with student contact, you must complete the following requirements:

  1. Take the Oral English Proficiency Assessment and receive a score of 230 or higher. The dates for the Assessment are listed below.
  2. Complete the ITA Online Workshop, offered online (see link below).
  3. If you conditionally passed the Assessment (with a score of 230-245) and will have a position with student contact, you must take the ITA course during the semester of your appointment. The ITA course is offered in fall & spring semesters.

Dates for the Oral English Proficiency Assessment

January  2015

  • Friday, January 9 (AM and PM)
  • Monday, January 12 (AM and PM)
  • Tuesday, January 13 (AM and PM)

 

Appointments accepted beginning Monday, December 8, 2014 until Wednesday, January 7, 2015 (or until appointments are filled).

April 2015

  • Tuesday, April 14 (PM only)
  • Wednesday, April 15 (PM only)
  • Tuesday, April 16 (PM only)

Appointments accepted beginning Monday, April 6 until Monday, April 13 (or until appointments are filled).

  All Assessments are conducted by the Texas Intensive English Program (TIEP). Detailed information about making appointments is available at their website, http://tiec.org/ita.htm (email: ita.test@tiec.org, phone: (512) 477-9283, extension 145).

ITA Online Workshop

This workshop is offered online. To be eligible to take the workshop, you must have taken the ITA test and received a "pass" or "conditional pass."

ITA workshop instructions (PDF)

Take the ITA workshop

Dates for the ITA Course

The ITA course is offered in fall and spring semesters.

Course description and sections

 

Cover Letter

Dear International Graduate Student,

The International Teaching Assistant (ITA) Program welcomes you to The University of Texas at Austin. As an international Teaching Assistant (TA) or Assistant Instructor (AI), you will have the opportunity to help enrich UT's academic environment and contribute to the University's goal of maintaining a high level of excellence in teaching.

The State of Texas requires that all public universities in Texas provide a program to ensure that courses are taught clearly in English. In order to comply, UT Austin conducts English Certification for TAs and AIs whose first language is not English and who will hold positions with student contact. The English Certification process includes an Oral English Proficiency Assessment and an ITA Communication Workshop. In addition, some individuals may be required to take an ITA course. Your department may also have additional English requirements.

Please read through the following documents, as they contain detailed information and instructions on each of the steps in the English Certification process. In order to be certified for an ITA/IAI appointment with student contact, you must complete all the required components of English Certification. For your benefit, we have provided a Certification Checklist as well as a list of dates for the Oral English Proficiency Assessment and the ITA Communication Workshop.

If you have any questions or require additional information, please contact the ITA Program by telephone at (512) 471-2482 or by email at EMAIL ADDRESS NEEDED. We look forward to meeting you and working with you in the coming semester.

Sincerely,
Michael T. Smith
Director, ESL Services

 

Certification Checklist for International TAs and AIs

  1. The Graduate Adviser or Graduate Coordinator of the employing department will need to register you on the ITA Program website. You must be registered in order to begin the certification process.
  2. If your native language is not English, you will need to schedule an appointment to take the Oral English Proficiency Assessment.
    • Foreign language TAs are exempt from the English Proficiency Assessment; however, Foreign language AIs are not exempt and must thus take the Assessment.
    • All Assessments are conducted by the Texas Intensive English Program (TIEP). Detailed information about making appointments is available at their website, http://tiec.org/ita.htm (email: ita.test@tiec.org, phone: (512) 477-9283, extension 145).
  3. If your score on the Assessment is 230 or higher, you will need to complete the ITA Workshop, which is offered online. *Note: You do not have to complete the Workshop in the same semester as the Assessment, but you must take the Assessment before you can complete the Workshop.
  4. If you have conditionally passed the Assessment (with a score of 230-245) and if you will be appointed to a position with student contact, you must be enrolled in the ITA course, ESL 389T, during the semester of your appointment.
  5. If you did not pass your initial Assessment, you may schedule an appointment to take an additional Assessment the following semester. Students may take the Assessment only once per semester and are limited to three attempts per year, with a maximum of five total Assessments. In order to receive unconditional English Certification as a TA or AI with student contact, you need to obtain a score of 250 or higher on the Assessment and complete the ITA Workshop. Note that, after the initial Assessment, the student must pay for all additional Assessments. You will also be charged the Assessment fee if you schedule an appointment but do not show up.

 

Preparing for the Oral English Proficiency Assessment

What is the Oral English Proficiency Assessment?

The Oral English Proficiency Assessment is a 20-minute test designed to measure your ability to communicate in English in an instructional setting. The test uses materials from your field of study and includes a variety of situations to demonstrate how well you speak English in the context of presenting information in your academic area to undergraduates.

What does this assessment measure that TOEFL, TWE and GRE Verbal do not?

TOEFL measures passive listening, grammar, and reading, with an emphasis on accuracy. TWE measures writing ability, and GRE Verbal measures reading comprehension at the native speaker level. None of these tests examines speaking skills. The Assessment, on the other hand, provides a measure of your oral English proficiency, in other words, your ability to interpret, express, and negotiate meaning in a given context or situation. For example, the degree of proficiency required to survive as a tourist is very different from what you would need to lead undergraduates in a discussion section on physics.

Why are communication skills so important?

Teaching occurs when one person helps another change his/her knowledge through the process of communication. Because learning results from this interaction between teacher and student, teachers must communicate well in order to teach effectively. So, in addition to being knowledgeable about the subject matter, teachers must possess specialized presentation skills and adequate language proficiency.

What is the format of the Assessment?

Two raters are present during the Assessment, which is audio-taped. Oral proficiency is assessed in a face-to-face exam session and rated in terms of pronunciation, grammar, fluency, and comprehensibility. You will receive the results a few minutes after completing the Assessment. The exam consists of a warm-up conversation (which is not scored) followed by five rated teaching-related tasks:

  • summary and explanation of a four-page excerpt from a textbook in your field (you will be given this article 30 minutes prior to the test)
  • pronunciation of 40 terms from your field
  • explanation of two of these 40 terms
  • description and interpretation of a graph
  • classroom announcement role-play

How is the test scored?

The Assessment is scored by two ESL professionals who have received extensive training in tests of this type. The two raters' scores are averaged. If the two scores differ by 50 or more points, a third rater scores the exam, and the third score is then averaged with the closer of the two original scores. Scores range from 0-300 as follows: 250-300 = Passed, 230-245 = Conditionally passed, 0-225 = Did not pass.

What do the scores represent in terms of your level of proficiency in English?

  • 300 — The speaker is always comprehensible with perhaps occasional nonnative pronunciation errors or sporadic minor grammatical errors that do not interfere with intelligibility. Speech closely approximates that of a native speaker.
  • 250-295 — The speaker is almost always comprehensible with occasional nonnative pronunciation errors or sporadic minor grammatical errors that rarely interfere with intelligibility. Speech is smooth and effortless, and communication is very effective.
  • 230-245 — The speaker is usually comprehensible with errors in pronunciation, grammar, word choice, or pauses or rephrasing that generally do not interfere with intelligibility. Communication is generally effective.
  • 200-225 — The speaker is somewhat comprehensible with consistent, distracting errors in pronunciation, grammar, word choice, or nonnative pauses that sometimes interfere with intelligibility. The speaker struggles with the language needed to communicate ideas.
  • Below 200 — The speaker is generally not comprehensible because of frequent pronunciation errors and foreign stress and intonation patterns, lack of grammatical control, limited grasp of vocabulary, and numerous pauses and/or rephrasing that often interfere with intelligibility. Communication is not effective, and the listener is left confused.

How can you give your best performance?

Speak loudly enough so that the raters can hear you easily. Articulate clearly but do not slow down your rate of speech unnaturally. Although your teaching skills are not being evaluated, your presentation and delivery skills do affect the quality of your communication. Your knowledge of your field is not being evaluated, so do not worry if you are unsure of some information. What is most important is that you use appropriate strategies and language to explain what you do know. Serious lack of intelligibility results more often from non-native intonation and fluency problems than from isolated errors in pronunciation or grammar. To enhance your comprehensibility, emphasize key words, link phrases fluently, and use the rhythm and cadence of English correctly.

How can you prepare for the Oral English Proficiency Assessment?

Familiarize yourself with the directions for all five sections of the Assessment and practice responding to each section. It is very helpful to record yourself on tape and then listen to how your speech actually sounds. Suggested practice activities for each of the five sections follow:

  1. Summary and Explanation of an Article — From an undergraduate textbook or a journal in your field, choose a three- or four-page excerpt related to one topic. Spend thirty minutes reading and taking notes on the material. Give yourself three or four minutes to summarize and explain the material orally to an audience of educated native speakers who are novices in your field.
  2. Pronunciation of Terms — Make a list of 100 basic technical terms in your field and read them to a native English speaker. Ask this individual to help you with the pronunciation of difficult terms, possibly recording them on tape for you. You might also practice with other terms that present similar pronunciation problems.
  3. Explanation of Terms — Practice giving simple definitions for several of the terms on your list, including examples if you can. Give thorough definitions, not just synonyms or related terms.
  4. Interpretation of a Graph — Practice describing and discussing information presented in a graph or chart. This usually involves talking about numerical data, percentages, and trends. You can find suitable graphic material in English-language textbooks, periodicals, and newspapers.
  5. Classroom Announcement Role-Play — Imagine you are an instructor on the first day of class and need to give your students information about the class schedule, location, test dates, textbooks or lab materials, etc. Make sure that your message is clear and that you emphasize the key points.

Note: A 16-minute video has been developed which presents each of the steps involved in the Oral English Proficiency Assessment. You can follow an international graduate student as he completes the English Certification process.

 

Video Materials for ITAs to help prepare for the Oral English Assessment

Learn more about the Oral English Assessment by viewing a 16-minute video which presents each of the Assessment steps. You will watch Phil, an international graduate student, as he completes the English Certification process.

 

ITA Video from Tony Anderson on Vimeo.

Contact Information:

Michael Smith, Director ESL Services
International Office — ITA Program
2400  Nueces Street, Suite B
(512) 471-2482
Email: itaprog@www.utexas.edu