For International Teaching Assistants

The goal of the English Programs for International Teaching Assistants (ITAs) is to provide ITAs with the skills they need to be effective oral communicators in the classroom. The instructional focus is on English pronunciation, vocabulary, and structure.

The International Teaching Assistant (ITA) program:

  • Evaluates the spoken English of ITA’s
  • Offers courses to improve English speaking

Who Has to Take the ITA Evaluation?

The Graduate School requires that ITAs who are non-native speakers of English be evaluated to have their proficiency in spoken English assessed. The ITA Evaluation is not required of students who serve only as graders or researchers, or whose entire education has been in the U.S., United Kingdom, Ireland, English-speaking Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Anglophone Africa, or the Commonwealth Caribbean. Candidates must pass the ITA Evaluation prior to being assigned teaching duties, including duties in labs.

ITAs can be exempted from the evaluation if they have already achieved the required minimum scores from the speaking section of the following standardized English tests:

TOEFL: 26 or higher, IELTS: 8 or higher, or PTE: 80 or higher

These scores must be submitted to MEI by the ITA’s academic department as described below.

How Can I Take the ITA Evaluation?

Candidates must be referred by the Graduate Director of their department.  Students may not self-refer to the evaluation.

MEI is currently accepting registrations for the November oral interview only on November 15 and the January 16-18 full evaluation.
The deadline for the November testing is noon on Thursday, November 2.
The deadline for the January evaluation is noon on Thursday, January 4.

What Is the ITA Evaluation?

The ITA Evaluation happens in two or four steps:

Step 1 Orientation For all ITA Candidates. Bring:

  • photo ID
  • letter of appointment
Step 2 Interview For all ITA Candidates

  • a 5-10 minute interview
  • two MEI interviewers
  • 1st evaluation of spoken English

The interview is scored from 0 to 5, with 5 indicating high proficiency. Candidates scoring 5 are passed to teach without restriction. Candidates scoring less than 5 are tested in two further steps:

Step 3 Microteaching Candidates:

  • prepare a 7-8 minute mini-lecture in their field
  • present the lecture to three evaluators
  • respond to 2-3 minutes of Q&A
  • are scored from 0-108

The results of these tests determine an ITA candidate’s eligibility for teaching and what, if any, English courses are required:

Interview Microteaching Result English Course
5 n/a cleared to teach not required
4 84-108 cleared to teach not required
3-4 67-83 conditional pass UMEI 006
0-2 below 83 fail UMEI 008

Candidates who receive a conditional pass:

  • must enroll in UMEI 006 to assume teaching duties
  • can only teach 300-400 level undergraduate courses

Candidates who receive a fail:

  • are directed to enroll in UMEI 008
  • may not be assigned teaching duties

When Is the ITA Evaluation?

The evaluation schedule can be found here.

MEI will attempt when possible to honor requests for out-of-schedule testing when an appointed ITA cannot attend the evaluation on the scheduled dates. However, because ITA testing requires the participation of administrative staff and several faculty members, additional out-of-session testing costs are incurred and must be covered. The cost is $75 for the oral interview and an additional $100 ($175 total) if the ITA needs to continue screening beyond the interview. These charges are payable by the department that requests the out-of-schedule testing and are in addition to the normal ITA evaluation fees.

What Does the ITA Evaluation Cost?

  • fee for steps 1-2 – $75
  • fee for steps 3-4 – $100

The Graduate School pays the fee for the ITA Evaluation for students who have been formally appointed as TAs. All other students are responsible for paying this fee. If the department wishes to cover the cost of the evaluation for those students, the Graduate Director must indicate this in writing on the referral form.

English Pronunciation (UMEI 006)

Key Facts
  • meets 2 days a week, 2 hours per day
  • to develop broad communication skills
  • does not carry degree credit
  • counts as 12 graduate units
  • special course fee required
Course Fee
  • $2,055

Advanced Oral Communication Skills (UMEI 008)

Key Facts
  • meets 2 days a week, 2 hours per day
  • to develop broad communication skills
  • does not carry degree credit
  • counts as 12 graduate units
  • special course fee required
Course Fee
  • $2,055

If a student is required to take an English course based on the results of the ITA evaluation, and that student has been formally appointed as a TA, the department is responsible for the course fee. The department may not pass the cost of this instruction on to the student. If the student fails the ITA evaluation and is not a TA, the student is responsible for the course fee. Tuition remission cannot be used for UMEI courses.

How Can I Be Cleared To Teach?

At the end of the semester, candidates will complete another microteaching evaluation. A score of 84 or higher on the evaluation is needed to be cleared to teach.

Candidates who do not score an 84 or higher on the end-of-semester microteaching evaluation can take another semester of UMEI 006. They will be tested again after that semester. Again, a score of 84 or higher is needed to be cleared for teaching assignments.

A Note to Departments

Appointed ITAs who have already achieved certain scores on the speaking subsections of the TOEFL or IELTS tests can now be cleared for teaching without needing to be tested by MEI. To be exempt from testing, the ITA must have achieved a score of 26 or higher on the Speaking sub-section of the TOEFL, or a score of 8.0 or higher on the Speaking sub-section of the IELTS, or a score of 80 or higher on the speaking subsection of the PTE

The ITA referral form includes a separate section at the bottom for the names of appointed ITAs who meet the requirement for exemption from testing. MEI will verify the ITAs’ test scores in their SIS records and enter the teaching clearance.