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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Oral English Proficiency Program?

The Oral English Proficiency Program (OEPP) is the administrative unit on campus that implements the University's policy on oral English proficiency for international teaching assistants or instructors.

What does the OEPP do?

The OEPP provides oral English proficiency screening services to all departments on campus employing international teaching assistants or instructors whose first language is not English, certifies the oral English proficiency of teaching assistants/instructors whose first language is not English, offers English as a second language instruction to prospective ITAs; and monitors departmental compliance with the University policy on oral English proficiency.

How are students certified?

Students may be certified either on the basis of their score on one of the following:

  • the speaking sub-section of the Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL iBT)
  • the speaking band of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic)

Those students who are admitted but have not met the required speaking score minimums for ITA certification are required to take

Those who do not pass the OEPT are required to enroll in at least one semester of

See the chart below for the scores that are accepted for certification.

Test Minimum Scores Accepted for Oral English Certification*
Oral English Proficiency Test (August 09 and later) 50
TOEFL iBT speaking sub-score 27
IELTS speaking band score 8.0
TOEFL (Computer or paper-based test) Not accepted for oral English certification
Test of Written English Not accepted for oral English certification
SPEAK (from other institutions) Not accepted for oral English certification

*Scores shown are for oral English certification only. Cut-off scores for admission have been established separately by the Graduate School and individual departments.

Do students earn credit by taking ENGL 620?

ENGL 62000 is a 5 credit hour course. However, because the grade for this course is either S (satisfactory) or U (unsatisfactory), these credits do not count towards a plan of study or factor in to a student's GPA. These credits are counted towards the minimum credit hours required of international graduate students per semester.

How many credit hours are international graduate students required to take each semester?

Students on an F-1 Visa with teaching assistantships or research assistantships are required by the Office of International Students & Scholars (ISS) to take a minimum of 6 credit hours. Students without such funding are required to take 8 hours. Graduate students on a J-1 Visa are required to take a minimum of 6 hours if they have a teaching or research assistantship, and 10 hours if they do not have funding. Individual academic programs may have additional requirements, so students should always check with their graduate advisor or graduate studies office before registering. Links to more detailed information on requirements for international students can be found on the News for Current Students page of the ISS website.

If a student was certified by Purdue's Math or Foreign Languages department, does this certify them to work in other Purdue departments?

No. The math department and the School of Languages and Cultures use approved alternative departmental screening procedures that meet the unique needs of their departments. Therefore, students certified through these departments are certified only to be teaching assistants in the department conducting the screening. Students who wish to be TAs in other University departments must be certified by one of the methods shown on the chart above.

If a student has received a degree from an American college or university, do they still have to take the OEPT to be a TA?

Yes. Students who do not speak English as their first language must be certified in oral English proficiency in order to hold a position as a classroom instructor, lab instructor or recitation leader. Receiving a degree from an educational institution where English is the language of instruction, in the U.S. or any other country, does not exempt students from this requirement. Because of the requirements for admission and certification are different, this policy applies even if the student was exempted from the TOEFL requirement for admission by the Graduate School.

What about students who are U.S. citizens or resident aliens, but grew up speaking a language other than English? Are they still required to take the OEPT in order to be a TA?

The University's policy is not based on citizenship or resident status, but instead on the student's first language. If the student did not grow up speaking English in the home as their first language, he or she is required to be certified before holding a TA position that involves the direct instruction of undergraduate students.

What is the Oral English Proficiency Test?

The OEPT is a computer-based test used by the OEPP to screen prospective ITAs for English language proficiency. While taking the test, candidates respond to a variety of questions, present information and speak extemporaneously on a range of topics. The responses are recorded and evaluated by at least two trained raters. A score of 50 or higher is required for certification.

What do the OEPT scores mean?

A score of 50 or 55 means a student is certified for oral English proficiency at Purdue University. A score of 35, 40 or 45 means the student is not certified. Those who score 40 or 45 are recommended to be enrolled in ENGL 62000. Those who score 35 may retest after six months and are encouraged to take advantage the other resources available to them.  To view the OEPT scale, click here.

When is the OEPT offered?

The OEPT is offered throughout the year. Notices of testing dates are sent to departments prior to each screening period. The schedule is also available on our website.

How do I sign up to take the OEPT?

If your department wishes to hire you as a teaching assistant, the department will contact the OEPP secretary to schedule a time for you to take the test. Contact the graduate studies office of your department for more information. More information on test registration can be found on the OEPT schedule page.

How can students prepare for the OEPT?

It is very important for students to prepare for the OEPT by using the OEPT on-line tutorial and practice test. Students who are newly arrived on campus should be given at least 48 hours to rest and recover from jet lag prior to being scheduled for the test. If the student is unable to access the tutorial and practice test on their computer, they may take the practice test in the OEPP lab on the 8th floor of Young Hall.  Click here to view or download a copy of the OEPP's brochure on how to prepare for the OEPT.

What happens if a student is not certified by the screening?

Students who score 40 or 45 are encouraged to enroll in ENGL 620. At the end of the semester of instruction, reconsideration for certification is made on the basis of the student's performance in the course.  Students who score 35 may retake the test after six months.

How soon can a student take the OEPT again if they are not certified?

Students who score 40 may retake the OEPT after one year. Students who score 35 or 45 may retake the test after six months.  Please see the OEPT Retest Policy page for more information.

How do students register for ENGL 620?

Space in ENGL 62000 is limited, so the OEPP works with department liaisons to identify the students who most need to be enrolled in ENGL 620. Click here for complete registration instructions.

What other resources exist in the community for English instruction?

Visit our Community Resources page for more information. Students may also wish to consider private tutoring. The OEPP maintains a list of private tutors who offer ESL instruction for a fee.

How are test scores interpreted?

Visit our test score frequently asked questions page for more information.