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English Proficiency Requirement for Teaching Assistants

The Test of Spoken English (TSE) and The Test of Oral Proficiency (TOP)

This information applies to international students only and, in particular, to those students that are considering applying for teaching assistanship positions.

Eligibility for teaching assistantships at UCLA for admitted applicants whose first language is not English depends upon passing the Test of Spoken English (TSE) which is administered by ETS at TOEFL centers abroad or, upon arrival at UCLA, the Test of Oral Proficiency (TOP).

TOP is UCLA's own examination designed specifically for screening the spoken English skills of international students before their appointment as teaching assistants. You are not required to take both tests.

A passing score of 50 is needed on the TSE; a clear pass of 7.1 or higher is needed on the TOP. A provisional pass of 6.4 to 7 permits those who are concurrently enrolled in English as a Second Language 39a, 39b, 39c, 38, or 108 to accept a teaching assistantship; eligibility for further TAships is contingent upon passing the course.

Note that taking either the TOS or the TOP is required for prospective Teaching Assistants, in addition to the TOEFL IELTS test and the mandatory English as a Second Language Placement Examination, which is described below.

Department Policy and Recommendations. Electrical Engineering graduate students who are not US citizens and are not native English speakers must take the Test of Oral Proficiency (TOP) if they plan to work as teaching assistants. The TOP is administered by the UCLA Office of Instructional Development and is organized several times per year. The result of the TOP is a score on a scale of 10.

  • A passing score is 7.1 or higher. Students who pass the TOP are allowed to serve as teaching assistants immediately.
  • A provisional pass is a score between 6.4 and 7.0. Students who pass provisionally are required to follow a Language Readiness Plan (LRP) efore they are allowed to work as teaching assistants. The LRP typically consists of one or more ESL (English as Second Language) courses, and is assigned by the TOP counselors. After receiving the TOP result, a student who passed provisionally should contact the TOP counselors to set up an appointment and be informed of their LRP. The student must start the LRP before or during the first quarter of work as a teaching assistant. Students who score between 6.4 and 7.0 are not allowed to retake the exam.
  • A failing score is a score of 6.3 or less. Students who fail the TOP may retake the exam as many times as they like until they score 6.4 or higher. (However, the exam is free only the first two times.) Students who score below 6.4 should meet with a TOP counselor to plan remedial ESL courses before attempting the exam again.

Although the TOP is organized several times per year, we recommend that students who plan to apply for teaching assistant positions take the exam in the Spring quarter of their first year at UCLA. This gives the student several months of practice in an English speaking environment, which significantly improves the chances of receiving a passing score at the first attempt. The TOP administrators will organize special sessions of the exam for Electrical Engineering graduate students in the Spring quarter. These sessions will be announced by the Student Affairs Office.

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