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ELCE Frequently Asked Questions

International graduate students, hiring departments, and English Language Certification Exam (ELCE) faculty representatives may refer to the following to answer their questions regarding the English Language Certification Exam for international teaching assistant candidates.

For English Language Certification Exam (ELCE) policy questions and exception requests, please contact April Bjornsen at abjornsen@ucsd.edu, Assistant Dean of Graduate Student Affairs. Please email Engaged Teaching Hub at engagedteaching@ucsd.edu about teaching resources for international graduate students.

What is the teaching assistant hiring policy and what are the exceptions?

First, international graduate students are encouraged to check the hiring department website for information on teaching assistant requirements, deadlines, and instructions. Also, check the Graduate Division website for general information and requirements. If students have previously been employed as a teaching assistant, they should submit the language test document and teaching assistant evaluations or transcript (if they assisted for a grade) to the hiring department. 

What is the English Language Certification Exam (ELCE)?

The English Language Certification Exam (ELCE) is a 15 minute live interview and teaching simulation during which the candidate’s oral English language competency for teaching is assessed. International teaching assistant candidates are assessed by a linguist and faculty representative for specific language skills, including pronunciation accuracy, listening comprehension, question-handling, use of general and technical vocabulary, grammatical accuracy, smoothness of speech, and organizational clarity. 

An overall ELCE score determines the level of qualification for a teaching assistant assignment. To learn more information on who can test, scheduling, what to expect in the test, resources and more, read the English Language Skills of International Teaching Assistants .

Who takes the ELCE?

International graduate students whose first language is not English and who have been proposed as a teaching assistant by a hiring department and meet ELCE eligibility are required to take the ELCE before accepting the offer of a teaching assistant position. To learn more information on who tests, scheduling, what to expect in the test, resources and more, read English Language Skills for International Teaching Assistants 

The student took the TOEFL/IELTS/PTE test. How is the ELCE different from the TOEFL/IELTS/PTE?

The TOEFL/IELTS/PTE tests are used to assess a student’s readiness to study at a university. The ELCE is used to assess a student’s readiness to teach in the hiring department.

How can international graduate students develop English proficiency?

Refer students to the English Language Proficiency Requirement to learn about how to satisfy the requirement and ways to prepare for ELCE.

When is the ELCE offered?

The ELCE is offered 4 times per academic year during the month of September, finals week, and the week after finals. Testing is offered remotely. 

ELCE Academic Year Schedule 9/2022-6/2023 & 9/2023-6/2024

Academic Year September 2022 - June 2023

  • September 6 - 30, 2022
  • December 5 - 16, 2022
  • March 20 - 30, 2023* [*Friday, March 31, is Cesar Chavez Day, a university holiday]
  • June 12 - 23, 2023

Academic Year September 2023 - June 2024

  • September 5 - 29, 2023
  • December 11 - 22, 2023
  • March 18 - 28, 2024* (Friday, March 29 is Cesar Chavez Day, a university holiday)
  • June 10 - 21, 2024

Who schedules the ELCE?

International graduate students must apply for a teaching assistant position of their choice from the hiring department. If selected, the international student is a teaching assistant candidate, and the process to schedule and take the ELCE begins.

International graduate students DO NOT sign up for the ELCE. Instead, they are supported by the hiring department, the faculty representative, and the ELP-ii Coordinator to schedule the ELCE for the student. 

The hiring department and the ELCE faculty representative work together to identify a date and time for all international graduate students to be tested by contacting the ELP-ii Coordinator. Once coordination is done, the ELCE faculty representative communicates the date and time to test all international graduate students with a teaching assistant offer to the ELP-ii Coordinator.

Where is the test administered?

The ELCE is administered through Zoom (or remotely). The ELP-ii Coordinator sends an email notification with a Zoom link to the ELCE faculty representative who then shares it with the teaching assistant candidate.

What is the role of the ELCE faculty representative?

A department’s ELCE faculty representative plays an important role in determining whether the teaching assistant candidate’s English meets the level of proficiency required for employment as a teaching assistant. 

According to Graduate Division language screening guidelines, the ELCE screening panel consists of at least two members, a faculty representative and a linguist. The faculty representative is the expert in the graduate student’s discipline. 

During the ELCE, the faculty representative asks questions typically asked by undergraduates in class, prompts the graduate student for further explanation, and assess for appropriate and clear responses using a rubric.

How do international graduate students learn about ELCE testing information?

Once ELCE test dates and times are confirmed for all international teaching assistant candidates, the ELP-ii Coordinator emails the ELCE faculty representative and the hiring department about the testing information. The hiring department shares the information with international teaching assistant candidates.

How is the hiring department defined and what is their role?

The hiring department is different from the home department of the international graduate student. The hiring department is the department the student applied to for employment as a teaching assistant. The hiring department works with the ELP-ii Coordinator to schedule the ELCE prior to the student accepting the offer of the teaching assistant position.

When are exam recommendations and results communicated?

ELCE recommendations are emailed to the graduate coordinator of the hiring department after the test to process the hiring of the student as a teaching assistant. Later, an email with formal recommendations and detailed information (including the student’s overall score, subscores, and comments) is also emailed to the hiring department representative.

Can the hiring department request an ELCE waiver for an international teaching assistant candidate?

Yes. Hiring departments can request an employment exception with the Graduate Division by placing a request for an employment exception.