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Frequently Asked Questions

This page provides answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) about UCSD's English Language Program for International Instructors (ELP-ii) we get from students, faculty, and hiring departments. If you don't find the answer to your question below, please contact us at

Graduate Students Questions

1. Who can participate in the ELP-ii?

Only graduate students who have taken the English Language Certification Exam (ELCE) may participate in the ELP-ii classes. Additionally, faculty are welcome to use ELP-ii services for individualized support. To learn if you are eligible to participate, click here.

2. May I take the English Language Certification Exam (ELCE)?

Non-native English-speaking graduate students who have been proposed as TAs by a hiring department are required to take the ELCE before accepting a TA offer.

3. What is the ELCE?

The English Language Certification Exam is not a paper-and-pencil test. It is a 10-15-minute live interview and teaching simulation assessing spoken English language competency for teaching. Students are rated by a linguist and faculty representative for language skills including pronunciation accuracy, listening comprehension, 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 TA assignment. Click here for more information on What You Need to Know About the ELCE and Process.

4. But I 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 begin studies in a university. The ELCE is used to assess a student’s readiness to teach.

5. I want to TA. How can I sign up for the test?

Students DO NOT sign up for the test. A hiring department representative submits a list of proposed TAs who must take the ELCE. Those students will be contacted by the hiring department with the test date and time.

6. Where is the ELP-ii located?

The ELP-ii is a program within the Center for Engaged Teaching, a unit of the Teaching + Learning Commons. We are located on the second floor of the Literature Building in suite 210. 

7. How do I prepare my English before I arrive?

UC San Diego welcomes students from all over the world, many of whom speak English as an additional language. International students often ask how they can develop their English skills before they arrive. If you want to improve your spoken English for teaching, there are a range of options that can help meet your needs.

  • Consider developing your communication skills by taking a presentation skills class to focus on speaking rate, a strong voice, eye contact, and gestures.
  • Improve your conversational English by using online resources such as listening to podcasts and lectures, watching movies in English, and taking a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). Check out the Language and Teaching Resources on the English Language Resources page.
  • For additional advice, watch this video featuring international graduate students who have been successful TAs.

Faculty Questions

1. Can I participate in the ELP-ii?

Yes, faculty are welcome to use ELP-ii services for individualized support. 

2. I’m an instructor teaching non-native speakers. Can you help me address the pedagogical challenges of teaching in a multilingual, multicultural classroom?

Yes, please come to see us! For more information, please contact us.

3. I’ve been assigned to be the ELCE Faculty Representative. What should I do?

According to Graduate Division language screening guidelines, the ELCE (English Language Certification Exam) screening panel consists of at least two members, a faculty member, and a linguist. The faculty member plays an important role in determining whether a non-native speaking graduate student meets the minimum level of proficiency necessary for a TAship. The faculty member is the expert in the student’s discipline. This person will ask questions typically asked by undergraduates in class, prompt the student for further explanation or clarification, and assess for appropriate and clear responses. For more information, please contact us.
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Questions from Hiring Departments

Both university policy and California state assembly resolution require that all graduate students who are non-native English speakers demonstrate proficiency in the use of English for teaching, a professional communication skill before they can work as a teaching assistant who will meet with students. Since this policy went into effect, we have had tremendous cooperation from hiring departments, and both students and the TAs have benefited.

Some departments have raised questions about the language requirement. We address the most commonly asked questions below. 

1. What is a non-native English speaker (NNES)?

Non-native English speakers are international or domestic students whose native language (first language/mother tongue) is not English. This may include:

  • Newly arrived international students

  • Students who attended all or part of college in the US

  • Students who attended an English speaking college in another country

  • Students who are speakers of another variety of English (e.g. from India, Singapore, Hong Kong)

2. Do U.S. residents/citizens have to take the ELCE?

By Graduate Division policy, international graduate students who are proposed as teaching assistants for the first time (regardless of year in progress), whose native language is not English, or who have serious pronunciation problems, must be tested, regardless of citizenship. U.S. residency or citizenship is no guarantee of English proficiency. A Canadian student who is a native English speaker does not need the test; a native French-speaking Canadian does.

3. Do speakers of other varieties of English (e.g., students from India, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc.) need to take the ELCE?

Yes. While many students in this category speak fluent English, there have been complaints about language problems about some TAs who were not originally tested and later found to need a significant amount of language training to develop English comprehensibility. Therefore, we have a uniform policy to test everyone who meets the criteria set forth by the Graduate Division. 

4. Does a student need to be tested if he or she has been studying in the US for several years and/or has received a TOEFL waiver for admission?

Graduate Division requires that all non-native English speakers be tested to ensure adequate skills for their TA role. We have tested students who completed undergraduate and graduate work in the US and still have basic problems with speaking and listening skills. Even a student who has worked as a TA at another university may not have the language skills necessary to function successfully as a TA at UC San Diego.  However, if that student who has worked as a TA at another US university and has been language tested in the US for that TAship, that student can submit the official test document and TA evaluations from that institution for an English test waiver.

5. Does this English language policy apply to students who submit a TOEFL Speaking subscore of 28-30, an IELTS Speaking subscore of 8.5-9.0, or a PTE Speaking subscore of 83-90?

A TA applicant who has a TOEFL Speaking subscore of 28-30, an IELTS Speaking subscore of 8.5-9.0, or a PTE Speaking subscore of 83-90 does not need to take the ELCE test to be hired as a TA. Scores in this range indicate the student has sufficient oral command of the English language.  

6. Does this English language policy apply to students who serve as language assistants in courses conducted in their native language?

No. This policy does not apply to students serving as language assistants in courses conducted in their native language. This policy applies when these students serve as TAs in courses conducted in English.

7. Who can participate in the ELP-ii?

Graduate students with a TA requirement and who have an ELCE score of 2.5 or higher may participate in the ELP-ii classes. Click here for information students should know about the ELCE process.

Faculty are welcome to use ELP-ii services for individualized support. Please have them contact or for services.

8. What are the language screening guidelines?

Graduate Division guidelines state that a screening consists of a 15-20 minute impromptu interview and teaching simulation, during which the student must respond to general and discipline-specific questions typically asked in undergraduate courses. The testing panel, consisting of at least one faculty representative from the department and an ELP-ii linguist, reviews, evaluates, and scores the responses for level of communication skill ability and overall language proficiency, including pronunciation accuracy, listening comprehension, use of general and technical vocabulary, speech flow, grammatical accuracy, and organizational clarity. The testing panel then makes a recommendation as to whether the TA candidate qualifies to TA.

9. Who schedules the ELCE?

The hiring departments first notify the ELP-ii of TA candidates who must be screened. The ELP-ii coordinates screening dates and times with the hiring departments. The hiring departments coordinate the exam schedule with the prospective TAs and faculty representative. Students DO NOT schedule the exam.