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Graduate Teaching Associates – Spoken English

Graduate students for whom English is not the first language must certify their proficiency in spoken English before assuming Graduate Teaching Associate (GTA) duties. They may become certified through the following scores:

  • TOEFL iBT Speaking 28 or higher
  • IELTS Speaking 8.5 or higher
  • Oral Proficiency Assessment 4.0 or higher

Once their official scores are posted in Buckeye Link, they are automatically exempted from the Oral Proficiency Assessment.

Students who have completed both high school and a bachelor’s degree in the US and who have been living in the US for at least 8 years must provide their high school transcript and a timeline of their stay in the US by emailing SEP-Assessment@osu.edu to schedule a meeting to determine whether or not the OPA can be waived.

*Note: Students who have completed a bachelor’s and/or a master’s degree in the US, but have no US high school diploma must register for the OPA to determine their certification level.

Oral Proficiency Assessment

The Oral Proficiency Assessment (OPA) is a test administered by the ESL Spoken English Program to determine a student’s level of oral proficiency. As a result of the OPA, a student may be certified or placed into a spoken English course. Students can perform various GTA duties based on their OPA score.

Click image to enlarge.

Students may hold Graduate Teaching Associate appointments while enrolled in spoken English courses, but are limited to the duties associated with their score. Departments offering appointments before certification should be committed to supporting graduate students for up to three terms while they work towards certification in spoken English courses.

Signing up to take the Oral Proficiency Assessment

OPAs are offered two or three cycles per semester.  Upcoming days/times, the payment deadline of each cycle, and instructions for signing up to take the test are listed on the OPA Official Schedule.

The test fee for the on-site OPA is $90 and $110 for the Skype OPA. Payment for the test fee must be completed when a student schedules an OPA time slot before the payment deadline of each OPA cycle.

  • Department payment method– Submit an eRequest to internal vendor ESL Programs (English as a 2nd Language). Please include the test name, student name, student’s OSU 9-digit ID #, and Name.# on the eRequest. If Skype OPAs for newly admitted graduate students are needed, please also include student’s personal email. The eRequest should be received by ESL Programs at least one week before each payment deadline so that students have sufficient time to complete scheduling an OPA time slot.
  • Student payment method – Pay via credit card when reserving an OPA time slot from the OPA event scheduling website.

Oral Proficiency Assessment – Test Format

The OPA is typically taken in person, but is also available via Skype for students who cannot come to Columbus to take the on-site OPA.

On-site OPA – The test site is 356 Arps Hall. Students need to bring their BuckID, and may also bring bottled water to drink during the test. Other personal belongings (including cell phones) should be stored in the locked cabinet outside the testing room during the test. Please refer to Oral Proficiency Assessment Policies below.

Virtual OPA via Skype or Zoom – Before the scheduled testing time, the student should add opa.ohiost as a contact on Skype. The contact request will be accepted a few minutes prior to each scheduled Skype OPA. (When we conduct the virtual OPAs via Zoom, students will receive further information after they have signed up for the OPA.) Students should check all equipment before the test (sound test microphone and speakers, check webcam and internet connection using an Ethernet cable but not WIFI). If technical difficulties arise during the test, making it impossible for raters to assign a score, the test will be stopped and the student may be asked to take the test on-site. Please refer to Oral Proficiency Assessment Policies below.

Oral Proficiency Assessment – What to Expect

The OPA is designed to elicit language that represents a prospective Graduate Teaching Associate’s range of language ability as well as language necessary to successfully perform the duties of teaching assistants at OSU. Pronunciation, fluency, grammar, vocabulary, listening, communicative strategies, and elaboration skills will be among the areas rated.

The OPA is a 15-minute testing session with two raters from The Ohio State University’s Spoken English Program. The first minute is used to introduce the raters and test procedures. The remaining time is divided into two parts:

      1. Part 1(4 minutes): An interview with questions about the student’s background, work experience, academic interests and/or research interests.
      2. Part 2(8 minutes): A task which requires the student to teach and explain introductory and advanced concepts from his/her field in a clear and organized way.
        • The student will list six concepts/terms from his/her field (three introductory, three advanced) on the OPA online registration form. A link to this form will be e-mailed to students after they are scheduled for their OPA.
          • An introductory concept or term is one that would be very basic content currently taught to undergraduate freshman students with very limited knowledge about the subject matter.
          • An advanced concept or term is one that would be more complex content currently taught to undergraduate freshman students with very limited knowledge about the subject matter.
          • Note: No visual aids can be used during the OPA so each student should select terms/concepts that can be explained clearly without pictures and written words or equations.
        • During the OPA, the raters will choose one introductory and one advanced concept for the student to teach and discuss.
        • The student will explain these concepts as if he/she were teaching American undergraduate students with very limited background knowledge in the given field of study. The prospective ITA should prepare daily lifeexamples, analogies, and/or anecdotes related to these concepts to help clearly explain the concepts.
        • Students will not have the use of notes, PowerPoint, a blackboard, or any other kind of visual aid, so they must rely on clear language to explain their concepts. During a Skype OPA, students should look directly into their webcam when speaking. If the student appears to be reading notes/scripts, the raters will ask the student to stop. Dependence on a written text does not allow the raters to accurately assess the oral proficiency of the student and the test may be stopped or the score lowered.

During both parts of the OPA, the raters will ask follow-up questions about the explanations and information the student provides. The raters may ask questions about any information the student discusses related to Part 1 interview questions or Part 2 concepts. The student can request clarification or restatement of a question at any time.

Oral Proficiency Assessment Policies

Cancel OPA – Following are the policies regarding cancelling or rescheduling an OPA:

      • The test registration fee is not refundable except in cases where a student discovers that he/she is exempt from taking the test.
      • Students may cancel a scheduled OPA by the payment deadline; however, cancellation will result in a credit for future OPA registration rather than a refund back to the card on file.
      • Students who cancel a scheduled OPA after the payment deadline will forfeit their testing fee and must pay again to reschedule unless proof of an emergency* is provided.
      • Students who arrive late or do not appear for their test (“no-show”) without proof of an emergency* will forfeit the test fee and must pay the fee again to reschedule.
      • To cancel, reschedule, or submit documentation of an emergency, students should contact the Spoken English Program (SEP-Assessment@osu.edu).
      • Students should keep in mind that there are limited testing sessions available each semester. Failure to attend or cancellation of a scheduled test may result in having to wait until the following semester to reschedule.

*An emergency is considered an unforeseen illness or situation and requires medical or legal documentation (e.g., a doctor’s note, police report, court summons).

Retake OPA – Students may only take the test once per semester.

      • Autumn: test dates between the first day of Autumn semester and the last day before Spring semester begins (i.e., September-early January)
      • Spring: test dates between the first day of Spring semester and the last day before Summer semester begins (i.e., late January-early May)
      • Summer: test dates between the first day of Summer semester and the last day before Autumn semester begins (i.e. late May-August)

After the Oral Proficiency Assessment

Checking OPA Scores – Results will be posted in Buckeye Link within three business days of the exam.

Students: Log in to BuckeyeLink. In Student Center, under “Academics”, click on “Generate Advising Report”. The top left corner of the report has “Test Results”. Examples:

OPA Advising CertOPA Advising NC


Departments: Log in to BuckeyeLink: Student Information System (SIS). In “Student Center”, under “Prior Education & Tests”, check Test ID ESL-SPOKEN. Examples:

OPA SIS certOPA SIS cond

Placement – Students placed into a spoken English class (for Level NC1, NC2, or CC3) should take the course as soon as possible to begin working towards certification. There is an additional assessment at the end of each course.

EDUTL 5040 – Students participate in an Exit Interview to determine if their proficiency level is sufficient to move to 5050 and be conditionally certified.

EDUTL 5050 – Students take the Oral Proficiency Certification Assessment (OPCA). This teaching test is a certification opportunity for students who have completed this course.

If you have been diagnosed with a communication disorder, such as stuttering or a hearing loss, or have concerns with your communication ability in your primary/first language, please contact the OSU Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic at 614- 292-6251 or email at slhclinic@osu.edu for information on evaluation and support services.

Please note:

OPA is not exactly the same as other general English speaking tests. It assesses ITA Candidates’ overall English speaking communicative use in the US classroom teaching contexts. Students’ OPAs are conducted and rated by professionally trained assessment team members. There are many categories to be evaluated to form the final holistic placement results.

Because of the volume of test takers, students are not allowed to request test review. However, during the first week of all required courses (EDUTL 5040/5050/5055), each instructor will review student’s testing file and arrange an individual meeting to give detailed feedback and set student’s learning goals for that semester.

If department representatives (e.g., Department Chair, Associate Department Chair, Chair of Graduate Program, TA Coordinator, etc.) would like an OPA review, please fill out the SEP Test Review Request Form and email it to sep-assessment@osu.edu.