Center for Educational Innovation

Academic Affairs and Provost

Frequently Asked Questions

Who needs to demonstrate spoken English proficiency?

University policy states that in order to be employed as a teaching assistant or instructor, graduate and undergraduate students whose home language growing up was not English are required to be tested for spoken English proficiency. Reasonable exceptions can be requested by contacting Jeff Lindgren at

Which tests can be used to determine English proficiency for students admitted in Fall 2010 and beyond?

Spoken English proficiency is measured by one of three tests:

  • TOEFL ibt (speaking subscore)
  • Spoken English Test for Teaching Assistants (SETTA)
  • Final exam in International TA Program courses (GRAD 5105, GRAD 5102, or Foundations)

Scores are converted to English Language Proficiency (ELP) Ratings and available to hiring personnel through UM Reports.

I'm not a first-year student. Is my TOEFL ibt score going to be used in any way?

Only if you want to use it for TA eligibility. TOEFL ibt speaking subscores will be automatically converted to ELP ratings for students admitted for Fall 2010 and thereafter.

What if I don’t attain a passing score (i.e., ELP 1) on one of the three tests?

You have two options. The first is to enroll in the appropriate course (GRAD 5105, GRAD 5102) for your current English Language Proficiency level. At the end of each course, passing your final exam will increase your ELP rating. Alternatively, you can take the SETTA, but only 12 months after your last test.

What if I pass, but want to pursue professional development for teaching in the U.S. and further improving my English?

GRAD 5105 is a great option. The 2-credit course offers discipline-specific language enhancement, teaching practice with coaching, and personalized support.  If, however, you have a significant amount of teaching experience or need no English improvement, GRAD 8101 in the Preparing Future Faculty Program is an excellent option. Individual consultations may also be arranged to support teaching.

If I have an TOEFL ibt score, do I need to do anything else?

Your ibT speaking subscore will be automatically converted to an ELP rating and used to determine your eligibility for a TA or instructor position.  However, you may take the SETTA if you think your English has improved since taking the TOEFL ibt. (There is no risk in taking the SETTA. Whichever score is higher, the ibT or the SETTA, will be used for your ELP rating.)

I was not required to take the TOEFL for admission, so why do I have to take the SETTA?

Requirementsfor admission are set by professional schools, and academic colleges or departments. English proficiency for teaching assistants, on the other hand, is requested by the state legislature. The English language proficiency policy reflects the University’s response to this request.

I won’t be a TA or instructor this year. Should I take the SETTA anyway?

If you don’t have an TOEFL ibt score, we recommend taking the SETTA one or two semesters before you plan to be a TA. Your score will let you know whether your spoken English is already sufficient to teach, or whether one or two semesters of required courses are needed first. If you wait too long, and then don’t pass the SETTA, you may end up ineligible for a TA position when you need it. For advising on when to take the SETTA, contact Jeff Lindgren at

Since the SETTA can only be taken once every 12 months, shouldn’t I wait as long as possible to take it since my English will improve during that time?

Maybe, but be realistic about your English improvement. Many international students are surprised how infrequently they speak English in their day-to-day lives here, and their English doesn’t improve unless they take a language course.


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