The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enacted legislation in 1990 requiring that every member of an institution of higher learning who teaches undergraduates be tested and certified as fluent in English. At Penn, the English Language Programs (ELP) is responsible for testing and certifying all teaching assistants who use English as a second language (International Teaching Assistants or ITAs).

Testing and Certification

Prospective ITAs whose first language is not English may demonstrate fluency by receiving a rating of Superior on an ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) or a score of 27 or higher on the Speaking component of the iBT TOEFL. Prospective ITAs who have not taken the TOEFL or an OPI must take the SPEAK test (an institutional version of the TSE). A score above 55 permits automatic certification as fluent in English. Prospective ITAs receiving less than 45 on the TSE or SPEAK, will be counseled to take some language training before trying again. Students who receive scores on the SPEAK of between 45 and 55 inclusive may be certified for classroom instruction by passing the Interactive Performance Test (IPT) administered by the English Language Programs. The IPT consists of a ten minute lecture with a question and answer component on a topic in the candidate's academic discipline. Prospective ITAs who pass this test are certified as fluent in English.

Download the University of Pennsylvania Certification Form for English Fluency for Undergraduate Instructional Personnel Form in PDF format here:

Download Form

(90 KB, PDF format)

Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free program, to read this document.

To sign up for either the SPEAK or the IPT, prospective ITAs should come to the main office of the English Language Programs (ELP) at 110 Fisher-Bennett Hall, 3340 Walnut Street. For a schedule of test dates, either click here or click on "Test Dates" at the top of this page.

Click here for more information about the Summer Training Program

Additional Information

Email the Coordinator: Ms. Elizabeth Gillstrom , or contact the ELP for other options.

Please note that ITAs are not eligible for ELP housing. ITAs should make their own arrangements for housing during their training program.