The SPEAK Test
UW System policy requires non-native English speakers to demonstrate proficiency in spoken English before they are assigned classroom duties as teaching assistants.
Departments are responsible for ensuring that all potential non-native English speaking TAs have the English skills necessary to be effective teachers. We recognize and value the contribution that International Teaching Assistants (ITAs) make to our university. This requirement is not intended to be punitive, but rather is necessary to ensure that students are able to understand their TAs and have a positive learning experience. For more information on university policies related to TA spoken English proficiency see: https://kb.wisc.edu/page.php?id=25268
The SPEAK test is used to evaluate the spoken English of International TAs. The test is available only to students holding or under consideration for a teaching assistantship. SPEAK test scores cannot be sent to or accepted from other educational institutions.
Important Note: International students who score a 26/30 or higher on the speaking section of the iBt TOEFL test, or 8.0 or higher in the speaking section of IELTS, may be exempt from taking the SPEAK test, and may be eligible to teach with no further English language testing requirements, at the discretion of the employing unit.
Students who wish to take the test should contact their department. Departments must authorize their teaching assistants or potential teaching assistants to take the SPEAK test by pre-registering them with the ESL Program. To authorize a student, the department must e-mail this completed registration form to email@example.com. Registered students will receive an email confirmation indicating the time they are signed up to take the test. Students must come only at their designated time.
Interpretation of Results
Each college or school determines its own policy for the hiring of teaching assistants, in accordance with general university guidelines. The general guidelines for the use of SPEAK test scores follow.
Students with a score greater than or equal to 50 may teach with no further English language testing requirements.
Students with a score of 45 can perform instructional duties that require spoken English only if also enrolled in a program to improve English skills.
Students with a score lower than 45 cannot perform instructional duties that require spoken English.
Reporting of Results
SPEAK tests will be scored within five working days and results will be sent to both the student and the department, accompanied by a recommendation for those with scores of 45 or lower. Scores will be sent by e-mail. On request, a paper copy can be sent.
What’s the test like?
Download this sample SPEAK test to practice. On the day of the test, test takers will not need a pencil, paper, or any other materials. They will sit at a computer terminal and wear headphones with a microphone. They will listen to the test questions as they follow along reading a test booklet. Students will speak into the microphone and their voice will be recorded. They will not have to write anything and will not be able to make any notes during the test. The test will take about 20 minutes.