FAQs: Hiring Departments

Both university policy and California state assembly resolution require that all graduate students who are nonnative 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 nonnative English speaker (NNES)?

Nonnative 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, any graduate student who is not a native speaker of English, whose undergraduate degree is not from an English-speaking college or university (see item 4 below), or who have serious English 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 allows academic departments to set department-wide policy on this. but we will honor the department's policy, as long as it is applied consistently.

We recommend that all nonnative 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 many not have the language skills necessary to function successfully as a TA at UC San Diego.

Again, to ensure a uniform policy, a hiring department can require that all nonnative speakers take the test. However, if a hiring department chooses to exempt a TA applicant who has an undergraduate degree from an English-speaking college or university from this requirement, then it must apply this exemption consistently.

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.

. 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 elpii@ucsd.edu or cet@ucsd.edu 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.