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Frequently Asked Questions

This page provides answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) about UC San Diego's English Language Program for International Instructors (ELP-ii) we get from students, faculty, and hiring departments. If you don't find the answer to your question below, please contact us at

Graduate Students' Questions

Who may participate in ELP-ii classes and workshops?

UCSD graduate students with a TA requirement who have taken the English Language Certification Exam (ELCE) may participate in the ELP-ii classes.

Additionally, faculty are welcome to use ELP-ii services for individualized support. To learn if you are eligible to participate, click here.

May I take the English Language Certification Exam (ELCE)?

Non-native English-speaking graduate students who have been proposed as TAs by a UCSD hiring department are required to take the ELCE before accepting a TA offer.

How is the ELCE different from the TOEFL/IELTS/PTE?

The TOEFL/IELTS/PTE tests are used to assess a student’s readiness to begin studies in a university. The ELCE is used to assess a Teaching Assistant’s readiness to teach or TA.

How do I sign up for the test?

Students DO NOT sign up for the test. A representative from the hiring department will contact you to arrange the test date and time.

Where are the ELP-ii offices located?

The ELP-ii is a program within the Center for Engaged Teaching, a unit of the Teaching + Learning Commons. We are located on the second floor of the Literature Building in suite 210. 

How do I prepare my English before I arrive?

UC San Diego welcomes students from all over the world, many of whom speak English as an additional language. International students often ask how they can develop their English skills before they arrive. If you want to improve your spoken English for teaching, there are a range of options that can help meet your needs.

  • Consider developing your communication skills by taking a presentation skills class to focus on speaking rate, a strong voice, eye contact, and gestures.
  • Improve your conversational English by using online resources such as listening to podcasts and lectures, watching movies in English, or taking a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). Check out our Language and  Communication Resources page.
  • For additional advice, watch this video featuring international graduate students who have been successful TAs.

Faculty Questions

Can UCSD faculty participate in the ELP-ii?

Yes, faculty are welcome to use ELP-ii services for individualized support. Contact us at

I’m an instructor teaching non-native speakers. Can you help me address the pedagogical challenges of teaching in a multilingual, multicultural classroom?

Yes, please come to see us! For more information, please contact us at

I’ve been assigned to be the ELCE Faculty Representative. What should I do?

According to Graduate Division language screening guidelines, the ELCE (English Language Certification Exam) screening panel consists of at least two members, a faculty member, and a linguist. The faculty member plays an important role in determining whether a non-native speaking graduate student meets the minimum level of proficiency necessary for a TAship. The faculty member is the expert in the student’s discipline. This person will ask questions typically asked by undergraduates in class, prompt the student for further explanation or clarification, and assess for appropriate and clear responses. For more information, please contact us at

Questions from Hiring Departments

Both university policy and California state assembly resolution require that all graduate students who are non-native 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. 

What is a non-native English speaker (NNES)?

Non-native English speakers are international or domestic students whose native language (first language/mother tongue) is not English. They 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)

Do U.S. residents/citizens have to take the ELCE?

By Graduate Division policy, any international graduate student who is not a native speaker of English, whose undergraduate degree is not from an English-speaking college or university, or who has serious 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.

Does a student need to be tested if they have been studying in the U.S. for several years and/or have received a TOEFL waiver for admission?

Graduate Division allows academic departments to determine their department-wide policy about NNES graduate students who have studied in the U.S. or have received a TOEFL waiver. ELP-ii will honor the department's policy as long as it is applied consistently.

ELP-ii strongly recommends that all non-native English speakers be tested to ensure adequate skills for their TA role. We have tested students who completed undergraduate and graduate work in the U.S. and still have basic problems with speaking and listening skills. Even a student who has worked as a TA at another university may not have the language skills necessary to function successfully as a TA at UC San Diego. 

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 of 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. 

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 prospective TA 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. Scores in this range indicate the student has sufficient oral command of the English language.  

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 students serve as TAs in courses conducted in English.

Who may participate in ELP-ii courses and workshops?

UCSD graduate students with a TA requirement and who have an ELCE score of 2.5 or higher may participate in the ELP-ii classes. 

Faculty are welcome to use ELP-ii services for individualized support. Please have them contact for services.

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 graduate student qualifies to TA.

Who schedules the ELCE?

The hiring departments first notify the ELP-ii of prospective TAs 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.