Skip to main content

3 female students sitting at a table talking to each other intently

English Language Program for International Instructors (ELP-ii)

The mission of the English Language Program for International Instructors (ELP-ii) is to:

  • help non-native English speaking instructors improve their language and cultural awareness in order to teach effectively in the US.
  • help departments screen graduate students who have been proposed to work as teaching assistants.
  • support the wider university community by helping faculty and staff respond to the increasing cultural and linguistic diversity on campus and foster a productive learning environment for all students.

As part of this mission, we implement the UC San Diego Graduate Division policy (in compliance with the California English Proficiency in Higher Education Act) that international graduate students who are non-native speakers of English be certified as having requisite language skills before they can serve as teaching assistants (TAs). The ELP-ii, based in the Teaching + Learning Commons, is designed to assist international students proposed as TAs in meeting that requirement. 

Language Testing & Training Services

English Language Certification Exam

All international graduate students who are non-native speakers of English are required to demonstrate a high level of oral competence in the English language before they can be employed as Teaching Assistants (TAs). In order to assess the level of language proficiency, UC San Diego is required to screen prospective TAs. Exemptions to this screening requirement, which must be applied consistently, include

  1. international graduate students with a speaking subscore of
    1. 28-30 on the TOEFL iBT,
    2. 8.5-9.0 on the IELTS, or
    3. 83-90 on the PTE.
  2. international graduate students who serve as language assistants in courses conducted in their native language. [See FAQs: Hiring Departments, Sections 4, 5 and 6, for details on ELCE exemptions.]

Graduate Division guidelines state that a screening consists of a live 10-15 minute impromptu interview and teaching simulation, during which the student must respond to general and discipline-specific questions typically asked in courses for which the student is a prospective TA. 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 the 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.

Who schedules the test: The hiring department first notifies the ELP-ii of ELCE-qualified 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.

In-Class Language Assessment

The ELP-ii provides prospective TAs with extensive testing for language assessment, which includes the ELCE and in-class audio and video recording of students using both general and discipline-specific English. The assessments are designed to give a clear picture of an international student's strengths and weaknesses in speaking and understanding the English language. The results of the assessment are used in the development of an individualized language program so that the student can achieve at least the minimum language proficiency required to qualify for a teaching assistantship as soon as possible.

Language Classes and Teaching Performance

ELPii Language Classes

International graduate students who do not pass the English Language Certification Exam (ELCE) are given the opportunity to improve their language skills by attending language classes offered by the ELP-ii. The classes entail a program of performance training including ESL proficiency, accent modification, public speaking and presentation skills, classroom management and leadership skills, and cross-cultural training.

International graduate students who do not qualify to take the ELCE (those with a TOEFL speaking score below 23, IELTS speaking score below 7, or PTE speaking score below 65) are encouraged to take English language courses offered in the English Language Institute and/or the English for Academic and Professional Development Program.

Teaching Simulations

In order to help international graduate students prepare for the rigors of the classroom, the ELP-ii organizes a series of teaching simulations. These are actual classroom forums wherein the international graduate student prepares and presents a lesson to a class of select undergraduates. The goal of the teaching simulation is to provide the student "TA" with a comfortable, monitored teaching experience with an undergraduate community interested in teaching, culture, and language learning. The undergraduates listen to the lesson, participate when appropriate, and finally offer advice and suggestions about the performance of the prospective TA. This is particularly useful for international graduate students whose language is acceptable but who have trouble in other areas of teaching, such as communicative style.

Audio and Video Recording

International graduate students are audio and video recorded to help them better understand their language and teaching skills. The video recordings are then uploaded to the Teaching + Learning Common's private YouTube site for the student to track and review their performance in detail. Each student receives a private YouTube link to each recording.

Apprenticeship Teaching

This is a highly effective program designed by the ELP-ii to help provide international graduate students with a more practical and personal form of teaching instruction. International graduate students are assigned to more experienced TAs as apprentice teachers. These experienced TAs will help the international graduate students with their teaching by pointing out areas for development, suggesting alternatives, and above all by serving as positive role models. All assignments are coordinated and monitored by the ELP-ii in conjunction with the international graduate student's home department.

Language and Communication Resources at UC San Diego

UC San Diego offers a multitude of language and communication resources for international students and scholars.

English-in-Action Tutor Program (EIA)

International students, scholars and their spouses are eligible to apply for a tutor if they need help with their conversational English and information about living in the United States and San Diego. Conversation partners usually meet for 1-2 hours per week at the International Center or another location convenient to both, for an average of 12 months. To apply for a volunteer tutor, please visit the EIA webpage. The EIA program is free for registered international students. For scholars and spouses there is an annual registration fee. For additional information, call (858) 534-3730, or email

Writing + Critical Expression Hub

The Writing + Critical Expression Hub supports all writers on campus--every writer, any project--and promotes writing as a tool for learning.  To make an appointment with a writing mentor/consultant, please visit the Writing + Critical Expression Hub website. Questions? Contact

Center for Student Involvement – Communication and Leadership Programs

The UC San Diego Center for Student Involvement (CSI) – Communication and Leadership programs help students build confidence and develop skills in leadership, public speaking, interpersonal, intergroup, and professional communication.

  • One Button Studio, an easy-to-use video recording studio that students can use without any previous experience or knowledge about video production. The studio is a resource for rehearsing presentations and for developing high-quality video projects without knowing anything about lights and cameras. All that’s needed is a reservation, a prepared presentation, and a flash drive, and you’re ready to push the button.
  • Free non-credit workshops and seminars that develop students' social and professional skills in a fun, interactive environment. Seminars begin Week 2 of each quarter and meet for 8-9 sessions. Certificates are awarded to students who successfully complete a seminar. The seminar topics include
    • Interpersonal Relationships
    • Public Speaking
    • Professional Communication
    • Leadership for Social Change and
    • Tritons for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (TEDI).


Toastmasters at UC San Diego

UC San Diego Table Talkers Toastmasters is a public speaking leadership club which meets at UC San Diego each week, except during holidays. Check the website for time and location.

UC San Diego Torrey Pines Speakers Toastmasters Club is another public speaking leadership club which meets weekly on campus. 

UC San Diego Language Laboratory

The UC San Diego Language Laboratory offers Rosetta Stone software for English as a Second Language to develop conversation, listening comprehension, and pronunciation skills. A UC San Diego Student ID card or Visiting Scholar card is required. There is no fee for the lab’s services. 

The Language Exchange

The Language Exchange is a free, self-serve program. To find a language exchange partner, just join the Language Exchange Facebook Page and post your native language, the language you'd like to practice, your contact information, and any other information you'd like to share. Language partners will contact each other through Facebook and start practicing each others' language.

Wednesday Coffee 

Wednesday Coffee is an informal, family-friendly social gathering that provides attendees an opportunity to meet people, make friends, and practice English with local volunteers and fellow international community members. Wednesday Coffee is an excellent resource for all of your questions as you adjust to your new surroundings.

Attendees have the option of participating in a volunteer-led planned activity (often a craft) while chatting. Specific information about the week's planned activity can be obtained by joining the Wednesday Coffee email list. Please go to and complete the form so that you can receive email notifications of the planned schedule. 

English Language Institute 

UC San Diego Extension English Language Institute provides English language courses for a tuition fee. There are various programs to choose from, including a longer 10-week program or shorter 4-week and 2-week courses of study. The UC San Diego Extension catalog has information about qualifications for a discount on extension courses.

NOTE: A limited number of complimentary enrollment vouchers for up to $400 are offered to qualified UC San Diego graduate students who may take one complimentary class per academic year. Information about the enrollment vouchers is forwarded to students via email by their department before an academic quarter begins. Alternatively, if there are no complimentary enrollment vouchers available, UC San Diego full-time graduate students are eligible to receive a 10% fee discount of up to $50.00 per quarter.

Language and Communication Resources Online

Whether you’re a new international graduate student waiting to arrive at UC San Diego or already here, these online English language resources have helped many successful Teaching & Instructional Assistants to prepare their English for teaching. 

Culture of U.S. Higher Education

Interviews with Undergraduates about Life at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering: Valuable both for what the students say about their lives and for sampling students’ spoken English.

Teaching in America: A Guide for International Faculty: International faculty members at Harvard discuss adapting to teaching in the U.S. Although produced in 1992, the information and advice remains relevant even today.


Speaking English Activities: Allows students to hear a sentence or expression, record themselves saying it, and compare.

Charles Kelly’s American English Pronunciation Practice: Minimal pairs (pain/pen; fourteen/forty), tongue twisters, and songs.

Phonetics: The Sounds of American English App: Description of sounds of American English categorized by manner and place of articulation. App link:

Phonetic Transcription Exercises: Practice exercises with the phonetic alphabet.

Listening Comprehension

TED Lectures: Fifteen-minute lectures by leaders in business, technology, and entertainment, captioned in dozens of languages.

American Rhetoric: The Power of Oratory in the United States: A bank of over 5,000 full text, audio, and video versions of public speeches, including presidential addresses from Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama and comedy routines by Abott and Costello. Links to speeches from CSPAN and the Commonwealth Club.

Voice of America: Podcasts and videos of US and international news for learners of English.

Grammar and Vocabulary

Activities for ESL Students: English-only and bilingual grammar and vocabulary quizzes organized by level of difficulty.

Articles (a/an/the): An introduction to the use of articles in English.

Language and Teaching

Using English for Academic Purposes: A guide for speaking in academic contexts by Andy Gillett.

Technical Terms: Pronunciation of technical terms from the following disciplines: math, statistics, chemistry, biology, physics, engineering, and economics.

Useful Phrases for Classroom Communication, Robert Johanson: Common phrases used in teaching, including phrases needed to introduce a topic, invite student participation, give examples, and give homework. No audio.

Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English: A searchable corpus of words and phrases used in lectures, classroom discussions, and lab sections, including self-study exercises to help you learn common classroom expressions.

English via YouTube

Jennifer’s ESL: Hundreds of YouTube videos on pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary.

David Sconda: Humorous, effective video on pronouncing the /th/ sound.

Review Basic Technical Vocabulary and Concepts*

MCAT Review: A comprehensive online review of subject areas covered on the MCAT. This site is rated best by ELP-ii science and engineering students for English language review of general chemistry, physics, biology, biological molecules and organic chemistry.

Khan Academy: Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. It teaches math, science, computer programming, history, art history, economics, and more. The math missions guide learners from kindergarten to calculus using state-of-the-art, adaptive technology that identifies strengths and learning gaps. They've also partnered with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, The California Academy of Sciences, and MIT to offer specialized content.

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs)**

MIT: The most popular course ELP-ii students found useful is the Linear Algebra course taught by Professor Gilbert Strang.

Stanford: Offers an extensive list of upcoming and in-session courses.

Coursera: Coursera is an education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide, to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.

Free Online Dictionaries

Cambridge Dictionary: ELP-ii students rate this dictionary as the best tool for hearing terms pronounced in a "natural voice," both in British English (UK) and American English (US). They also cite the extensive list of field-specific terms as "a definite plus!" This dictionary was rated highly for its "straightforward" appeal, though the terms can sound "robotic."

*Rated "Best Sites for Reviewing Basic Course Material in English" by ELP-ii graduate students.
**Rated most helpful for "How to Teach Basic Material" & for "Review of Basic Concepts" by ELP-ii graduate students.  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Teaching Resources