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Who Needs to Take the SPEAK Test?

All incoming international Teaching Assistants (ITA) are required by West Virginia law to demonstrate their oral English language proficiency by achieving a score of 50 or more on the SPEAK® Test.

ITAs are registered for the test at the beginning, middle, or end of each semester by the departments in which they hope to work as Teaching or Research Assistants.

Students who score 50 or above are cleared for any assignment their department offers them. However, international students who score lower than 50 are required to take an ITA Fluency course designed to improve pronunciation and overall comprehensibility.  * International students with SPEAK scores is 45, are to take (or retake) ESL350. *  Students with SPEAK scores below 45 are required to take ESL 250.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

I have a Bachelor’s degree from WVU. Do I have to take the SPEAK® Test?

Yes. The criterion for taking the SPEAK® Test is your native language. This applies to all persons regardless of citizenship status, previous educational experience, or scores on other tests. Obviously, persons with significant experience in an English-speaking environment may have excellent command of spoken English, and the SPEAK® Test quickly confirms this in those cases.

How long does the test take?

The SPEAK® Test takes about 20 minutes.

How do I register for the SPEAK® test?

Your department will register you for the test, or you can e-mail the administrator: Karen Allen at karen.allen@mail.wvu.edu.

When is the SPEAK® Test given?

The normal official SPEAK® Test dates are in the week before the beginning of class in August, and January, again at the middle and end of the spring and fall semesters. The schedule can be found on the SPEAK® Test web page.

Where is the SPEAK® Test given?

The SPEAK® Test is given in Eiesland Hall room 134.

What is a passing score on the SPEAK® Test?

SPEAK® Test grades range from 20 (lowest) to 60 (highest). Intermediate grades are in steps of five points, i.e. 25, 30, 35, etc. Students who score below a 50 must test every semester until they score a 50 and are required to take or retake an ESL class (see below).

Score Category
50 or higher Unconditionally Approved for Classroom Teaching. This score means that the department may assign the TA any instructional duties it chooses. Departments are not required to assign teaching duties to persons in this range, but may do so as their needs require.
45 Not Approved for Instructional Duties. Students who score a 45 are required to take (or retake) ESL 350. ESL 350 was designed specifically for non- native speakers who want to gain fluency in English at the level required to be a TA at WVU. Passing ESL 350 does not automatically mean you will be given an assistantship. You must still pass the SPEAK® Test with a score of 50 or above, but it will greatly increase your chances.
40 or lower Not Approved for Instructional Duties. Anyone who scores a 40 or below on the SPEAK® Test is required by WVU to take (or retake) ESL 250. This class was designed to improve speaking and listening skills.

When and how will I get my score?

Your score will be emailed to you and a copy sent to your department within one week of the date of the completed exam.

Can I retake the SPEAK® Test if I do not achieve the score I need?

Yes; you will be given a different form of the test, and you are required to take (or retake) an ESL class if you do not reach the 50 level by the beginning of the next semester. The SPEAK® administrator is not allowed to give specific feedback after a test.

Will I lose my Teaching Assistantship if I do not pass the SPEAK® Test?

You may be assigned other duties consistent with your performance on the SPEAK® Test. Many departments review the academic progress of their graduate students, and continuation of your teaching assistantship in the following academic year may depend on your improving your SPEAK® score as well as on other aspects of your academic performance.

What do I need to bring to the SPEAK® Test?

Bring your WVU ID. If you do not yet have an ID, please bring some photo identification such as a passport or driver’s license. Fee: Payment of $35.00, cash or check. Make checks payable to WVU. No credit cards will be accepted. Most departments do not pay the testing fee for ITA candidates. Check with your advisor or department before you register.

What function do the various tests of English play?

The tests we use at WVU test different skills and are used for different purposes. The TOEFL Test is an entrance requirement to the university and establishes that you have the English skills sufficient to understand the instruction you will receive as a student and participate in classroom activities.

The SPEAK® Test focuses on your ability to speak English. It is an administrative requirement for non-native English speakers who need to assume teaching duties and establishes that they have the English skills necessary to provide the instruction that WVU students have paid for.

What can I do to prepare myself for the SPEAK® Test?

The SPEAK® Test produces a recorded speech sample of spoken English language skill to perform various communicative functions. There is a practice test that can be taken to simulate the test. Ask for the SPEAK® practice test in Eiesland 134 computer lab. For many people speaking into a microphone can be a stressful activity. It may help you to remember that you are really talking to a friendly and interested person who is listening to what you have to say. Imagine that you are talking to one of the persons in your department who has been helpful to you, such as your advisor, another graduate student, or the secretary when you give your answers.

Why do only teaching assistants take the SPEAK® Test?

Faculty members are subject to the same requirements of command of spoken English as are teaching assistants. Because faculty members are recruited and hired in a process which includes interviews, colloquia, lectures, teaching demonstrations, etc. in the presence of colleagues, administrative personnel, and students, their spoken English is assessed in many ways before they are hired. Teaching assistants may be recruited solely on the basis of a paper record without any opportunity to evaluate their speaking proficiency. The SPEAK® Test provides a common measure for all teaching assistants.