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Screening of International Teaching Assistants (ITAs)

International graduate students who wish to be appointed as teaching assistants or course assistants must be screened by EFS for readiness to use English in a teaching role. To make an appointment, a student should send electronic mail to Allison Kopp, indicating times during the week that he or she is not available (see the example below) and we will schedule the appointment at a time other than those between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm, M-F.

Sample email to  (copy and paste the text below, deleting the existing times and putting in the times you are unavailable).

I would like to request a TA screening appointment. I am not available at the following times (M-F 9:00-5:00).

Mon: 9:00-12:00
Tue: 1:15-4:30
Wed: 9:00-12:00
Thu: --
Fri: 9:00-5:00

Note: please do not just list available times--we need to have as much flexibility as possible in setting this up. However, you may also mention preferred times and we will accommodate those if we can.

It is strongly recommended 1) that prospective TAs take the screening exam at least one full quarter before they intend to get a TA position and 2) that prospective TAs not attempt the exam during their first quarter at Stanford unless required by their departments. Also, prospective TAs with outstanding EFS requirements in basic spoken English courses (EFS 690A, 690B, 693A and 695A) are normally not allowed to take the screening exam.

In that regard, note that the most important factor in taking the exam is for the student to be confident that he or she commands the appropriate level of speaking and listening proficiency to take on the challenging responsibilities of teaching in the English medium. The great majority (over 80%) of the more than 200 students screened each year pass the exam and receive the TA clearance because they do not attempt it prematurely. Irrespective of other EFS requirements, students who believe their English is insufficient are strongly recommended to take additional EFS courses in listening and speaking prior to attempting the exam.

This half-hour English screening involves a simulation of an office-hour interaction between a TA and student, during which time the prospective TA's accuracy, fluency, and communication style are evaluated. To prepare for the exam, the prospective TA should bring a textbook from his or her field: an introductory textbook is preferred if one is available since that will be the easiest for the examiner. The examiner will select two sections from the textbook and the prospective TA will be given five minutes to decide which of these to focus on for the simulated office hour. The exam will begin with an oral reading to get a preliminary assessment of the prospective TA's pronunciation. This is followed by the office hour simulation with the examiner in the role of a student needing assistance with the selected material. The prospective TA is not expected to prepare material in advance.

Immediately following the simulation, the examiner will advise the student with practical feedback, the result of the exam, and recommendations. Those who need additional English preparation will be required to complete EFS 692 Speaking and Teaching in English, a course developed in collaboration with Stanford's Center for Teaching and Learning, or other English courses, such as Pronunciation. Until any such requirements are completed the student cannot receive a TA appointment; however, he or she may be appointed as a CA (Course Assistant) if the examiner clears that option. Note that passing the required course or courses does not automatically result in a clearance. The course instructor can decide at the end of the course either to give the TA clearance or require retesting.

If the student does not pass the screening, the expectation is that the required courses will be taken promptly. Retesting prior to fulfilling the requirements is normally not allowed until at least one quarter has passed, and students may ask to be retested only once before fulfilling their requirements.


A student who is a permanent resident, has completed more than five years' study in the United States or another English-speaking country, or has extensive professional experience in English may telephone the EFS office at 725-5378 or 725-1557 to request a waiver. Following a short telephone assessment, the student will either be asked to schedule an exam or be given the TA clearance.

Faculty or staff questions regarding TA clearances should be addressed to Phil Hubbard, EFS Director: 725-1557.

Updated January 3, 2016