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International Teaching/Course Assistant Screening Exam


International graduate students who wish to be appointed as teaching assistants or course assistants must first be screened by EFS for readiness to use English in a teaching role. To make an appointment, a student should contact, 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, and then make appropiate edits):

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: --     [note: -- means free all day]
Fri: 9:00-5:00

NOTE:  Students who are native English speakers may call 725-5378 or 725-1557 to request a waiver. Please do not email to request a waiver as we need to speak with you briefly. See below for more information on requesting a waiver.

Important Guidelines

  • The TA screening should be taken at least one full quarter before the quarter of the TA assignment if possible.
  • We recommend that prospective TAs notattempt the exam during their first quarter at Stanford unless required by their departments.
  • 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. Incoming students who are required to take the EFS Placement Exam must complete that exam first and be free of requirements in the preceding course. 
  • Students who complete the course  EFSLANG 692, Speaking and Teaching in English, are usually cleared for TAing and waived from this exam unless the instructor determines that sufficient proficiency has not been demonstrated. Contact for questions regarding this option. 

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. Students who believe their English is insufficient are strongly recommended to take additional EFS courses in listening and speaking prior to attempting the exam.

About the TA Screening

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. The prospective TA should bring an introductory textbook from his or her field. 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. No advance preparation needed.

The result of the exam and immediate, practical feedback is given, along with recommendations. Those who need additional English preparation will be required to complete EFS 692 Speaking and Teaching in English or other EFS courses, such as Pronunciation. Until 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.

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.

Requesting a Waiver

A student requesting a waiver should meet one of the following conditions: 1) being a permanent resident, 2) completing five or more years of study in the United States or another English-speaking country, or 3) having five or more years of professional experience in English. Please call Tracey at 725-5378 or Phil at 725-1557 to request a waiver. Leave a short message with a call-back number if neither is available. Note that waivers are not automatically given. Following a short telephone assessment, the student will either be asked to schedule an exam or be given clearance. 

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