Frequently Asked Questions about ITAP

Find additional information about the ITAP experience. The Student FAQ and the Department FAQ provide details on the language assessment process, and the ALS 5780 FAQ answers questions about the ITAP course:

Student FAQ - Language Assessments | Department FAQ - Language Assessments | ALS 5780 FAQ

Additional support is always available by contacting ITAP.

Student FAQ: What to Expect at the Language Assessment

The language assessment evaluates your oral English proficiency. The language assessment process ensures that every international graduate student meets the expectations for oral English proficiency defined by the Office of the Provost so that you experience the greatest success possible in your teaching, studies, and research experiences at Cornell.

Preparing for my Assessment

What is the difference between the English language proficiency level required for Cornell graduate student admissions and for Teaching Assistant roles?

The Graduate School and Graduate School committee set admissions requirements. The Office of the Provost sets required proficiency levels for graduate Teaching Assistants.

What kind of support is available for international students?

Global Cornell offers these tips for supporting international students while online and in-person with remote access.

What is the assessment process?

The assessment is an individual meeting with a consultant, based on the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI), which provides a reliable, evidence-based evaluation of your oral English proficiency.

How is the assessment evaluated, and what level do I need to hold a teaching assignment?

The assessment is evaluated by comparing your language sample with the criteria described in the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines - Speaking (Revised 2012). The minimum oral English proficiency level needed to teach as a TA at Cornell is Advanced Low (Some departments require Advanced Mid).

How long is the assessment?

It lasts about 30 minutes.

Where do the assessments take place?

Language assessment appointments take place online.

How do I access my online appointment?

The appointment tool will send you a confirmation email containing a Microsoft Teams link (note: check your spam or junk mail folder if you do not receive the confirmation). To access the Teams meeting, log into with your netID and password. After logging in, click the Microsoft Teams appointment link in your confirmation email to join the meeting.

What if I need to reschedule my assessment time?

You may try to reschedule your appointment during the current assessment period. To do so, click the "manage my booking" link in your confirmation email.

What if my country has sanctions in place which prevent me from using Microsoft Teams?

Try installing Cornell's virtual private network (VPN) service when you need to connect to IT resources hosted on campus that would otherwise be unavailable from your network. The VPN provides an added layer of security for accessing services hosted on Cornell's campus networks. If you are unsuccessful logging into and testing your Teams link via the VPN, please contact ITAP.

What is the best way to prepare for the assessment in advance?

Speak in English as much as you can, practicing the skills that you will need to demonstrate during the interview (e.g. telling stories, giving full descriptions, etc.). You may find it helpful to read the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines to familiarize yourself with the test type and accuracy features of the level that you need to demonstrate. It is always a good idea to make sure to sleep and eat well before the assessment.

How do I register for a language assessment?

Your Graduate Field Assistant in your department will communicate with you about when and how to schedule your assessment time. Initial assessments are offered on specific dates in August, December, January, and May. Prior to your assessment, please review the Student FAQ: What to Expect at the Language Assessment and complete the Language Assessment Registration Form. Your responses on the Registration Form help the assessor to tailor the assessment to you.

What if I will be a TA in a different department?

Your Graduate Field Assistant in your department will work with you to schedule your assessment time. Indicate that you will be a TA for a different department when you complete the Registration Form.

Can a departmental representative accompany me during the language assessment?

Yes, a departmental representative is welcome to attend the language assessment with you. Discuss who may attend with your Graduate Field Assistant. Indicate their first and last name when you set up your appointment.

During my Assessment

What will I have to talk about in the assessment?

You have the opportunity to provide a list of topics when you register for the assessment; the assessor will select from this list for the first part of the assessment. In the second part of the assessment, you explain any introductory concept from your field, at a level understandable to an undergraduate student new to the field.

How can I perform best during the assessment?

When taking the language assessment, listen carefully to the questions before answering. When answering, give as comprehensive a response as possible. The assessor is not interested in specifics, such as the day of the week or the name of a restaurant, but rather in you telling the whole story. What happened that day? The assessment offers an opportunity to showcase your oral English proficiency. When asked a question, try your best to give a complete, detailed answer.

Can I use PowerPoint or other technologies to help explain an introductory concept in my field?

For online appointments no technology is available.  For in-person appointments a whiteboard will be available but no other technology.

Can I use notes to help explain an introductory concept in my field?

You may use notes, but you may not read directly from them.

What if I cannot answer a question?

If you cannot recall an answer or the topic is one you no longer wish to talk about, let the assessor know and they will ask a different question.

After my Assessment

How soon after the assessment will I know the outcome?

Typically, your results will be emailed to your Graduate Field Assistant (GFA) within two days of your assessment. Your GFA will share the results with you.

Is my teaching being assessed?

Your teaching is not being assessed. The segment of the assessment in which you explain an introductory concept in your field provides an opportunity for the assessor to ask questions and collect a language sample about a topic with which you are familiar.

May I retake the language assessment?

Students (outside of the ALS 5780 course) are eligible to be reassessed once a year during specific dates in December, January, and May. No reassessments may be scheduled during initial assessment dates in August.

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Department FAQ: the ITA language assessment process

How are language assessment appointments scheduled?

Department staff will receive an email from ITAP with an assessment scheduling invitation for you to share with your students. In the invitation students will be asked to:

1.      Read the Student FAQ: What to Expect at the Language Assessment.

2.      Fill out the language assessment registration form

3.      Sign up for a language assessment appointment.If we are close to an assessment period and you have not received this email, please email ITAP

How will I know if my student has set up their appointment?

If you wish to be sure your student has scheduled an appointment, you can ask your student to send you their confirmation email. If they cannot find this email, it is in their junk mail or spam folder.

Can I schedule a reassessment for my student?

We ask that department staff email ITAP before requesting a reassessment for their student to determine eligibility. If the student is eligible, department staff may ask their student to schedule their reassessment using the assessment scheduling invitation in December, January, or May. August dates are reserved for initial assessments. Students who enroll in ALS 5780 take part in a diagnostic assessment within the first two weeks of the course start. If a student has progressed, ITAP will notify the student and you.S

Can I schedule an appointment for my student?

If you wish to schedule for your students, you can. You will need to know your student’s full name, time zone, Net ID, if they can use Microsoft Teams, if a department member will join them for the meeting, and the department member’s first and last name. Since some students may not be in Ithaca, morning slots should only be booked for those students who are 12 or 13 hours away. Scheduling for your student still means they will need to send you their confirmation email. Once you schedule your student, they are in charge of their appointment information.

What does a Graduate Field Assistant do if a student misses their assessment time?

Please remind your student of their assessment time. If they miss their appointment, try to reschedule them during the current assessment period or email ITAP.

What if a GFA needs an assessment outside of the specific assessment dates?

Email ITAP to make this request.

What if a student needs an assessment outside of the specific assessment dates?

ITAP staff will make every effort to accommodate departmental needs and circumstances. Email ITAP with a special request for an assessment.

What if a student misses their assessment time?

Students can try to reschedule their appointment during the current assessment period. To do so, they should locate their confirmation email and click on “manage my booking”.

Can a department member observe the student appointment?

Of course! Students are asked to indicate if someone will join them when they book their appointment.

Your student would need to send their confirmation email to you and the department member so you would have access to the Microsoft Teams meeting link. The department member should log in before clicking on the Team meeting link.IT may be useful to mention to your student know they cannot move their appointment since someone else’s schedule will be impacted. If the student cannot use Teams due to country sanction, they may need to send a Zoom link to you and the meeting attendee.

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ALS 5780 FAQ

The International Teaching Assistant Program (ITAP) offers ALS 5780 in fall and spring semesters. It is a 2-credit course graded on an S/U basis. This is a skill building course so no audits are allowed. The ITAP program is open to international graduate students who speak English as an additional language and who will be TAs during the coming fall/spring semesters. Enrollment space in ALS 5780 is based on the immediacy of the Teaching Assistant assignment, as well as the language assessment outcome, to provide as much support as possible to build students' oral English proficiency as they begin their teaching duties.

What is the structure of the course?

Each week, there are two 75-minute interactive course meetings; these are supplemented wit hi-monthly conferences with your instructor.

What assignments and activities are included in ALS 5780?

ALS 5780 is an opportunity for you to practice communication skills to refine your oral English proficiency. To do so, it incorporates activities in authentic language contexts. These activities are designed to give you "real-world" experience and include:

  • audio journals and video-taped teaching practica
  • pair work
  • role-play scenarios
  • leading discussions
  • peer feedback opportunities
  • consultations with undergraduate language consultants (optional)

How do I earn an "S" grade in the course?

Because the course is designed to help you practice your oral English language skills, it is important to complete all course assignments and attend all sessions to earn an "S" grade.

How much time will I need to spend on the course each week?

In addition to class participation, you should plan on about 1 to 1 ½ hours per week outside of class for preparation and assignments. Also, practicing English language skills with peers, colleagues, and other individuals will help significantly improve proficiency.

Is additional help available?

Optional weekly sessions with undergraduate language consultants are available. At the beginning of the term, you may sign up to meet weekly with an undergraduate consultant. Past experience has shown that typical students need about 200 hours of practice to improve their oral English proficiency by one sub-level (For details on English proficiency levels, see the ACTFL guidelines).