The English Language Performance Test (ELPT) is a supplement to the ESPA test and is given to students who have scored 50 or 55 on the ESPA or foreign language TAs with a 45. (Students who score 60 on the ESPA are not required to take the ELPT.) The ELPT is designed to measure the prospective teaching assistant’s ability to communicate in English in a classroom context in their own field of study. The ELPT attempts to identify specific aspects of language likely to present problems in communication for the new teaching assistant (TA) whose first language is not English.

Testing Procedures 

You will receive this same information when you register for the ELPT.

The entire test takes approximately fifteen minutes. All ELPTs are videotaped and administered in typical University classrooms with a chalkboard or whiteboard and an overhead projector. You may distribute handouts to the audience if you choose. You may use notes or a copy of the textbook, but do not memorize or read the presentation. PowerPoint and similar computer applications are not allowed.

The ELPT consists of three parts:

  1. For the first two minutes, you will become familiar with your physical surroundings, meet your audience (three or four ESL professionals), and, if you like, write a few terms, formulae, etc., on the board before you begin your presentation.
  2. You will then have ten minutes to present your chosen topic clearly, in words that an introductory undergraduate class could understand, and to answer questions which might be asked of you during your presentation.
  3. You will be given two to three minutes to answer additional questions.

As you prepare for your presentation, please keep the following in mind:

  1. Your lesson is happening sometime in the middle of the semester rather than at the beginning. You should not begin your presentation by saying, "Welcome to this course. My name is ..."
  2. You should choose a topic suitable for undergraduates in an introductory level class in your discipline. You could explain a concept, define a term, describe a process or demonstrate a procedure. It might be helpful to look through some of the undergraduate textbooks used in your department for ideas.
  3. When you choose a topic to present, be sure that it allows you to use enough language so that you can demonstrate your level of language proficiency. If the material you choose is too simple, and does not allow you to use enough language, the evaluators will need to ask questions designed to more accurately determine your language proficiency level.
  4. Members of your audience will ask you questions related to the topic you present.

Rating Your Performance

Although one or two students may act as questioners during your presentation, the evaluators of your performance will be a team of professionals in the field of teaching English as a Second Language. Two of these evaluators will rate each ELPT performance; if there is any doubt about the rating, a third evaluator will view the videotape.

Your performance will be rated in each of the following areas:

1. Overall effectiveness and comprehensibility in spoken English (the degree to which you are understood by most listeners with only a little effort). This includes your ability:

  • to select precise vocabulary;
  • to demonstrate control of grammatical structures;
  • to use accurate pronunciation;
  • to provide a smooth delivery; and
  • to control word and sentence stress, intonation and voice to convey information and signal important points.

2. Ability to understand and answer student questions.

3. Ability to develop and organize information according to accepted discourse patterns of the English language. This includes your ability:

  • to develop ideas;
  • to stay focused on the topic; and
  • to convey ideas without misrepresentation and confusion.

4. Ability, when necessary, to use non-linguistic information (for example, gestures) to maximize comprehensibility.

Results will be reported to the department that is considering you for a teaching assistantship as soon as the results can be determined. Please go to your department to receive your results. If you have questions about your results or would like to discuss future courses, you may talk to someone in ESL Programs after receiving the results from your department.

For more information about ELPT test results, including classroom follow-up and recertification, please see ESPA and ELPT Results and ESPA and ELPT Flowcharts.


A six-hour orientation program is required of all students who

  1. have been certified at level A or B, and
  2. are teaching a university class for the first time. If this requirement applies to you, be sure to make arrangements with ESL Programs to attend the orientation during your first semester in the classroom.

This orientation helps new teaching assistants understand the culture of the U.S. classroom and treats topics such as student expectations, teacher-student relationships, and understanding and answering student questions. Discussion focuses on suggestions for maximizing comprehensibility in spoken English. This course meets twice for 3 hours early in the semester. Both meetings are held in the evening.