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English Proficiency for GTAs

Requirements for Graduate Teaching Assistants

In addition to demonstrating English proficiency for admission to West Virginia University, all Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) are required to provide evidence that they have an adequate level of speaking proficiency to instruct a course in English (or, in some cases, in another language). Using tests that have a separate speaking component, the TOEFL iBT and IELTS, a satisfactory speaking score can be used to indicate English speaking proficiency. Only official scores will be accepted for this purpose. Any student who has been required to demonstrate English proficiency in order to be admitted to West Virginia University must also meet additional standards in order to engage in assistantships that involve classroom instruction.

Minimum scores: The requirements vary based on whether the GTA will teach in English or another language.
 
WVU accepts speaking section scores from the TOEFL iBT Home Edition and TOEFL iBT Paper Edition, as well as scores from IELTS.
  • For GTAs who teach in English, a score of 22 on the speaking section of the TOEFL iBT or a score of 7.5 on the speaking section of the IELTS will satisfy the English-speaking proficiency requirement.
  • For GTAs who teach in a language other than English, a score of 18 on the speaking section of the TOEFL iBT or a score of 6.0 on the speaking section of the IELTS will satisfy the English-speaking proficiency requirement.
Students
  • If you submitted scores for TOEFL or IELTS for admission, your program should be able to look up whether you have a qualifying score on file. They will contact you if they need additional information.
  • If you are required to take TrueNorth to qualify for a GTA position, your program will provide you information about registration and payment.
  • When you have completed the assessment, your program will confirm whether you have a qualifying score and will communicate with you about your next steps
Faculty and Staff
  • Please be aware students should have a qualifying score through any of the acceptable options before a GTA offer is made. Please check scores carefully.
    • To proceed with the offer of a GTA:
    • TrueNorth® test score minimums: The score needed is either 7.5 for GTAs who teach in English or 6.0 for GTAs who teach in a language other than English (such as foreign language classes).

TrueNorth® Test Frequently Asked Questions

I have taken the TOEFL iBT or IELTS test. Do I have to take the TrueNorth® Test?
If you have taken one of these tests, you may already satisfy the English-speaking requirement for being a GTA if you meet the minimum scores (see above).

I have a bachelor’s degree from WVU. Do I have to take the TrueNorth® Test?
If you were not required to submit English proficiency scores in order to be admitted to WVU as a graduate or professional student, you will not be required to take the TrueNorth test to demonstrate proficiency for engaging in classroom instruction.

I took one of the other proficiency tests and submitted scores for admission. Do I have to take the TrueNorth® Test?
Currently, WVU only accepts speaking proficiency scores from the TOEFL iBT Home Edition and TOEFL iBT Paper Edition, as well as scores from IELTS. If you were required to submit proficiency for admission, and you submitted scores from any other test (e.g. Duolingo, TOEFL Essentials, etc.), then you must take TrueNorth in order to qualify to hold a GTA.

How long does the test take?
The test takes approximately 20 minutes.

How do I register for the TrueNorth® test?
Students should first confirm with their program whether they are required to register on their own, or whether the program will handle registration.
See the links above for registration and payment.

When and where is the TrueNorth® Test given?
The test is scheduled as needed after registration and payment is received. The test is done remotely using Zoom. You must have access to a laptop or desktop computer, good Wi-Fi and a quiet space to take the test. A phone or tablet will not work.

When and how will I get my score?
You will know your score immediately after the test is done. Departments will be notified within one week of the date of the completed exam and scores will be sent to be posted on Banner.

Can I retake the TrueNorth® Test if I do not achieve the score I need?
Yes, you can retake it one additional time. The TrueNorth® administrator is not allowed to give any specific feedback after a test.

Will I lose my teaching assistantship if I do not pass the TrueNorth® Test?
WVU cannot offer a teaching assistantship to anyone who is required to demonstrate speaking proficiency and fails to do so.

What do I need to bring to the TrueNorth® Test?
The only additional item you are allowed to have is a photo ID. A valid passport, WVU ID or driver’s license containing your full name and picture is required. You will also need consistent Wi-Fi, a laptop or desktop computer and a quiet workspace. A smartphone or tablet will not work for this test.

What function do the various tests of English play?
The tests used by WVU assess different skills and are used for different purposes. For example, 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 TrueNorth® Test focuses on your ability to speak English. It is an administrative requirement for speakers who need to assume teaching duties and who must establish that they have the level of language skills necessary to instruct students at WVU.

What can I do to prepare myself for the TrueNorth® Test?
The TrueNorth® Test produces a recorded speech sample of spoken English language that you will repeat. In addition, there are three short answer questions to which you must reply within a given timed frame. You can find general information and request a sample of the test from the testing company. 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 individuals in your department who has been helpful to you, such as your adviser, another graduate student or the administrative assistant when you give your answers.

Why do only GTAs take the TrueNorth® Test?
Faculty members are subject to the same requirements of command of spoken English as are graduate teaching assistants. Because faculty members are recruited and hired in a process which includes interviews, colloquia, lectures, teaching demonstrations and other speaking 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 TrueNorth® Test provides a common measure for all teaching assistants.

Who do I contact if I have Questions?
  • For questions about the TrueNorth assessment itself, contact Karen Allen, Coordinator, at karen.allen@mail.wvu.edu.
  • For questions about the policy, GTA policies, or GTA offers, please email the Office of Graduate Education and Life at GradEd@mail.wvu.edu.