Frequently Asked Questions for ITAs

Please read below for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the ITA program. Feel free contact Dr. Mendoza at if you have any other questions.


What is the SPEAK test?
SPEAK (Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit) is a test for evaluating the English speaking ability of non-native speakers of English. It is the institutional version of the TSE (Test of Spoken English). The SPEAK test is administered by the Center for Intensive English Studies to international students who have been appointed or will be appointed as teaching assistants in an academic department at FSU.


Who should take the SPEAK test?
If your native language is not English and you are going to be a TA, you should take the SPEAK test when you arrive at FSU. If you have scored 26 or higher on the speaking part of the IBTOEFL, you do not have to take SPEAK.


What is the format of the SPEAK test?
The test is given on Zoom. There are 12 questions covering a variety of general, conversational tasks in English (e.g., giving directions, expressing an opinion, persuading someone to do something, telling a story, etc.). The test is shown as a video which the test administrator shares on their screen with the test taker. The test taker sees and hears each question. The amount of time to answer each question ranges from 30 to 90 seconds. Most questions are in the 45 to 60-second range. The test is recorded. You can see the SPEAK practice test HERE.


How is the SPEAK test scored?
Two trained raters will evaluate the answers on your tape. For each answer, a variety of factors is taken into consideration (appropriateness and effectiveness, organization, pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and listener effort.) Each question is scored separately on a scale from 20 to 60, in increments of 10 (20,30,40,50,60). You can see the rubric on p. 2 of the practice test.


What SPEAK score do I need in order to teach at FSU?
The Graduate School has set minimum scores for different levels of ITA responsibilities at FSU. Students who score 50 or above on SPEAK and 26 or above on the IBTOEFL are certified in spoken English to teach at any instructional level. Students who score 45 on SPEAK may be limited to proctoring or grading, or might be allowed to teach a lab or discussion session if concurrently enrolled in an ITA English class. It is important to check with your own department for additional guidelines and rules. You can read the Graduate school policy on TA certification HERE.


How can I prepare for the SPEAK test?
Look at the SPEAK practice test on this website. All forms of the SPEAK test follow the general format of the practice test, but do not repeat the exact questions. Go through the sample test aloud 3 or 4 times. Time yourself so you feel comfortable speaking within the time limits for each question. Make sure your speaking pace is natural and smooth. Try to pause between ideas. Include organizational language (first of all, second, also, for example, after…, but…) Do not try to memorize complete answers. This makes your speech sound unnatural and may result in a lower score if an answer does not match a question.


My first SPEAK score was 40. How long will it take to get a 50?
How quickly you raise your score depends on many variables such as previous English study, native language and age. A very important factor is your own motivation to improve your English skills. We have found that students with initial scores of 40 take about 4 semesters to raise their score to 50 if they work hard. In addition to working hard in the ITA English courses, it is important to speak English as much as possible outside the classroom. We recommend having a conversation partner, attending campus activities where English is spoken, getting English-speaking roommates, and speaking English with other classmates and TAs. If you do not work hard on your English, it will be more difficult to raise your score.


How often is SPEAK given?
The test is given at beginning, middle, and end of every semester. If you are a new student, please contact your department for a schedule of the test. Your department must schedule tests for new students at the beginning of the semester. If you are currently enrolled at FSU and will take the test at the end of the semester, you can register online HERE.


Where is the SPEAK test given?
The test is given online via Zoom.


When can I get my SPEAK test results?
Results are sent to your department's contact person one week after the test is given.


I have a SPEAK score from another university. Is it accepted here?
Because SPEAK is an institutional test, FSU only accepts a score for a SPEAK test administered on this campus.


I was a TA at another university. Do I have to take the SPEAK test?
Yes. You will need to demonstrate that you have adequate speaking skills according to the testing policy and standards at FSU.


Is there a charge for the SPEAK test?
There is no charge the first time you take the test. If you need to take the test more than once, there will be a charge of $70.00 for each additional test. After you take the test, you will be sent an invoice for $70.00 from FSU. FSU accepts payments online with your FSUCard, American Express MasterCard, Visa & E-checks. There is a non-refundable $5 convenience fee. If you pay in person, lobby hours are 8:30-4:30, Mon.-Fri. at Student Financial Services A1500 University Center. FSU accepts checks, FSUCards, money orders and cash.


I need to take one of the EAP classes for ITAs. Which one is the best for me?

Placement in some classes is based on SPEAK scores. If your SPEAK score is 40, you should take EAP5838 (Pronunciation). If your score is 45, you can take either EAP5838 or EAP5835 (Academic Spoken English), depending on what you want to work on. If you have a 45 and you earn a final grade of 90 or better in EAP5835, you will be certified in spoken English. Students who score 50 or above on SPEAK are not required to take a class, but they may do so, if they are interested in continuing to improve their communication skills.


I am not a TA. Could I enroll in one of the EAP classes?

Priority is given to TAs, but graduate students who are interested in improving their English are allowed to take the EAP classes. Seats are more limited in the Fall, but there are usually more seats available in the Spring and Summer sessions.


I am not a TA at the moment, but may teach in the future. How can I improve my English?

Do not wait until you are appointed a TA or are offered an assistantship to take the SPEAK test and work on your English. The sooner you start, the easier it will be to make progress. Try to interact with colleagues and classmates in English as much as possible, read in English and attend activities where you have to speak English. You may also attend the free workshops offered by the EAP Program. If you can, take one of the EAP classes.

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