Qualify as a TA

TA English Language Proficiency Requirement

TA teaching class

The Office of Graduate Studies requires all graduate students, except those with an undergraduate degree from an institution where English is the sole language of instruction, to demonstrate oral English proficiency before they are appointed to Teaching Assistant (TA) or Associate Instructor (AI) positions. You can see the official policy here.

Oral proficiency in English must be demonstrated by meeting one or more of the following requirements:

  • Achieving a minimum score of 26 on the speaking subset of the TOEFL iBT
  • Achieving a minimum score of 8 on the speaking subset of the IELTS
  • Achieving a minimum score of 50 on the SPEAK
  • Achieving a “Pass” on the TOEP

Students can take the SPEAK and the TOEP tests on campus at UC Davis. 

Click here to check whether you have met the TA English language requirements.

Oral Proficiency Testing

Since the TOEP and the SPEAK are both offered on campus, many students use these exams to meet the TA English language proficiency requirement.

The TOEP is the primary tool for determining whether or not a student has met the proficiency requirement and is eligible to be a TA. The SPEAK is primarily used in order to determine whether a student should take the TOEP or not. To be eligible to take the TOEP, students must have SPEAK, TOEFL, or IELTS scores that fall into category 2 of the chart below.

SPEAK Scores   


Speaking Scores


Speaking Scores

Eligible to take TOEP? Eligible to TA?
Category 1 below 40 below 22 below 6.5 NO NO
Category 2 40-45 22-25 6.5-7.5 YES Dependent on TOEP Score
Category 3         50 or above 26 or above 8 or above NO YES

Students with scores in Category 1 should contact IAE at iae@ucdavis.edu to discuss learning objectives and options. Students with scores in Category 2 should arrange to take the TOEP during the next round of testing. Students with scores in Category 3 have already met the TA oral proficiency requirement and do not need to do any more testing. If a student has scores in more than one category, the highest category applies.

Comparison of TOEP & SPEAK


(Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit)


(Test of Oral English Proficiency)

How long does the test take? 30 minutes 20 minutes
How long should students spend preparing? Preparation isn’t required, but students will receive a sample test booklet upon registration. Students will need to spend a few hours reviewing the test materials and preparing a short lesson.
How do I decide which test to take? Students who are confident that they will meet the TA oral proficiency requirements may choose to take the SPEAK since it takes less time to prepare for than the TOEP. Students who do not have TOEFL or IELTS scores that make them eligible to take the TOEP should take the SPEAK to try to become eligible to take the TOEP.  Students who are aware that their English skills are substantially stronger when discussing their research and their field of study than in discussing topics of general interest should take the TOEP.
What scores are given? 20‐60 in increments of 5

P - Pass (eligible to TA)
C - Conditional Pass (conditionally eligible to TA)
F - Fail (ineligible to TA)

What happens if I don’t pass? Students who score below 40 should register for LIN 25 and work on improving their oral proficiency before retesting. Students who score 40‐45 should arrange to take the TOEP. Students who earn a Conditional Pass are eligible to work as a TA for up to two quarters while concurrently taking courses in ESL. (LIN 391 is highly recommended.) Students who fail should register for LIN 25 and work on improving their oral proficiency before retesting. 
More Information Click here. Click here.
To Register Email Barbara Mills at bjmills@ucdavis.edu. Register here.