Yes! The OEAI is currently only offered online over video-conferencing software. You can take the online OEAI from any location as long as you have a stable internet connection, computer or mobile phone, web-camera, and microphone.
No, your hiring department must fill out the registration form on your behalf.
You are limited to three OEAI attempts. If you are unable to pass after the third attempt, you may take the TOEFL iBT or IELTS as often as needed to achieve the required minimum speaking score. You may take the OEAI only once per semester and must complete an English improvement activity to be eligible to retake the OEAI.
Our scheduling is based on the availability of our rating team. In general, interviews are conducted between March 1st and May 10th, between June 16th and August 10th, and between October 1st and December 1st. We do take students' requests for a general month or week, as well as their preference for an AM or PM interview, but no exact interview times can be reserved or guaranteed.
The OEAI tests your language proficiency as needed for teaching, but it is not a practical teaching assessment. You should not prepare any specific scripts or lesson plans for the test, and there is not a teaching component to the test. We evaluate language ability, and do not evaluate the content or opinions of your responses.
Start EARLY, at least one semester (3-4 months) before you plan to take the OEAI, especially if this is your first semester in the US. If your most recent TOEFL iBT speaking score was 20 or below, consider taking an ESL oral skills course before you take the OEAI for the first time. Or you may hire a tutor to help you identify areas you may need to work on.
In general you should practice the types of speaking needed for face-to-face communication with students: giving definitions, elaborating on topics, answer questions in a way that is relevant to your listener.
You can find more ITA-focused language resources on this page.
The 15-minute interview begins with a warm-up, continues with the core section, and ends with a wrap-up. During the warm-up, you have a minute or
two to adjust to speaking in English and accustom yourself to the interviewerʼs pronunciation and way of speaking. During the core section of the interview, the interviewer will ask you to explain two academic terms from the field of study of the desired teaching assistantship (the terms will be provided by the interviewer). The explanations simulate language tasks that are typical of an academic classroom setting. This is followed by the
interviewer asking you general questions about a variety of topics.
The OEAI interviewers are ESL teachers and practitioners who are trained to conduct and evaluate interviews. They have extensive experience working with international teaching assistants, and many of our interviewers are ITAs themselves.
If you arenʼt sure what the interviewer is asking you, then it is appropriate to ask for clarification or to restate what you heard for verification. Just because you misheard something, it does not mean you have poor language skills, as long as you demonstrate strategies for repairing communication. Your final OEAI score is based on how you perform throughout the entire interview. If you frequently give answers that are not relevant to the question, or you frequently show lack of comprehension of the interviewer, then your final score may be affected.
There is no specific preparation time given for any responses. Since the interview is conducted like a conversation, impromptu responses are expected. You may take a few seconds before responding to a question, but in general you should answer questions as soon as you are asked, much like in normal conversation.
Rather than focusing on the length of your answers, focus on whether you are adequately answering the question. Also consider: Are you elaborating on and supporting your ideas? Are you providing an example, if appropriate, to help show what you mean? You are encouraged to say as much as you can about a topic. It is possible, though, that the interviewer may interrupt you in order to complete other required parts of the interview.
The OEAI is focused on evaluating effective speaking skills, so no visual aides are allowed. Use of visuals may be an effective component of teaching, but does not help in demonstrating language ability for the OEAI.
Scores will be sent in an official score report within 2 weeks of your interview date. Sometimes, scores are available in as soon as 5 days, but delays can occur as raters make their decisions and reports are prepared.
If you have questions about the interpretation of your score, please contact email@example.com. You are free to ask about the calculation of the score, but all scores are final. Please know that scores are only reported after multiple evaluators have confirmed the score, and we strive to be as transparent as possible in explaining the reason for particular scores in our score reports.
For anyone who wants to prepare for the OEAI, the department of linguistics holds workshops each semester to prepare for the interview. If you are interested, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to request information about these workshops or to enroll.
Please note that these workshops are for your preparation purposes only, and these do not count as English improvement activities required for retakers.
You can reach out to our office to describe your requested accommodations at email@example.com. We try to make accommodations when requested, but the only way to guarantee accommodations for specific conditions is to seek a letter of accommodation from Disability Resources and Educational Services.
Yes, although most students do this via claiming English as a first language and having English-language schooling experience from childhood up to and including high school. Additionally, prospective TAs from the following countries do NOT need to take the OEAI: Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Canada, Dominica, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines, Scotland, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, St. Kitts, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, and Zimbabwe.
TAs that will only be hired as graders are also not required to provide proof of English proficiency.
All other international TAs will need to provide proof of English proficiency.
TAs can be exempt from the OEAI based on their TOEFL or IELTS scores. Students can be cleared to teach if:
- Their TOEFL Speaking score is 24 or higher
- Their IELTS Speaking score is 8 or higher
- Their OEAI score is 5 or 6.
TOEFL iBT and IELTS scores must be less than two years old from the first day of class at the proposed term of graduate program entry in order to be valid. Scores must be officially reported to the university.
OEAI scores remain valid as long as the student is continuously enrolled as a graduate student at Illinois, even if they switch programs or assistantships.
Passing scores received prior to undergraduate admission are expired and no longer valid. Scores must be less than two years old from the first day of class at the proposed term of graduate program entry in order to be valid for TA eligibility.
Students with expired passing TOEFL iBT or IELTS speaking scores must retake the TOEFL iBT or IELTS or take the OEAI.
Department representatives can fill out this registration form for their students: https://apps.atlas.illinois.edu/FormBuilderSurvey/Survey/las/ept_secured/oral_english_assessment_interview___registration_form/
After registration, the OEAI office will schedule an interview and notify the student and department.
Students are allowed 3 attempts at the OEAI and may take it no more than once per semester. In between attempts, students must complete an English improvement activity before attempting the test again.
If the student or department needs to initiate a cancellation or rescheduling of a test, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org immediately. Cancellations initiated 7 days or more prior to the interview date will not be counted against the student's attempt on the OEAI.
If a student misses their interview without contacting the office with a valid reason for missing the scheduled interview, this will count as an attempt at the OEAI. In cases involving an emergency, if contact is made with the OEAI office prior to the interview, it is possible to reschedule the interview, but it is likely that the interview will be pushed to later in the semester.
Department officials indicated on the student's registration will be emailed a score report within 10 days of the interview. If you need additional copies of the score report, please contact us. Banner will be updated with student scores within 2 weeks of the student's interview.
Students will need to take the course ESL 508 prior to, or during, their first semester teaching as a TA. Completion of the course will be recorded in Banner.
No, students with a 4CP cannot retake the OEAI. The tutoring or coursework required to prepare for a second attempt would constitute more learning hours than what is completed in ESL 508.
If a student does NOT pass the OEAI, they may retake the test after successful completion of an English improvement activity. Students have a maximum of 3 OEAI attempts. English improvement activity options include one or both of the following (but only one option is required):
1) enroll in one of the three ITA-focused ESL courses (ESL 504, 506, or 510), or
2) start working with an approved OEAI tutor.