Frequently Asked Questions for Students

Can I take the OEAI remotely and/or from outside the US?

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.

Can I register myself for the OEAI?

No, your hiring department must fill out the registration form on your behalf.

Is the OEAI a test of my teaching ability? Should I prepare a lesson?

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.

What should I do to prepare for the OEAI?

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.

Who is going to interview me?

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.

Will misunderstanding the interviewer or asking questions affect my score?

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.

During the interview, how much time do I have to prepare my responses?

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.

How long should my responses be?

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.

Can I draw or write something to help my explanation? Will I be able to share my screen?

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.

Can I dispute or appeal my score?

All scores are final. Please note that scores are only reported after multiple evaluators have confirmed them, and disputing or appealing scores is not accepted.

Are there workshops or other resources to prepare for the OEAI besides classes or tutors?

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 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.

What do I do if I am experiencing test anxiety?

The University's Counseling Center provides useful strategies for reducing nervousness when taking exams such as the OEAI. See this link.

What should I do if I require specific accommodations for my interview?

You can reach out to our office to describe your requested accommodations at 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.

Frequently Asked Questions for Departments

Do all prospective TAs need to provide proof of English proficiency?

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.

How long are TOEFL, IELTS, or OEAI scores valid?

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.

If a TA had valid TOEFL or IELTS scores as an undergraduate at UIUC, are they still exempt?

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.

What happens if a student misses their interview?

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.

Can students with a Conditional Pass retake the OEAI?

No, students with a Conditional Pass 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.