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ITA Testing Program

The ITA Testing Program establishes the oral proficiency for teaching assistants and is located administratively in the Graduate School. All prospective teaching assistants or associates whose native language is not English are required to take and pass the OPIc before they can assume teaching responsibilities. This applies to all persons regardless of citizenship status, previous educational experience, or scores on other tests.

History and Overview

The ITA Testing Program (formerly the SPEAK® Testing Program) was instituted at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1983 as a response to a mandate from the Tennessee General Assembly requiring that all instructional personnel be proficient in spoken English. The program based the required levels of oral proficiency upon the ILR/ETS/ACTFL rating scale. The SPEAK® Test, created by ETS, has been retired, and the testing program now uses the ACTFL OPIc.


Students will be registered for the test by their departments. There is no need for you to register yourself. The OPIc is free of charge the first two times you take the test. Starting with the third test, your department will be charged $80 per test ($105 if the test is offered via remote proctoring).

All participants are required to practice the OPIc test before taking the exam.

If you have questions about registration, please contact Millie Cheatham at 865-974-0818 or

Remote Proctoring

For the safety of our staff and students, the Graduate School may elect to utilize remote proctoring as a means of social distancing when necessary.  Remote proctoring is a service that emulates the role of an on-site proctor – confirming the identity of the test-taker and safeguarding the integrity of the exam – using an internet-delivered or phone-delivered assessment monitored by our offsite proctor. Internet-based, remotely proctored tests must be taken on a computer with a webcam and microphone.

Remote proctoring allows students to take tests anywhere they can access a quiet room and a computer (in addition to a web-cam and a head-set for OPIc assessments), at a time that is convenient for them during the test date window.  The decision to offer the exams via remote proctoring will be announced at least one month prior to the exam dates on this website.

Understanding your Scores

The OPIc test scores range from Novice Low (lowest) to Superior (highest). There are three passing categories and one non-passing category of the OPIc scores. Students who score below an Advanced High (AH) must test every year until they score an AH. If you score an AH or above (unconditional), you have satisfied the requirements of the ITA Testing Program and do not need to retest.

Unconditionally Approved for Classroom Teaching

Advanced High (AH) or Superior

This score means that the department may assign the TA any instructional duties it chooses. Departments are not required to assign teaching duties to persons in this range, but may do so as their needs require.

Conditionally Approved for Classroom Teaching

Advanced Mid (AM)

This score means that the department may assign the TA any instructional duties it chooses, but that the TA’s approval for teaching is probationary.

Conditionally approved TAs need to make an appointment with the ITA Testing Program coordinator early in the semester to review how they can best improve their spoken English. Also, conditionally approved TAs will be observed by a member of their department and a faculty member from another department to establish that they are successful in the performance of their teaching duties. These faculty members will then determine if the TAs can continue teaching or need to improve before resuming teaching duties for that semester. Students need to retest yearly until they score an Advanced High or Superior. Students who fail to retest will not be allowed to teach in that semester.

Approved for Limited Assistance Roles

Advanced Low (AL)

This score means that the department may assign the TA duties involving one-on-one contact in an instructional role. This may include assisting in a laboratory, tutoring individuals, grading papers and discussing them with individuals, or other roles of a similar nature.

Not Approved for Instructional Duties

IH (Intermediate High) or lower

This score means that the TA’s English is not adequate for instructional roles.