Oral Certification Interview

Impact of COVID-19 on the OCI Process

For the safety of our students, faculty, and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, all OCIs will be conducted online until further notice. Everything else about our assessment process will remain the same.

The Oral Certification Interview (OCI)

The Oral Certification Interview (OCI) is a one-on-one conversation between an international teaching assistant (ITA) and an ITAP staff member.  The interviewer will ask several questions to determine what the ITA is able to do with the English language and how they communicate when asked to complete a variety of different tasks.  The average OCI lasts around 15-20 minutes.  The interviewer makes an audio recording of the OCI and then sends it to multiple trained raters for scoring.

The OCI is a modified version of the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI), which is used to determine the ACTFL Proficiency Level of an ITA’s English speaking skills.  Based on the outcome of the OCI, each ITA will be classified as Advanced Low, Intermediate High, or Intermediate Mid.  For more information on what a student can successfully do with English at each of those three levels, please visit the ACTFL Speaking website.

The OCI was developed as a tool for assessing the oral English proficiency of ITAs, which is required by Illinois law and UIC policy.  According to the policy, ALL non-native English-speaking TAs (regardless of their citizenship status) must demonstrate that they are orally proficient in English before they are given instructional responsibilities that involve oral interaction with students.

Please note that the OCI is not a test of the student’s topical knowledge or an indication of how successful the student will be as a TA.  The OCI is used only to assess how well ITAs are able to communicate in English and to determine their oral English proficiency certification status.

Required English Test Sub-Scores for Shortened OCI*

Students who have received the following sub-scores on standardized English language tests within the last 2 years may be eligible for a shortened version of the OCI:
English Test Speaking Sub-Score Listening Sub-Score
TOEFL iBT 26 or higher 24 or higher
IELTS 8.0 or higher 7.5 or higher
PTE 71 or higher 65 or higher

*Students who earn the minimum sub-scores listed in the above table are still required to participate in the OCI.  Since these scores typically represent a level of oral proficiency that is sufficient for effective classroom instruction and communication, ITAP staff will conduct a shortened form of the OCI to verify the student’s proficiency level.

Possible OCI Outcomes

There are 3 possible outcomes for the OCI:  Full Certification, Conditional Certification with Full Teaching Assignment, and Conditional Certification with Limited Teaching Assignment.

Full Certification

Students who receive Full Certification on their OCI have successfully demonstrated the required level of oral English proficiency.  They are not required to take ITA courses or participate in any additional English language testing to assume full classroom teaching responsibilities.  This corresponds to the ACTFL Advanced Low Level for Speaking.

Conditional Certification

Students who receive Conditional Certification on their OCI have NOT reached the level of spoken English proficiency required for teaching.  They are required to take an ITA English support course (GC 510, 511, or 509) during their first semester of teaching and will be required to participate in ITAP’s outtake test, the Performance Evaluation (PE), at the end of the semester.  The student’s certification status then depends on the result of the PE, which they must pass in order to be granted Full Certification.

Conditional Certification with Full Teaching Assignment

Because of their conditional status, these students are required to enroll in an ITA course to improve their English and prepare for the end-of-semester PE.  Provided that they are enrolled in an ITA course during their first semester as a TA, no specific restrictions are placed on their TA duties.  They may teach a discussion or recitation section, lead a lab section, hold office hours, etc.  This corresponds to the ACTFL Intermediate High Level for Speaking.

Conditional Certification with Limited Teaching Assignment

Because of their conditional status, these students are required to enroll in an ITA course to improve their English and prepare for the end-of-semester PE.  Due to their limited oral English proficiency, these ITAs should be restricted to TA roles and duties with minimal student contact, such as grading (without office hours), lab preparation, etc.  This corresponds to the ACTFL Intermediate Mid Level for Speaking.

Schedule Your OCI

Prepare for Your OCI