Preparing for Your OCI

After you have scheduled your OCI appointment, you should make sure you are prepared for your interview.  The information below will tell you what to bring, what to expect, and how to get Full Certification on the OCI.  Everyone who works in the ITA Program is very friendly and enjoys meeting new people, so don't be nervous!

What to Do Before Your OCI

Please email the following 3 documents to itap@uic.edu before your OCI appointment:

  • a picture of your UIC i-card, passport photo, driver’s license, or other photo ID
  • a copy of your most recent TOEFL/IELTS/PTE scores (if less then 2 years old)
  • a copy of your TA offer letter

If you do not have all 3 of these documents, please let us know in your email.  We know that some students may not have recent English proficiency test scores or may not have received their TA offer letter before their department asked them to take the OCI.  If either of those circumstances applies to you, don’t worry — you can still take the OCI, and we will ask you to send any missing documents to us afterwards.

What to Expect

The OCI is designed to be a relatively casual, one-on-one conversation between you and an ITA staff member, who will make an audio recording of the conversation.  The interviewer will ask you a variety of questions to determine what you are able to do in English and how you communicate while completing different types of tasks.  The average OCI lasts about 15-20 minutes, and the audio recording will be sent to trained raters for scoring after you leave your appointment.  Until further notice, all OCIs will be conducted online through Zoom.

It is important to note that the ITA staff member who interviews you is not testing your subject knowledge in your field or trying to decide whether you will be a good TA — this is an English language assessment, so the only thing being evaluated is your ability to successfully communicate in English.

You should be prepared to talk about both academic and non-academic topics.  You may be asked questions similar to these:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Have you ever been to the U.S. before?
  • Do you live in a dorm or an apartment?  Can you describe it?
  • Tell me about your hometown.
  • Could you elaborate on…?
  • What is your favorite hobby, and why do you like it?
  • What is your opinion on….?
  • You mentioned that you have a sibling.  Can you tell me about him/her?
  • How did you become interested in your field of study?
  • I’m not familiar with that term.  Could you explain it to me?

How to Get Full Certification

Getting Full Certification means that you have successfully demonstrated the required level of oral English proficiency and are able to take on full teaching responsibilities at UIC with no additional requirements.

Students who receive Full Certification on the OCI are able to consistently do the following tasks:

  • participate fully as an able, willing, and independent interlocutor
  • use repair and circumlocution strategies
  • narrate and describe events in all major time frames with some control of aspect
  • handle routine situations with a complication or unexpected communicative task
  • speak in connected, paragraph-length discourse
  • speak about a variety of topics in most formal and informal situations (work, school, home, current events, etc.)
  • be easily understood by native speakers unaccustomed to non-native speakers

Students who earn Full Certification may still demonstrate minor errors in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation, but these do not affect their overall ability to communicate effectively in English.