American English Oral Communicative Test (AEOCPT)

American English Oral Communicative Test (AEOCPT)

What is the purpose of the AEOCPT?

The AEOCPT is designed for the purpose of determining the extent to which a potential International Teaching Assistant (ITA) demonstrates a sufficient level of English language proficiency required to carryout the duties of a teaching assistant in his/her home department.

The score a potential ITA receives on this test will determine when he/she may assume teaching duties as a teaching assistant. Also, effective January 1995, an American English Oral Communicative Proficiency Test (AEOCPT) score is required for enrollment in ESL 115G, ESL 117G, and ESL 118G. Students who have not taken the oral proficiency test will not be permitted to enroll in these courses.

How is the AEOCPT different from other English language proficiency tests?

The AEOCPT is different from other tests of English language proficiency in that it targets a specific type of English language proficiency through an interactive interview format. Other tests, such as the TOEFL iBT, the ACTFL OPI, the SPEAK test, and the IELTS, target a more broadly defined notion of language proficiency that may or may not include the communicative abilities required to carryout the duties of a teaching assistant.

Who should be tested?

On April 7, 1981, the Penn State Faculty Senate passed legislation mandating that “all graduate teaching assistants whose first language is not English” must take and pass an oral language proficiency test. This legislation is in accordance with legislation passed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania under Act 76, the English Fluency in Higher Education Act.

Department heads are also encouraged to consider requiring any individual who will assume teaching duties in their departments, particularly if it is suspected that an individual does not demonstrate sufficient language proficiency, to take the AEOCPT.

Can students pay for the test?

Students are not permitted to pay the test fee themselves. Departments are responsible for the test fee, which is paid via IDCC.

When is the AEOCPT offered?

The AEOCPT is administered directly prior to the start of each semester (in August, January, and May). The August testing occurs during the two weeks prior to the start of fall semester classes (on-line registration indicates the exact dates and times); the January testing occurs on the Thursday prior to the start of spring semester classes; and the May testing occurs on the Thursday before the start of the first summer session of courses (not the Maymester).  Departments wishing to have their students tested outside of the pre-scheduled testing sessions will be required to pay an additional fee for this service.

What is the test procedure?

The test consists of four tasks. The first task is a conversation and the other three tasks are role-plays in which the test taker plays the teacher and the test raters are the students. Examinees are evaluated on the way in which they express their ideas, not on the content of the ideas themselves.

In the first task, examinees are asked to engage with the test raters in a conversation about academic and professional life.

In the second task, examinees are given information about an on-campus event and are asked to announce changes to the event to their students as part of the class opening.

In the third task, the examinee is asked to explain a common term or concept from his or her field of study. The examinee should explain the term or concept fully, using definitions, examples and/or analogies as desired, and describe the importance of the concept. Examiners may ask follow-up questions.

In the fourth task, the examinee is asked to participate in an office hours role-play. One of the test evaluators plays the role of a student who wishes to discuss a matter related to a course, and the examinee plays the role of the teaching assistant for the course.

During the test, examinees are not permitted to read from a pre-prepared script or notes. For each of the role-play tasks, examinees are given time to prepare their answers and should answer as completely as possible.

Examinees are interviewed and evaluated by two trained test raters.  Tests are video recorded, and recordings are saved on a secure University server for five years after test administration. The test takes approximately 25 minutes to complete.

What does my AEOCPT score mean?

Scores range from 0-300. Effective August 1999, a score of 250 or higher allows an international student to assume teaching responsibilities with no restrictions.

Scores under 250 require additional coursework in English. The following scores and interpretations constitute the guidelines followed by the Department of Applied Linguistics.






Student may assume teaching duties with no restrictions.


Enroll in ESL 118G before assuming teaching duties.

Students enrolled in ESL 118G must pass the qualifying exit examination, called the Interactive Performance Test (IPT), before they can assume teaching duties with no restrictions.


Enroll in ESL 117G

Will require at least two semesters before student is recommended to teach.


Enroll in ESL 115G

Will require at least three semesters before student is recommended to teach.

 Go to to Penn State’s Online Schedule of Courses (LionPath). Look up “University Park” and “ESL” to see courses currently offered. 

Where do I find out my test results?

Testing scores will be available to departmental staff through the electronic testing website within 72 hours of the test being completed. Scores and course requirements will also be available to departmental staff in LionPATH.

What can I do if I feel that I have been incorrectly evaluated?

First, consult with your academic adviser or your department head to discuss your concerns. If your adviser or department head feels that your score is an inaccurate representation of your English language abilities, that person should contact the ITA Program Director.  Final test scores may be reviewed under the following conditions: (1) it is suspected that the identity of the person recorded on the audio-tape is not the examinee to whom the score was assigned; (2) it is suspected that there was a significant discrepancy between the paired raters’ scores; and/or, (3) it is suspected that standard testing procedures were not followed.

What happens if I don’t take the test?

If you assume teaching duties without taking and passing the AEOCPT, then your department runs the risk of a fine levied by the State of Pennsylvania for each course section that you teach.

Can I retake the test if I don’t like my score?

You may retake the AEOCPT after one calendar year (e.g., if you take the test in August, you are eligible to take it again the following August).  You will need to obtain your department’s approval before retaking the test.