What is the MSU Speaking Test?
- The MSU Speaking Test is used to determine whether graduate students who have demonstrated English proficiency or obtained a waiver of the English proficiency requirement as a condition for regular admission to Michigan State University also meet MSU’s speaking proficiency requirement for teaching assistants. Note that students who have presented a TOEFL iBT score of 27 or higher are considered to have met the requirement and do not have to take the MSU Speaking Test.
- The MSU Speaking Test assesses the ability to speak English, rather than the ability to write, or to understand spoken or written English. While taking the test, you will hear and respond to 12 questions. The questions are also printed in the test booklet. Depending on the question, you will have from 30 to 90 seconds to record an answer. The equipment is very simple and ELC staff members will be there to help the entire time. You will hear the questions and read them in your test booklet. Everyone will speak their responses at the same time, but you will be wearing headphones and should be able to concentrate on your own speaking without being distracted by the others. The test lasts less than half an hour, so fatigue will not be a problem. There is NO special preparation. The best thing to do on the day of the test is to relax and to say as much as possible about each of the 12 topics.
How do I prepare for the MSU Speaking Test?
Make sure you are familiar with the format of the test. You will hear 12 questions and respond to them by speaking as clearly as you can and saying as much as you can in the time allowed. You will have 30-90 seconds to speak depending on the question. These questions are also printed in the test booklet. The test lasts less than half an hour, so fatigue will not be a problem. The best thing you can do on the day of the test is to relax and say as much as you can about each of the 12 topics.
You can preview Sample MSU Speaking Test Questions (PDF download). If you go through this practice test, you may be less nervous on the day of the test. It is also a good idea to have a friend listen to your practice responses and give you feedback.
How will my test be evaluated?
Two or more specialists in English language teaching (NOT a computer) will rate the response to each task on a scale ranging from 20 through 60. Raters must assign one of the following numbers: 20 30 40 50 60 to each of the 12 tasks. Individual raters cannot assign numbers in between such as "45".
How will my score be computed?
Your ratings are averaged across tasks and raters and rounded to the nearest 5. Thus, you could receive a score of 20, or 25, or 30, or 35, or 40, or 45, or 50, or 55, or 60.
What are raters listening for?
- Your ability to respond spontaneously to the questions. Answers must be original, not memorized. Note that raters are trained to recognize memorized responses, which typically sounds artificial. If you do not demonstrate the ability to speak spontaneously, you will not receive a high score.
- Your ability to elaborate. Explain your answers as best as you can in the time allowed by giving many details, reasons, and examples. In terms of content, you do not need to worry about the actual correctness of your responses. There are no right answers or wrong answers to any of the questions. There is no penalty if you mention something that turns out not to be true. If you do not know a lot about a topic, just provide common sense comments that are closely related to the topic.
- Clarity and comprehensibility of speech. Grammar and pronunciation do NOT have to be perfect; however, raters are told to give lower scores if listeners not accustomed to accented speech would have trouble understanding your answers.
In short, raters are evaluating the comprehensibility of your spoken English and your ability to elaborate in providing original, spontaneous answers to questions. You will not receive higher scores for clever content, nor will you receive lower scores if your answer is not necessarily true or accurate.
How do I sign up?
Students may only take the MSU Speaking Test if they have met the university minimum proficiency requirement for English and if they are requested to do so by their home department. Registration is required. Qualified students may register for the MSU Speaking Test, starting three weeks before the test date.
If you have any trouble registering for the test, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming Test Dates
The MSU Speaking Test will be administered to qualified candidates at MSU on the following dates:
- July 15, 2020: 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- August 19, 2020: 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- August 20, 2020: 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- December 16, 2020: 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- December 17, 2020: 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
All test-takers will be notified of the test locations when they sign up for the test.
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