What is the MSU Speaking Test?

  • The MSU Speaking Test is used to determine whether graduate students who have demonstrated English proficiency 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 Speaking section score of 27 or higher or an IELTS Speaking Section score of 8.0 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. Depending on the question, you will have from 30 to 90 seconds to record an answer. An ELC staff member will be available to help the entire time. 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. 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. Speak as clearly as possible. Your grammar and pronunciation do NOT have to be perfect. However, the harder it is to understand what you are saying, the lower your score will be.

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 testing@elc.msu.edu

Upcoming Test Dates

The MSU Speaking Test will be administered to qualified candidates at MSU on the following dates:

  • July 18, 2024: 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., and 4 p.m. (via Zoom) (Registration will be open from June 27 to July 10.)
  • August 12-14, 2024: 8 a.m., 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m., and 6 p.m. (via Zoom) (Registration will be open from July 22 to August 4)
  • December 12-13: 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., and 4 p.m. (via Zoom) (Registration will be open from November 21 to December 4)

All test takers will receive a registration confirmation email from the address “testing@elc.msu.edu” a few days before their test date. This email message will include a link to a Zoom meeting to be used to attend the test session.  Because the Speaking Test is administered live, an examiner will be waiting for you at your test start time at the Zoom link provided. If you do NOT respond to the test registration confirmation email communicating your intention to attend/cancel your test or do NOT log in to the Zoom link at your test time, you will be required to submit a testing fee of $75 before taking the Speaking Test at a future date.

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