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TOP Overview

No more tests will be given for AY 2012-2013. Registration for the next TOP administration will open in late August. Please check back at our website in August for more information.

TOP Objective:

The TOP is designed to test the oral English ability of international students to conduct discussion sections, labs, and office hours and to interact in English with undergraduate students in the course of normal TA duties. It is not designed to test teaching skills or knowledge of subject matter. 

Taking the Test:

TOP is designed to be a simulation of common TA duties, specifically explaining course materials and presenting an academic topic in an interactive manner.  There are three tasks on the TOP. Completing the entire exam takes about 30 minutes (10 minutes of preparation time before beginning and 20 minutes for the actual test). Examinees are provided with a prompt for Task 2 (see Short Presentation link) and a white board with markers for use during the exam.  Keep in mind that the exam is testing oral English; therefore, the white board should only be used as a supplement to spoken English, not as the primary means of instruction. Examinees are not allowed to bring in any other materials such as posters, flash cards, magnets, overhead transparencies, computers, maps, charts, pictures, or multimedia of any kind.  This strict policy is to ensure a high degree of consistency between test performance across departments and to reduce distractions.  No notes are allowed for parts 1 and 3 of the exam.

People in the Room:
In addition to the test taker, there will typically be four people in the testing room. Two people act as students in a class, listening to the test taker and asking questions during the exam ("questioners").  It is very important to answer the students fully and completely - question handling is part of your score (see below). Two raters will be present during the exam, and will score the test on-site. They may speak to the test taker and prompt test takers to begin specific tasks, but usually will not ask any questions. Test takers should direct their attention to the questioners.

For more information on taking the exam, choose one of the following two categories:

  1. Task Details and Preparation Advice
  2. Scoring


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