Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit (SPEAK test)

The SPEAK test is used by the Graduate School to determine the language skills of non-native English-speaking graduate teaching assistants. The SPEAK test is administered by trained professional staff. Each non-native English-speaking graduate teaching assistant is required to take the SPEAK test. The test ensures teaching assistants are assigned teaching duties consistent with their ability to communicate effectively in spoken English.

How to register

The SPEAK Test is offered to University of Nevada, Reno students by appointment. It will be delivered via an online format. Students will need to first pay the fee ($75.00) using the Testing Center website.

 The process is as follows:

  • Go to the Testing Center website.
  • Click “Schedule Your Examination.”
  • On the next screen, select “Fee payment only” under the “Select a testing location" drop-down options.
  • Choose “SPEAK Test” under the “Choose an exam” drop-down options.
  • Fill out the information in the “Who is taking this exam?” boxes.
  • Read the “Exam guideline acknowledgement” and click the box for “I agree to follow the above guidelines.”
  • Type in your NSHE ID number in the “Needed information.”
  • Click “Add to Cart” and complete the payment process.
  • Once you receive your email receipt, you can forward the email to writing_speaking_center@unr.edu. You will be contacted to set up a testing time (via Zoom within Canvas) and will be invited to a Canvas course.
  • The exam takes approximately 30 minutes. You will need access to a computer with a camera and audio. You will need to show a photo ID at the beginning of the exam.
  • You will receive your results via email within 72 hours of completing the test. A copy of your results will be forwarded to the Graduate School.

There are no practice materials as this is a skills-based test. The test asks a series of questions that include giving directions, explaining information, telling about sequential events, and providing opinions. 

SPEAK test overview

  • Scoring guidelines

    The test is independently scored by two trained professional staff members. If the scores are not in close agreement, a third staff member scores the exam as well. The score reflects the English language speaking ability and hence the degree to which the teaching assistant can communicate in a teaching situation.

    Test raters’ scores are averaged and final scores are reported in increments of 5. With a score of 50, 55 or 60 (out of a possible 60 points), the TA is eligible to teach with no restrictions. With a score of 45 or lower, the TA may provide teaching assistance such as grading, lab preparation, and other activities that involve a minimum of spoken English communication and must enroll in an appropriate English Bridge Course.

    The University Writing & Speaking Center will assess the language skills and enroll the student in the appropriate course if necessary. In some cases, for students receiving a score of 40 or 45, an English course designed for international graduate students that involves all four language skills—reading, writing, speaking, and listening—may be recommended. 

  • Testing protocol

    The Educational Testing Service, which produces the SPEAK test, suggests that a student should wait at least two months before retaking the SPEAK test. However, in cases of extreme nervousness or if an international student has just arrived in the United States, exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis by the SPEAK test administrator. In this case, if a student receives a score of 45, they may retake the test within two weeks. If the student does not achieve a score of 50 on the second test, they must wait two more months before retaking the test.

  • Exemptions

    Students are exempt from taking the SPEAK test if they have the following exam scores:

    • TOEFL Speaking score: 24 or higher
    • IELTS Speaking score: 7.5 or higher
    • Duolingo score: 120 or higher