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English Language Program

SPEAK Testing

The Kansas Board of Regents requires any graduate teaching assistant whose first language is not English to have a minimum score of 50 on the SPEAK test or 22 on the Speaking part of the iBT (Internet based TOEFL) or a minimum score of 7 on the Speaking section of the IELTS (International Engish Language Test System).

All SPEAK testing is done using Zoom. The candidate will meet with two ELP instructors who administer the test. The test takes approximately 30 minutes and emphasizes speech functions and extended samples of speech. The speech sample will be recorded and scored after the test is completed.

SPEAK Test Schedule

The ELP administers the SPEAK test on an ongoing basis online via Zoom and may offer in-person testing at the beginning of each semester as circumstances require.  

SPEAK Test Registration and Orientation

GTA candidates may register for the SPEAK at any time. If you need to register for the test, please email elp@ksu.edu Please include the following information in the email:

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Wildcat ID (WID), if you have one.
  • Department
  • Semester you will begin your GTA duties. 
SPEAK Orientation

After receiving the candidate’s initial email, a time and date will be set for a SPEAK Orientation. During this session, which lasts approximately one hour, the candidate will meet with an ELP instructor to become familiar with the format and expectations for the test.  At this time a date will be set for the SPEAK test to be administered.


The SPEAK test is FREE for:

  • Students admitted to Kansas State University for the first two tests only. 

The SPEAK test costs $10 for:

  • People not admitted to Kansas State University
  • Students who have failed the test twice
  • Special individual tests scheduled outside of regular test sessions

Results and Scoring

Results will be available within one week from the test date.

  • Test scores are uploaded to KSIS for departments to view.
  • Students will receive an email informing them of their results. 

The passing score is 50 on a scale of 20-60.  Two graders independently score each test, and their scores are averaged. Examinees' tests are identified by a number only and not by name.

SPEAK graders have graduate degrees or training in English as a Second Language and Linguistics.  All SPEAK graders at K-State have undergone a standardized training program and periodically check their scoring against the grading standard on the training materials.


Responses are graded according to the following competencies (or abilities):

  • Functional competence: the speaker's ability to select functions to reasonably address the task and to select the language needed to carry out the function (for example, giving directions, telling a story, discussing topics). 
  • Sociolinguistic competence: the speaker's ability to demonstrate an awareness of audience and situation by selecting language, register (level of formality), and tone that are appropriate.
  • Discourse competence: the speaker's ability to develop and organize information in a coherent (unified) manner, and to make effective use of cohesive devices (for example, use of sentence connectors, transition words, order markers) to help the listener follow the organization of the response.
  • Linguistic competence: the effective selection of vocabulary (including proper word forms), control of grammatical structures, and accurate pronunciation, along with smooth delivery, in order to produce understandable speech.

adapted from Educational Testing Service. (1996). SPEAK Rater Training Kit. Princeton, New Jersey.

The following is a general description of each score level:

ScoreDescription of Speaking Competencies
60The speaker offers information easily, with little or no effort, and may go beyond the task through the use of advanced expressions.  Almost no listener effort is required. 
50The speaker understood the question and answered appropriately. There may be some effort in the response. Expressions may be awkward. Generally, strong content is included. 
40The speaker may understand the question, but has difficulty responding.  The answer may lack details, without appropriate transitions. Grammar problems may be present (for example verb tense errors, word forms, sentence structure). Limited vocabulary. Delivery slow or hesitant. 
30The speaker responds with much effort, provides limited response and often runs out of time. Function of the task may be accurate, but difficult to tell if task is completed due to other language weaknesses (sentence fragments, word form errors, lack of vocabulary). 
20The speaker attempts to perform task but may repeat only simple words, give up, or be silent. Extreme effort is required by the listener.  Speech contains mostly sentence fragments, repetition of vocabulary and simple phrases.

adapted from Educational Testing Service. (1996). SPEAK Rater Training Kit. Princeton, New Jersey.

Retaking the SPEAK

  • Students receiving scores of 45 may take the test again the next month (not January or August).
  • Students with scores below 45 may take the test in two months time (not January or August).
  • Students who fail the test twice must seek remediation before taking the test again.

SPEAK Review Session

  • Students may have a review session after the first test. This will help identify specific problems to work on and make the best use of a student's practice time.
  • Students wanting a review session need to make an appointment by emailing elp@ksu.edu.
  • Students failing the SPEAK test twice must have remediation before taking SPEAK again.
  • To begin remediation students must sign up for a review session. 
  • The reviewer and student will make a plan during the review session for remediation through the ELP Testing and Tutoring Center (TTC). 

In addition to review sessions and remediation:

SPEAK Test Scores from Other Kansas Universities 

In consultation with Associate Provost for Institutional Effectiveness, K-State will accept SPEAK scores from any Kansas Regent institution in fulfillment of the Board of Regents requirement for English proficiency for international teaching assistants (ITAs).

The SPEAK test has two version, both of which K-State will accept:

TestTotal Score PossiblePassing Scores for ITAs
Older version300240
Newer version6050

K-State will accept for evidence the reporting of the score from the institution on letterhead (or test report form) with contact information for verification. 

If you have questions, please contact the English Language Program: elp@ksu.edu