Exam Overview

Test of Oral Proficiency (TOP) Exam Overview

The TOP exam is designed to test oral English ability of graduate students  as they pertain to Teaching Assistant duties. These duties may include, but are not limited to, conducting discussion sections and/or labs, holding office hours, and interacting 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. International graduate students must pass the TOP exam before working as a TA in any department at UCLA.

Who Needs To Take the TOP Exam?

UCLA Academic Senate Graduate Council policy stipulates that graduate students whose first language is not English must pass a campus administered Test of Oral Proficiency (TOP) in order to be eligible for a teaching assistantship at UCLA. A student is exempt from this testing requirement if they satisfy one of the following conditions:

  • they have earned a prior undergraduate degree from an institution at which English was the sole language of instruction located in a country where English is the primary spoken language of everyday life. If the student attended a university in the United States (and received an undergraduate degree from it), no action is required whatsoever. If the student attended a university outside the United States where English was the sole language of instruction and in a country where English is the primary spoken language of everyday life, please see the Requesting an Exemption guidance below for additional details.
  • they have earned a minimum score of 28 on the spoken portion of the TOEFL or 8.5 for IELTS.

Please review the following information carefully when determining whether you need to take the TOP Exam:

  • You can only use the spoken portion of your TOEFL or IELTs exam to request an exemption. No other language proficiency exams or placement exams can be used to request an exemption (e.g., SPEAK, TSE, ESLPE).
  • If you do not plan to work as a TA at UCLA, you do not need to take the TOP. Other positions (e.g., special reader, GSR) do not require the TOP.

Requesting an Exemption

Please note: the TOP program simply administers the TOP program as outlined by Division of Graduate Education and is unable to grant exemptions of any kind.

If a student attended a university outside the United States where English was the sole language of instruction in a country where English is also the primary language of everyday life, students should contact their departmental Student Affairs Officer/Academic Advisor directly and provide the applicable documentation. Their department should submit this documentation to Division of Graduate Education. Please do NOT contact the TOP program regarding exemption requests as we cannot grant exemptions of any kind.

If you want to request an exemption based on your TOEFL or IELTS score on the spoken portion of these exams, your department should also contact the Division of Graduate Education.

Departments and University Personnel: Please refer to this PDF file for additional exam information.

When and where is the TOP administered?

The TOP is administered once per quarter on campus (in-person). Students who plan to work as TAs must take the TOP before the quarter they plan to teach. For example, if you plan to work in the Fall, you must take and pass the exam during the summer exam dates or before. Only one exam may be taken per administration. Please consult your department for specific hiring deadlines.

Once you have registered for the exam, you will receive an email with detailed instructions including building and room location. Please note that the exams are NOT administered at the TOP office.

How Much Does the TOP exam cost?

The TOP is free to students the 1st and 2nd time they take it. For the 3rd and subsequent times, the cost is $50 per exam. If a student registers for the exam but does not come on time, or does not cancel 72 hours in advance, the student is required to pay a $50 penalty fee. Charges are administered via BruinBill and will be posted to the student’s account within two month of retaking the exam or after they failed to show up for a test.

More detailed information, including exam schedules and links for online registration, can be found here. Should you have further questions, please contact the TOP coordinator at top@humnet.ucla.edu.