Please note that the Fall 2023 administration (November 15th – December 1st, 2023) will be held on-campus (in-person).  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.

Taking the TOP

The exam has 3 parts and is designed to be a simulation of common TA duties, specifically, explaining course materials and presenting an academic topic in an interactive manner. The 3 parts of the TOP exam include, 1 – Self Introduction, 2 – Syllabus Review, and 3 – Prepared Presentation. Please review the information below for more details about each task and advice about how to prepare.

  Task 1
Task 2
Syllabus Review
Task 3
Prepared Presentation
Purpose Familiarize self with test environment Measure communicative ability with administrative TA tasks Measure communicative ability with presentation TA tasks
Duration 1-2 minutes ~5 minutes ~10 minutes
Scoring Not scored 50% of total score·       Pronunciation

·       Vocabulary and Grammar

·       Rhetorical Organization

·       Question Handling

50% of total score·       Pronunciation

·       Vocabulary and Grammar

·       Rhetorical Organization

·       Question Handling

Materials None Syllabus excerpt provided during check-in (you may refer to this excerpt during Task 2 of the exam) Blank whiteboard and marker provided in-room.
Absolutely NO other materials are permitted. 
Tips for Preparing No preparation needed; expect to interact in casual conversation Practice explaining excerpts of syllabi (e.g., homework, grading policy, projects, finals, etc.) –       Prepare a presentation on a basic topic in your field, appropriate for non-expert undergraduate students–       Choose a topic with lots of English language usage – See here for Further information about choosing a topic for Task 3

–       Practice ahead of time with friends, colleagues, or family

Other Comments –       Questioners will ask clarifying questions that are common to a classroom environment at UCLA.–       You can feel free to elaborate or role play information that is not included in the syllabus excerpt. –       You will be asked questions during the presentation, as in a typical lecture; prepare and practice with this in mind.

Repeat Test Takers: If you received a non-passing or provisional-passing score and are retaking the TOP exam, it is highly recommended that you seek counseling from the TOP counseling team to review your previous exam before registering again. Please contact the TOP coordinator at to schedule your appointment. Please note counseling requests are addressed in the order they are received and may take up to 2 weeks to schedule due to demand.



Task 2 – Syllabus Review
All examinees will be provided a copy of a syllabus excerpt during the check-in process to use during Task 2. No other materials are allowed during Task 2. The undergraduate students you will be presenting to will also have a copy of the syllabus excerpt.

Task 3 – Prepared Presentation in your Field
Examinees are not allowed to use any materials such as slides, pictures, posters, flashcards, computers, maps, charts, 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.

You may choose to create a visual representation or aid during Task 3 using a whiteboard and dry erase marker when taking the exam in person.

As the TOP primarily assesses your speaking and listening skills, visual representations are completely optional and should only be used as a supplement to your prepared presentation. The visual representation should be blank before starting and created during Task 3. If the visual has already been created, you will be asked to stop the exam and reschedule.

Test Duration

The exam takes about 60 minutes from the time you check in to the time you leave the exam room. This includes time for check-in, time to prepare for Task 2 – Syllabus Review, and time to take the actual exam. The actual exam is approximately 20 minutes long. Once you have entered the testing room, you may not leave for any reason.

People In The Room

In addition to the test taker, there are typically 4 people in each exam room.

2 questioners act as students in a class, listening to the test taker and asking questions during the exam. It is very important to answer the students fully and completely as how you respond to questions is a part of your exam score.
2 raters will be present and will score your exam. They may speak to the test taker to prompt specific tasks, but raters do not generally ask any questions. Test takers should direct their attention to the questioners.