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Center for Teaching and Learning

Taking the Versant English Test at UW

Students who have a spoken English proficiency score that is below the required minimum to be a TA at UW can attempt to meet this proficiency requirement by taking the Versant English Test.

The Versant English Test is administered at UW’s Office of Educational Assessment (OEA) and costs $50. UW Students can register for the test by contacting OEA.

Sample test questions and more can be found on the Versant website.

Below is information on the format of the test, considerations for taking the test, location and schedule, score reporting, and CTL’s “Overview of the Versant Test” workshop.

Test format

The Versant English Test is a recorded spoken English proficiency test which tests “how well [students] understand spoken English on everyday topics and respond appropriately at a native-like conversational pace in English” (Versant English Test: Test Description and Validation Summary, p.3)  

A voice will prompt the student to do different tasks (e.g. read, repeat, answer questions). The testing session takes about 30 minutes; the test itself is 15 minutes of that.  Students will be sitting at a computer and will have a headset on.  Test instructions will be on the computer screen.

There are six sections of the Versant English test.  Each section has its own instructions. Details and examples below are taken directly from the Sample Test Paper available on the Versant website:

  1. Reading – Read sentences as instructed, e.g. Read sentence #7: “If he tells them to stop, they just turn it up louder.” (8 items)
  2. Repeat – Repeat the sentences, e.g. “Leave town on the next train.” (16 items)
  3. Questions – Give simple (short) answers to the questions, e.g. “Would you get water from a bottle or a newspaper?” (24 items)
  4. Sentence builds – Rearrange word groups into a sentence, e.g. was reading / my mother / her favorite magazine. (10 items)
  5. Story retelling – Listen to and retell a brief story, 30 seconds each.  (3 items)
  6. Open questions – Answer questions about family life or personal choices, 40 seconds each.  (2 items)

-from Pearson’s Versant English test paper

Considerations

Students may find the following considerations helpful when taking the test:

  • Listen carefully to each question and answer it when asked to do so.
  • Speak clearly and loudly enough – at a pace that would help a listener understand you.
  • Remember that scores are based on what is recorded – and that it is scored for linguistic accuracy (sentence mastery, vocabulary, fluency, and pronunciation).
  • Preparation?  Look more at the sample test materials online.

Location and schedule

  • The Versant English test is administered by the Office of Educational Assessment (OEA).  The test takes place at OEA’s Testing Center, 440 Schmitz Hall.
  • For more information see OEA’s website.

Score reporting

  • The score report will include five different scores (all on a scale from 20 to 80):  (1) Overall Score, and (2) Subskill Scores for Sentence Mastery, Vocabulary, Fluency, and Pronunciation.
  • A score of 65 or above means the student can be assigned a teaching assistantship that involves direct interaction with students (classroom TA, office hours, etc.).
  • After two business days, score reports will be ready for students to pick up at the Office of Educational Assessment Testing Center, 440 Schmitz Hall.
  • If the student’s score is below 65, there are a few options (depending on the exact score):
    1. Take and pass English 105, a course for international TAs offered by English Language Programs.
    2. If the score is between 56 and 64, the department can decide to arrange a spoken English proficiency appeal interview.

“Overview of the Versant Test” workshop

The Center for Teaching and Learning offers an “Overview of the Versant Test” workshop each September before the TA Conference. This workshop is open to UW students who are interested in learning more about the Versant before they take it. Students who are taking the test at another time and would like to learn more can contact the International TA Program at itap@uw.edu to inquire about an appointment.