International students often face different challenges than their American counterparts. For example, visa difficulties can sometimes arise. There are many different ways that this problem can occur, and students should immediately contact the Graduate Program Director.
International students whose native language is not English may have the added burden of taking courses and perhaps teaching courses in an unaccustomed language. The university has established certain guidelines and procedures to ease the problems of non-native English speakers. All international students are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language TOEFL before being admitted; the Graduate School has established a minimum of 550 pBT or 79 iBT or 6.5 IELTS on the TOEFL or equivalent for admission. These guidelines are not intended as roadblocks or filters for graduate students, but are primarily to protect prospective students.
The English Language Institute (ELI) was established at The University of Alabama to help international students master English, and to certify their proficiency in the language. Before being permitted to teach, every non-native English speaker must take and pass the International Teaching Assistant Program (ITAP) test given by the ELI. The program focuses on three main areas of study: pronunciation, teaching methods, and U.S. culture.
The ELI gives three grades: “full pass” (with a score in the range 52-60),”conditional pass”(46-51) and “no pass” (0-45). A student who receives a full pass can be assigned to teach a lecture-type class after having completed 18 hours of graduate mathematics. A conditional pass allows a student to lead problem sessions and tutor undergraduate students. With a “no pass”, a student may only be assigned grading. The assistantship is contingent upon the completion of the ITAP course and the appropriate grade on the Proficiency Examination. International students are required to obtain a “full pass” by the end of their second year of their teaching assistantship. Those who initially fail or receive a conditional pass in the ELI examination are required by this department to take courses at ELI and retake the examination at the next opportunity. Failure to do so may result in the loss of the teaching assistantship. In addition to required courses, ELI also offers a number of non-required short courses that help international students improve their spoken English, writing skills, and cultural knowledge.
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