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Graduate and Teaching Assistantship Requirements

Students within their first five years of study are usually appointed as a graduate teaching assistant (for details on requirements for teaching at Northwestern, visit our Policy section). Students in their sixth year are appointed by their department to a graduate/teaching assistantship if they have received external funding within their first five years of study and/or there is a specific teaching need approved by their school and The Graduate School (TGS).

In addition to reviewing the Regulations Governing Recipients of University Assistance, international PhD and MFA students whose primary language is not English are required to fulfill The Graduate School’s English proficiency requirement before being appointed as graduate or teaching assistants. English Language Programs offers services to support students as they work to fulfill this requirement.

Students who satisfy any one of the criteria below fulfill TGS’s English proficiency requirement. Score thresholds have been selected to correlate across exam formats.

TGS's English proficiency requirement criteria
Assessment Name Passing Score
TOEFL iBT* 26 or higher on Speaking Section
IELTS* 8 or higher on Speaking Section
Versant English Test** 65 or higher
SPEAK Test 63 or 64 on two separate Versant tests
Teaching Demonstration Assessment Earned score of Provisional Pass or Pass

*Only valid TOEFL iBT and IELTS scores count towards fulfillment of requirement. TOEFL iBT and IELTS scores are considered valid for two years after the test date. Other standardized test scores, such as TOEFL pBT, PTE, etc. are not accepted. 

** Only Versant/SPEAK test scores from Versant and SPEAK tests administered at Northwestern University count toward fulfillment of TGS’s English proficiency requirement.

Students and programs will be contacted about upcoming proficiency test opportunities throughout the academic year.