ELPE (English Language Proficiency Exam)

1. I got my I-20, but there is something mentioned about the English Language Proficiency requirement. What is ELPE?
Even though you submitted your TOEFL scores well in advance, there is a good chance that you may have the I-20 mentioning about the English Language Proficiency requirement. The ELPE (English Language Proficiency Exam) is given at the Texas A&M University, and is required by most of the departments if their international students are applying for assistantships, especially Graduate Assistant - Teaching (GAT) position. Certain departments such as Architecture have it mandatory for all students to take the ELPE, while some require it only if you are applying for an assistantship.

2. I want to know if a good TOEFL score helps in the granting of a GAT, or is it only the ELPE that matters?
A good TOEFL score does help you to get an assistantship, but this alone won't help. Since TOEFL scores are valid for a couple of years, the University wanted to have a standardized test specific to its requirements, where all the scores are current and taken at the same time. This is why it is necessary that you take the ELPE. Most positions for assistantships (RA/GAT) require that you only clear the ELPE. They won’t look at your exact scores. It’s just enough for you to pass in all the sections of the exam (at least 80% on each section).

3. When and where do I take the ELPE?
The ELPE is given at the Texas A&M University. New students take it upon their arrival approximately one and a half weeks before classes start. This makes sure that the students have some time to appear for the test before the registration for the classes start.
Note: Only one ELPE Registration date is open at a time, which is the most recent date.
Information about dates can be found on http://dars.tamu.edu/Calendar.

4. How do I prepare for the ELPE?
There are reference materials in the Sterling C. Evans Library at Texas A&M University. Except for the oral interview and composition segments of the ELPE, students may prepare ahead of time by studying for the Michigan Test Battery (book may be available in India), since this standardized test makes up a large part of the ELPE.

5. Is the ELPE difficult?
Relax. ELPE is very similar to the TOEFL exam and you should be able to do fine in it if you did well in TOEFL. Go through Barron’s TOEFL material once and you will be good to go. It is also a good idea to refresh the word list from GRE (just go through it once, you need not memorize it all over again).

6. What are the various sections in the ELPE?
The various sections in ELPE are as under:

  • Oral Skills Assessment 
  • Assessment of Writing Skills 
  • Reading Comprehension 
  • Listening Comprehension 
For more information on ELPE: http://dars.tamu.edu/Testing/ELPE
A passing score for graduate students is 70% on each of the six proficiency areas. However, for GAT/RA you need to score 80% in each area.
In case I don’t pass ELPE the first time, what should I do?
As per the easiness of the ELPE, we don’t see any reason why you would not pass the exam. In any case, if you don’t clear the ELPE the first time, you can always take it again. Note that the ELPE may only be taken once every three months.
If your department states that it is mandatory to take the ELPE and if you don’t pass, then you must take ELI courses (in at least one of the areas not yet passed) no later than your second semester enrolled at the University. Taking the ELI is equivalent to taking a course; it will both cost you money and will add to your workload. Hence, don’t take the ELPE very lightly. It is better to pass it in the first attempt.

7. You’re saying that ELPE is easy, yet I heard from many seniors that they could not pass it the first time. Why so?
If someone who is good at English did not make it through the first time, then there is a very good chance that he/she did not do well in the ''Oral Skills Assessment''. Texans have a very slow accent and they seem to emphasize each word when they speak. As a matter of fact, Texans think that they are the only ones who speak English; everyone else speaks God-knows-what!
We people, who come from India, speak fast and the Texans can't comprehend it. This is actually true. We speak really fast and most of the times they fail us because they don't seem to understand us. When you attend the preparatory class for ELPE (once you come here), one of the first things they will tell you is to slow down!

8. What is the Oral Assessment all about?
In the Oral Exam the following sections would be present:

  • Read out a passage from a book - this tests your skill to speak clearly so that if you take a GAT position up, students will be able to understand you well. 
  • Make a short presentation - A handout will be given to you covering some material from a basic course from your background. (For instance, this student from Electrical Engineering was given material from the general area of microprocessors.) You will be given the chance to make notes and present the material for about 10 minutes - look at this as an opportunity to convince the panel that you can convert literature to presentable material. Speak as much as you can in your allotted time - as long as you make sense, it should be fine. Remember, the content of your presentation is not being tested. 
  • Interview - This section is somewhat similar to the independent speaking tasks of the speaking section of TOEFL. (Example question: If you can go to a country new to you, what is the one item that you would definitely take with you?) Again, no wrong answers to the questions asked in this section. They're testing your ability to think and present ideas on the spur of the moment, and without a lot of preparation. Be fluent and clear in what you say. 
These sections may vary and need not necessarily be the same. However, this should give you an idea about what to expect.

9. Is there any place I can get more information about the ELPE?
The official University website for details on ELPE is: http://dars.tamu.edu/Testing/ELPE