The Graduate Student Instructor Oral English Test (GSI OET) is a procedure for testing the spoken English of prospective graduate student instructors at the University of Michigan whose undergraduate education was at an institution in which the language of instruction is not English. The evaluation procedure is a performance test that consists of four tasks that assess a test taker’s competence and effectiveness in the type of communication typically used by GSIs at the University of Michigan.

The test evaluates proficiency at the high intermediate to advanced level. The tasks and evaluation criteria of the GSI OET also serve as diagnostic tools to identify the linguistic strengths and weaknesses of a test taker. A rating of B or higher is required to be approved for an appointment as a GSI.

Test Format

  • semi‐structured
  • face‐to‐face
  • 1 candidate, 2–3 evaluators (senior, junior, and optional faculty)
  • 14–15 minutes
  • recorded for quality assurance purposes
  • contains 4 scored tasks (Warm‐Up, Lesson Presentation, Office‐Hour Role Play, Video Questions)

Task 1: Warm-up

Task 1: Warm‐up (3 minutes) has two aims: to acquaint the candidate with the test format and to engage the candidate in a brief conversation with the evaluators about his/her background and educational interests. Candidates are encouraged to participate actively in the conversation and contribute to the development of topics by offering extended responses (rather than “yes” or “no”) and asking questions of the evaluators.

Task 2: Lesson Presentation

In Task 2: Lesson Presentation (5 minutes), the candidate teaches a lesson to the evaluators. Candidates decide in advance on a topic or concept that they want to explain to the evaluators. Candidates choose topics that would typically be included in an introductory level class or lab session in the department that the candidate would be working. A chalkboard or white board is available for use during the presentation. Handouts may be used; Power Point or computers may not.

During the lesson presentation, the evaluators ask a couple questions. These questions are similar to those that might be asked by undergraduates. During this task, candidates focus on promoting audience understanding of the topic being taught.

Task 3: Office-hour Role Play

In Task 3: Officehour Role Play (2–3 minutes), the candidate engages in a problem‐solving situation with one of the evaluators, who assumes the role of a student visiting the GSI during his/her office hours. The “student” seeks advice or guidance about problems related to administrative matters or personal academic problems.

Task 4: Video Questions

In Task 4: Video Questions (3–4 minutes), the candidate responds directly to five stand‐alone, decontextualized videotaped questions from undergraduate students, which represent typical student concerns. The recording is paused after each question and candidates respond to the inquiry. There is no single, correct reply to any of the questions. Candidates are expected to provide a reply that makes sense as a response.

Sample Video of GSI OET

A full-length sample video with commentary that illustrates all four tasks at the B level:

A transcript of the video commentary is available.

Rating Guidelines

Evaluators rate test takers in real time. During the test, each evaluator writes comments based on the evaluation criteria. At the end of the test, the candidate leaves the room and each evaluator independently rates the prospective GSI using the holistic rating scale. Evaluators then discuss the linguistic strengths and weaknesses of the candidate to reach a final rating.

GSI OET Scores Eligible to Teach?
A (high pass) Yes
B (pass) Yes
C (fail) No
D (fail) No

A candidate’s performance on the entire test is evaluated and all tasks are taken into consideration. This means that tasks are not rated separately, and candidates do not pass or fail the test based on performance on only one task. Additionally:

  • candidates are not rated relative to each other
  • a candidate’s ability to teach is not rated
  • a single, final rating is given
  • test reports are sent to departments within 48 hours of test administration

Scheduling a GSI OET

Tests are scheduled by the departments where prospective GSIs will work.

  • The department arranges test dates and times with Michigan Language Assessment and notifies students of the testing schedule
  • If a candidate has a documented disability and needs special accommodations, refer to the information in special accommodations

For further information about the GSI OET, contact

Become a GSI OET Evaluator

Interested in becoming an evaluator for the GSI OET? Michigan Language Assessment is currently seeking speaking evaluators in the Ann Arbor, Michigan, area.