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English Competency Policy for Ph.D. Students

    1. English Competency Procedures for Ph.D. Students:
      All Ph.D. students (domestic and international) in the Horticulture Graduate Program will be evaluated on their English writing competency approximately one week before the oral candidacy.

      Students will be required to write a critique of a journal article assigned by the major professor during an assigned time. This critique will be evaluated by the major professor for clarity and ease of understanding and for correct English usage, appropriate grammar, spelling, and punctuation. The major professor will review the critique with the student and provide a copy of the critique and its evaluation to the members of the student's Candidacy Committee prior to the oral candidacy examination.

      To assess reading and speaking competency, students, as part of the oral candidacy, will present a verbal report on the paper critiqued earlier. The students will be permitted to bring a printed and annotated copy of the paper to the examination, but should not bring a written draft of the presentation. Students are not permitted to use previously prepared visual aids. Student performance will be evaluated on clarity of understanding and ability to clearly organize and present a summary and critique of the paper.

      At the time of the oral candidacy examination, the Candidacy Committee will determine whether the student has satisfied the English Competency requirements in both written and verbal skills.

      Students who do not pass the written competency will be required to take a composition course (such as ESL 116G) and pass with a grade of B or better. Then the candidacy committee will evaluate a written critique of a scientific paper or a pre-proposal as a final assessment of writing competency. Students who fail this test will be dismissed from the program.

      Native speakers not demonstrating acceptable verbal competence will be required to present verbal critiques of assigned papers to their major professor at least monthly, until the major professor and advisory committee are satisfied with the student's level of competence in the use of the English language.

      Non-native speakers of English not demonstrating acceptable verbal competence will be required to take and pass ESL 114G with a grade of B or better. The final evaluation of speaking competence for both native and non-native speakers will be made by the instructor during a seminar presentation in HORT 590. Students who fail to obtain a passing grade in HORT 590 will be dismissed from the program.


All international students are required to take the AEOCPT test upon admission into the program.  The AEOCPT is offered at the beginning of each semester. Students with scores below 250 must take ESL courses to achieve sufficient English proficiency for teaching. Details can be found at www.aplng.la.psu.edu/programs/about-the-aeocpt.