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PHD Program

Oral and Written English Competency

A candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy is required to demonstrate high-level competence in the use of the English language, including reading, writing, and speaking, as part of the language and communication requirements for the Ph.D. It is Penn State's policy that students who are non-native speakers of English be certified as competent to teach in English by the Department of Speech and Communication. The oral competency of both native and non-native (once certified) speakers of English is assessed by the GTA (Graduate Teaching Assistant) Oversight Committee before the end of the second year of study based mainly on faculty evaluations of the student's classroom performance while teaching undergraduate mathematics courses. In the cases when students have not had the opportunity to teach before the end of their second year, oral competence may be assessed based on a faculty report on student's presentations made in seminars. Students whose oral competency is judged to be substandard will be assigned a faculty mentor who will work with them to improve their oral presentation skills. In particular, the student may be required to give a presentation in one of the departmental seminars. The faculty mentor will certify in writing to the Director of Graduate Studies when the student has attained the required standard of oral competency. Non-native speakers of English may be required to take and to pass with a B or better SPCOM 114G (Basic ESL).

To satisfy the written competency, a student should prepare a short expository paper (approximately 4 pages) on topics related to proposed dissertation research. The adviser and one other mathematics graduate faculty member evaluate the paper and report the result to the Director of Graduate Studies (in the case of disagreement the Director will have the paper evaluated by a third member of the graduate mathematics faculty). Students whose written competency is judged to be substandard will be required to take and to pass with a B or better one of the following courses: ENGL 202 (Effective writing), ENGL 418 (Advanced Technical Writing and Editing), ENGL 198G (Writing in the Disciplines) for native speakers of English, and SPCOM 116G (ESL: Reading and Writing) for non-native speakers of English.

Competence must be formally attested by the Graduate Studies Committee before the doctoral comprehensive examination is scheduled. (International students should note that passage of the minimal TOEFL requirement or successful completion of AEOCPT does not demonstrate the level of competence expected of a Ph.D. from Penn State.)