Taking the TOP

The exam has 3 parts and is designed to be a simulation of common TA duties, specifically, explaining course materials and presenting an academic topic in an interactive manner. Upon arrival to the exam location, the TOP Coordinators will lead test takers through the task details ("TOP Task Explanation"). Once you have entered the testing room, you may not leave for any reason.

Test Duration

The exam takes about 40 minutes from the time you step into the registration room to the time you leave the exam room. There are a few pre-exam activities that need to be completed before beginning the exam. The registration process takes about 10 minutes, and you are given 5-10 minutes to review the Task 2 syllabus prior to the test. The actual exam is approximately 20 minutes long.


Examinees are provided with a prompt for Task 2 and a whiteboard with markers for use during the exam. Keep in mind that the exam is testing oral English; therefore, the whiteboard should only be used as a supplement to spoken English, not as the primary means of instruction. Examinees are not allowed to bring in any other materials such as posters, flashcards, magnets, overhead transparencies, computers, maps, charts, pictures, or multimedia of any kind. This strict policy is to ensure a high degree of consistency between test performance across departments and to reduce distractions. No notes are allowed for parts 1 and 3 of the exam.

People in the Room

In addition to the test taker, there are typically 4 people in each exam room. 

  • 2 questioners act as students in a class, listening to the test taker and asking questions during the exam. It is very important to answer the students fully and completely - question handling is part of your score. 
  • 2 raters will be present during the exam and will score the test on-site. They may speak to the test taker and prompt him/her to begin specific tasks, but they do not generally ask any questions. Test takers should direct their attention to the questioners.