TOPSS Testing

To maintain high standards for all of its students and faculty, Lehigh complies with the Pennsylvania fluency law with which other top universities comply. PA Act 76 requires that universities test instructional faculty (for whom English is a second language) in the use of the English language and requires universities to certify that those individuals are fluent.

Register for TOPSS now!

TOPSS is a test of teaching and presentation skills. It's coordinated between your department and ESL staff. TOPSS is designed to assess the speaking and presentation skills proficiency of International Teaching Assistants (ITAs) at Lehigh University. This assessment measures the spoken fluency of non-native English speaking instructional personnel in order to remain in compliance with the English fluency act of 1990, PA Act 76. The scores of this assessment can only be used for ITA placements at Lehigh University and are not transferrable to other institutions. The scores are only valid for two years.

Prior to the assessment, you will be given a presentation topic from your department faculty. You must prepare this topic to make a 15-20 minute “teaching” presentation. At the end of the 15-20 minutes, there will be a 10-minute question and answer period for the participants to ask questions. A PowerPoint presentation is required to help you stay on track and to provide your audience with a visual representation of the vocabulary and complex content. You will be given at least 48 hours to prepare the presentation. The presentation will be reviewed by ESL professionals and faculty members from your department.

After you finish your TOPSS presentation, you will be excused from the room, and the ESL professionals and your department faculty will determine your score and any English course recommendations and/or requirements as needed. Your results will be emailed to you within two weeks after your take your TOPSS.

To retain your TA status, you must successfully complete the English coursework and any other requirements during the semester immediately following the TOPSS to remain in compliance with Act 76.

Speaking/Listening Assessment

Speaking and listening is assessed in the following four areas: functional, sociolinguistic, linguistic, and listening ability. The four scores are averaged together to determine your overall speaking and listening score, and qualitative comments are included to provide instructive feedback to help you improve.

Presentation and Teaching Skills Assessment

Presentation and teaching skills are assessed in four areas. The four scores are averaged to determine your overall presentation skills score, and qualitative comments are included to provide instructive feedback to help you improve.

What happens if I do not pass?

If you do not pass the TOPSS, you will be required to complete English coursework to improve your speaking and presentation skills. You will be required to retake the TOPSS again at the end of this coursework. If you have any questions, please contact the ESL Office at or (610) 758-6099.