English Proficiency Examination

Under university regulations, all doctoral students must pass the English Proficiency Examination before they are permitted to schedule their Comprehensive Examination.

Language Expectations

The department expects that all Ph.D. students should be able to speak comprehensively in both daily academic/job-related settings, and in more formal conference settings. The expectations for comprehensible speech are:

  • accurate pronunciation with only occasional instances of non-native accent or intonation patterns, especially for engineering-specific terminology
  • appropriate grammatical constructions with only minor non-native influences
  • near native-like flow of speech with only occasional non-native pauses, stress, or intonation. For presentational settings, speaking expectations also include: strong clarity of purpose in messages; appropriate adaptation to an audience; effective organization; and effective and appropriate visual aids and delivery style.

Expectations for written material include a demonstration of clear competence at both rhetorical and syntactic levels. Ph.D. students in the department are expected to be able to:

  • effectively complete a writing task
  • organize and outline written material
  • use appropriate details to support a thesis
  • be consistent in the use of language
  • demonstrate syntactic variety and appropriate word choice
  • effectively observe grammar, punctuation, and spelling conventions of English

The English Proficiency Examination consists of Presentation Skills Proficiency and Writing Skills Proficiency examinations.

Presentation Skills Proficiency Examination

The qualifying examination in all the four areas in the department require students to make an oral presentation on a research topic. The students who pass this part of the qualifying examination are not required to take the Presentation Skills Proficiency Examination.

Writing Skills Proficiency Examination

Writing skills proficiency is also assessed as part of the department’s Qualifying Exam for the PLSS, MANU, and HF areas, but not for the OR area. All OR doctoral students must take a separate written examination which each candidate will be asked to write an essay for evaluation. Blue books will be provided. Dictionaries will not be allowed. Students will be given two or three prompts and they will be asked to choose one of the prompts to write a 90-minute essay. The test will be graded by personnel from the Department of Communications Arts and Sciences at Penn State. The evaluation will be based on effectiveness, organization, language usage, comprehension, and observance of written English (grammar, punctuation, and spelling). Possible outcomes and remediation are:

  • Unacceptable: Student will be required to take a writing course and achieve a minimum grade of “B.”
  • Acceptable: No remediation is required
  • Superior: No remediation is required

The Written Skills Proficiency Exam will be scheduled for OR area students by the department each February/March.

Contact Information:

  • Graduate Programs Office
    344 Leonhard Building
    University Park, PA 16802



Home of the first established industrial engineering program in the world, the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering (IME) at Penn State has made a name for itself in the engineering industry through its storied tradition of unparalleled excellence and innovation in research, education, and outreach.

We are Innovators. We are Makers. We are Excellence in Engineering. We are Penn State IME.

The Harold and Inge Marcus Department of
Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

310 Leonhard Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4400

Phone: 814-865-7601

FAX: 814-863-4745