English Speaking Test for RPGs

Dear Research Postgraduate (RPG) Students,

Welcome to the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology!!

HKUST is an English-medium university, and proficiency in English, especially in speaking and writing, is essential for engaging in your academic studies and for performing your teaching duties effectively.

The Center for Language Education is mandated to provide language support for all undergraduate and postgraduate students at HKUST. With RPGs, we do so by measuring students’ language proficiency levels on entry and providing relevant and timely English courses to enhance your language and academic literacy skills in English.

Please contact us at lcelpa@ust.hk if you have any questions.

Center for Language Education


What is the ELPA speaking test?

In the speaking test, candidates meet in groups with other RPG students to discuss topics relevant to being an RPG student. The test has the following stages:

Stage 1 – Introduction
Greetings and introduction of self to others
Stage 2 – Monologue
Students take turns telling the others more about being an research student
Stage 3 – Q & A
Students pose 1 or 2 questions for the respondent to answer


All speaking tests are recorded so that there is a record if there is any question or concern after the test. Click here to see the ELPA descriptors of speaking proficiency.


Who is required to take it?

All new full-time RPg students (MPhil and PhD) are required to take the test to ensure they have the oral and aural skills for effective postgraduate studies and classroom teaching.

Why is this test important?

In order to ensure RPg students have the oral and aural skills for effective postgraduate studies and classroom teaching, before the start of their first term of study at HKUST, all new full-time RPg students are required to take a spoken English test, the English Language Proficiency Assessment (ELPA) and attain an overall score higher than or equal to the threshold score (Level 4).

Those who are unable to meet the threshold or fail to take the test will not be allowed to take up teaching duties until they have taken LANG5000 to improve their spoken English and passed the course by reaching the threshold of Level 4 in the ELPA Speaking Test.

When will it be held, and how do I book a time slot?

The main round of Spoken English Test for RPGs will be held on 19 January 2023. Online registration will open on 9 January 2023 afternoon.

RPg students who complete program registration after 18 January 2023, 3 p.m. will be contacted by the ELPA team via email with an invitation to book for a later test. Please check your HKUST email account regularly for updates.

You will be able to select a speaking test time from those that are available through the online registration system. The test will be held face-to-face at the Clearwater Bay campus.

Please note that you must have an activated ITSC account and be authorized by ARRO to book a test time slot. If you are unsure how to activate your ITSC account, please follow the instructions on the RPG Checklist. ARRO will provide a list of authorized students that will be uploaded to the online registration system. This may mean that there will be some delay in processing your access to the system.

How can I check my test booking was successful or check my test details?

Please check that your booking was successful and confirmed. You can either check your ITSC email account (http://o365.ust.hk/) for the confirmation email that would be sent to you, which will include your test details, or log back into the online registration website to check your booking status, which will show your current test time and venue.

Can I change the time for my test?

If you become aware of an activity that clashes with the time you booked for your tests, you can go back into the online registration system to change your booking. Please note that your choice of test time may become restricted as test times get fully booked.

Can I apply for a make-up test if I am unwell on the day of the test?

If you are unable to attend your test due to circumstances beyond your control, including medical emergencies, you must contact the ELPA team (lcelpa@ust.hk) within one week from your test date.

If you are absent due to medical reasons, you must obtain a “Certificate of Sickness” issued by a registered medical practitioner that states the diagnosed condition/illness and recommends a period of sick leave that covers the test date.

Are there any exemptions?

Proficient native speakers of English will be considered for exemptions. Please email lcelpa@ust.hk to apply for exemption.

Students who have obtained at least IELTS 7.0 or TOEFL 23 (iBT) in the speaking test will be considered for exemption. However, IELTS or TOEFL test results must be submitted during admission application. Note that if IELTS or TOEFL test results are not those that were submitted during admission application, you will be asked to come to the CLE for verification.

Students may choose to register for LANG 5000 without taking the ELPA Speaking test.

How can I prepare?

You should use spoken English as much as possible in the days before the test. You will do much better if you can be relaxed and feel comfortable speaking in English.

If you have any specific questions about the test, please email lcelpa@ust.hk.

Will I need to have anything with me?

Yes, you will be required to show your HKUST student ID card (or any other photographic ID).

Please note that the use of electronic devices, such as mobile phones and smart watches, are strictly prohibited.

What happens if the HK Observatory raises a bad weather warning?

Please check the official university guidelines. In the event of tests being cancelled due to bad weather, you should wait for further announcements regarding any rearrangements.

How will I get my results?

You will get your results through the online feedback system. Please note that accounts are not created on the system until you have results to show. This means you will not be able to access the system until your results are available.

Are there any fees?

No fee will be charged, as this is a mandatory test for new incoming RPG students.

If I am a student with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and have received examination accommodations in previous public examination(s), am I eligible for any similar accommodations for ELPA?

Students are required to declare their SEN to the Dean of Students’ Office who will work with the students on available support services, including academic accommodation(s) throughout their study at HKUST. Students with SEN are strongly advised to specify their needs when they register for ELPA online and schedule an appointment with the Dean of Students’ Office by emailing sen@ust.hk. The data collected will be handled with strict confidentiality and in compliance with the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance of Hong Kong.

What if I have more questions?

Regarding the administration of the Spoken English Test for RPGs, please contact the Center for Language Education by e-mailing lcelpa@ust.hk.

For English course issues, please email lcstdadvice@ust.hk.

For other issues related to PG studies, please visit the website of the Office of Postgraduate Studies at http://pg.ust.hk.