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English Competence - Professional Doctorate



To establish the content, form, timeline, and reporting requirements for assessment of English competence.


Academic Goal

To ensure that all candidates for the professional doctorate degree demonstrate high-level competence in the use of the English language, including reading, writing, listening, and speaking.



All students enrolled in programs of study leading to a professional doctoral degree.

No graduate student will be fully able to meet the Graduate Council Scholarly and Professional Goals for All Graduate Degree Students and ultimately be successful in their chosen field of study without being able to communicate effectively with their adviser, their committee, and other scholars in their field.

Professional Doctoral Degree Program
an integrated program of study combined with understanding of research literature to support application of knowledge to practice at the highest level, culminating in a project, portfolio, or performance that demonstrates expertise in professional practice. Students successfully completing a professional doctoral degree program are awarded the appropriate doctoral degree; professional doctoral degrees at Penn State include D.Ed., D.M.A., D.N.P., and Dr.P.H.
Research Doctoral Degree Program
an integrated program of study combined with investigation of a significant problem, question, or issue in the discipline, culminating in the completion of an original scholarly contribution (in the form of a dissertation) that expands the frontiers of knowledge. Students successfully completing a research doctoral degree program are awarded Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree.

Policy Statement

  1. Every graduate program shall have a formal mechanism for assessing and improving English language competence of both domestic and international students. This mechanism, to include guidelines and evaluation criteria, must be presented in the graduate program’s handbook, which must be provided to the student upon matriculation. If English language competence is assessed contemporaneously with another assessment, it should not be conflated with the assessment of disciplinary knowledge, analytical thinking, or other skills.
  2. Assessment shall include:
    1. Original writing of a length and complexity suitable for assessing high-level English language competence.
    2. An oral component that assesses the student’s listening, comprehension, and speaking skills.
  3. The AEOCPT, TOEFL and/or IELTS tests do not adequately assess the level of English competence expected of a doctoral degree candidate and for conferral of a doctoral degree from Penn State. Consequently, these tests do not in themselves constitute sufficient forms of assessment of English competence.
  4. Programs and advisers shall identify any areas of English competence requiring improvement before or at the Qualifying Examination and direct students into appropriate activities and support services to improve their English skills.
  5. Programs must document the outcome of the assessment of English competence, including any areas requiring improvement and remedial steps, at the time of reporting the outcome of the Qualifying Examination.
  6. English competence shall be formally attested to by the graduate program before the doctoral student’s Comprehensive Examination is scheduled.

Further Information

English Competence – Professional Doctoral Degrees - FAQs

Revision History

  • Approved by Graduate Council, Nov. 11, 2020. Effective date: Fall 2021 (08/16/2021).
    • New policy.
This page was generated on June 16, 2024 at 6:51 PM local time. This may not be the most recent version of this page. Check the Penn State Graduate School website for updates.