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Text & Talk

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language, Discourse & Communication Studies

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Volume 35, Issue 2 (Mar 2015)


Test taker-initiated repairs in an English oral proficiency exam for international teaching assistants

Stephanie Hyeri Kim
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Linguistics/TESL, California State University, Northridge, CA, USA
  • Email:
/ Innhwa Park
  • Department of Languages and Cultures, West Chester University, West Chester, PA, USA
  • Email:
Published Online: 2015-02-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/text-2014-0036


This paper is a conversation-analytic examination of video-recorded interactions between questioners and test takers during an English oral proficiency exam for international teaching assistants (ITAs). We focus on the test takers’ repair strategies identified in our data, and describe how distinct repair strategies influence the repair solution in the next turn. The test takers’ open-class repair initiator (e.g., “sorry?”) is likely to be treated as a hearing problem, and thus is responded to with the questioners’ repetition of the question. In contrast, the test takers’ targeted repair initiator (e.g., “what do you mean by x?”) is likely to be treated as an understanding problem, and thus is responded to with the questioners’ reformulation of the question. This reformulation generally helps the test takers successfully respond to the question despite the initial understanding problem. The findings have implications for teaching oral communication skills to ITAs, repair strategies in particular. They also contribute to improving performance-based oral proficiency exam by introducing different sequential trajectories that emerge from problems in hearing or understanding.

Keywords: repair; repetition; reformulation; international teaching assistant; oral proficiency exam; conversation analysis


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About the article

Stephanie Hyeri Kim

Stephanie Hyeri Kim received her PhD in Applied Linguistics from UCLA, and is currently Assistant Professor of Linguistics/TESL at California State University, Northridge. Her research interests include situated uses of language in everyday life and institutional settings, and their applications to language teaching and learning. She has recently published in the Journal of Pragmatics, Research on Language and Social Interaction, and Discourse Processes.

Innhwa Park

Innhwa Park received her PhD in Applied Linguistics from UCLA, and is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Languages and Cultures at West Chester University. Her teaching and research interests include writing pedagogy, educational discourse, and conversation analysis. She has recently published her research in Discourse Studies, Language and Education, and Journal of Pragmatics.

Author Contributions: Both authors contributed equally to this work.

Published Online: 2015-02-27

Published in Print: 2015-03-01

Citation Information: Text & Talk, ISSN (Online) 1860-7349, ISSN (Print) 1860-7330, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/text-2014-0036. Export Citation

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