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Academic English Certificate - UMass Amherst Students


The Academic English Certificate for Speakers of English as an Additional Language is a college-credit, stand-alone Certificate.

This Certificate is designed to assist students in developing advanced level proficiencies in academic and profession registers. In addition to receiving recognition (and university course credit), the Certificate also serves as further evidence of your academic and professional English skills for future employers or educational institutions.

Our Certificate is comprised of 15 credits (5 courses – see requirements & descriptions below). Multiple courses are offered each semester so the Certificate can easily be completed in one year. However, students can take longer than a year or simply take individual courses without committing to the entire Certificate.

All of our courses are taught by faculty in the ESL Program, housed within the Department of Literatures, Languages, and Cultures, and are academically advanced, outcomes-based language courses where you will engage in meaningful tasks with authentic, upper intermediate/lower advanced materials (CEFR proficiency scale).



To register for the Certificate Program, complete the following steps:

STEP 1: 

  • If you are planning on enrolling in courses, please email Andrea Dallas at and let her know that you are working towards the Certificate. This information allows us to keep you updated on our course offerings, workshops, etc., and to track your progress at fulfilling the Certificate. 
  • If you have already started taking classes, great! Those courses count towards the Certificate, but please email Andrea Dallas ( and let her know that you are working towards the Certificate. 
  • If you are not ready to enroll in the Certificate Program and have general questions about the Certificate or our courses, please email Andrea Dallas with your questions. 

STEP 2: Register for Courses


To enroll in any of our ESL or LLC courses search or the course(s) in SPIRE. They are listed under two departments, English as a Second Language (ESL) or Languages, Literatures, and Cultures (LLC). Sign up for the university section (face-to-face classes) of the course as you would for any other UMass course. Summer courses are only offered as UWW sections, so you would need to enroll in the UWW section (if summer courses are offered) and pay the UWW fees as you would for any other summer course.


The Certificate is comprised of 15-credits (5 courses). There are no prerequisites for the courses (see information about sequencing below), but there are categories of courses that you must choose from to fulfill the requirements of the Certificate. Total Number of Credits: 15

Choose TWO Reading & Writing Courses (6 credits)


Course Number





Vocabulary & Comprehension of Academic English




Investigating Media & Academic English 




America through Academic Readings


Choose TWO Speaking & Listening Courses (6 Credits)


Course Number





Techniques of Oral Communication 




Techniques of Academic Presentations 




Oral Comprehension of Academic and Professional Genres


Choose ONE Elective: select an additional course from any course above or below (3 credits)


Course Number





Intercultural Communication


A content course with a focus on language approved by our certificate coordinator

Any transfer course (3 credit max) approved by certificate coordinator


Course Descriptions

ESL125 Techniques of Oral Communication 

In this course, students will gain confidence in speaking English in the university setting by practicing speaking in a variety of academic contexts, including informal interactions with other students and staff/faculty, effective communication with professors during office hours, participation in class discussions, and delivery of class presentations. Students will also focus on improving pronunciation by using pronunciation software to model, then practice and record their production of English sounds, rhythm, stress, and intonation patterns.

ESL126 Vocabulary & Comprehension of Academic English

In this course, students will work on increasing their knowledge and production of highly frequent academic vocabulary found across academic disciplines. They will also improve their reading fluency and comprehension of university-level texts through practicing close reading techniques and performing fluency exercises aimed at improving more automatic word recognition. The students will also read and use vocabulary for a purpose through a series of three course projects.

ESL225 Techniques of Academic Presentations

In this course, students will develop skills as diverse as choosing an appropriate topic, creating effective visuals, and designing a speech opening. The overall goal of this course is to develop an awareness and use of common speech types and organizational strategies and to prepare university-level students to deliver presentations in an academic setting. Students will also work on pronunciation, so that speech delivery becomes more comprehensible in the university classroom and in professional settings.

ESL230 Oral Comprehension of Academic and Professional Genres

The course emphasizes the mastery of listening skills and note-taking with a focus on current topics and controversial issues presented in academic and professional lectures, as well as other oral genres. Students will listen to academic/professional lectures and other authentic listening materials and demonstrate comprehension and critical thinking through taking detailed notes, reflective writing, and participating in discussions. Students will learn various listening strategies to improve both comprehension and processing; these strategies include but are limited to: planning, focusing attention, monitoring, predicting and inferring content, dealing with distractions, understanding accents, understanding cultural references, and using background knowledge and context clues.

ESL235 Investigating Media & Academic English

In this course, students will explore current issues and discussions in popular media and learn to identify, evaluate and thoughtfully engage with the key ideas. They will also learn to communicate their opinions clearly and persuasively by creating, revising, and reshaping their ideas, thereby allowing them to develop insightful arguments that are both research-driven and well-expressed. This course encourages them to be informed and independent thinkers by emphasizing deep reading and critical engagement.

ESL240 America through Academic Readings

In this course, students will explore various key topics in American life through academic readings to hone both their reading comprehension skills and to develop a deeper understanding of culture and context. Using close reading strategies to uncover what stated and implied in texts, students will engage with the current academic conversations being held on the values and norms of American life. Using an intercultural approach, they will be invited to thoughtfully consider their individual reactions to and interactions with such themes, and express these ideas in both discussion and writing.

LLC125 Intercultural Communication: Language & Identity (Gen. Ed. SB, DG)

We live in an increasingly globalized world, where living and working with people from various cultures is nearly an everyday occurrence. These interactions, combined with ever-growing opportunities for students to explore and study in foreign settings, make it important to master effective ways to engage and learn from these experiences. This course will engage students interested in developing intercultural competence with an eye towards fostering diverse and vibrant communities that coexist peacefully.

Certificate Course Sequencing

Since multiple courses are offered each semester, there is not a specific sequence for completion. Our certificate is very flexible in that students can start it in any sequence they desire, regardless of the course numbers.


Our 100 level and 200 level courses do NOT reflect level of difficulty, but rather more specific topics. For example, ESL125 is a class that focuses on a broad level of oral communication, whereas ESL225 focuses in on Academic Presentations specifically.


Certificate Award/Completion

To receive the Certificate in Academic English for Speakers of English as an Additional Language, students must have earned 15 or more credits from the list of courses below and must pass these courses with a grade of C or higher.

Once you have completed all five courses, write to the Certificate Coordinator (Pamela Shea, to receive the completion form. Follow the direction on the completion form. In addition to the Certificate (and the university college credit) appearing on your transcript, a paper certificate will also be issued to those who complete the program.

Transferring Credits

Our Certificate courses are all credit-bearing courses. If you are interested in transferring credits from UMass Amherst to another institution, contact the institution to where you wish to transfer credits to make sure the courses are aligned with the program of study you are pursuing there. The decision to accept the credits lies with the receiving institution and/or program.

Transfer Credits to our Certificate

With permission from the Certificate Coordinator, our Certificate accepts up to 3 transfer credits for courses with comparable content & scope. If you would like to pursue this option, please visit email program coordinator first and, after acceptance, follow instructions HERE.