MA Teaching English as Second Language (TESL)

Information for Graduate Students in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL)

Our M.A. TESL program prepares you to teach adult ESL/EFL. Many of our graduates go on to teach community college or adult school ESL classes; many others have found good positions teaching abroad. Also, this program provides a good foundation for those who plan to pursue a doctorate in either Linguistics or Applied Linguistics. The program consists of 10 core classes and comprehensive examinations. We do accept students without a background in linguistics or language studies, but they will need to take up to three prerequisite courses for a total of 13 classes. We accept applicants to begin in both the fall and spring semesters.

What will you learn in our program?

You will learn about theories of second language acquisition and linguistic theories that will make you a better instructor. You will explore how to support English as a Second Language learners, what techniques to use in the classroom and what activities will make their learning experience better. You will learn how to lesson plan, write teaching objectives, and design classes for any level of English learners. You will discuss with your colleagues how to prepare second language learners to confront the challenges they face every day, both linguistically and culturally.

For more details on our course offering and exams, see the link below.

The following courses make up the MA TESL Program:


  • ENG 311 Phonology (3)
  • ENG 312 Morphology (3)
  • ENG 315 English Syntax: Generative-Transformational (3)

Core Classes

  • ENG 513. History of English (3)
  • ENG 514. American English (3)
  • ENG 581. Semantics, Pragmatics, and Discourse (3)
  • ENG 582. Linguistic Analysis (3)
  • ENG 583. Psycholinguistics (3) or
  • ENG 584. Sociolinguistics (3)
  • ENG 585. Second Language Acquisition (3)
  • ENG 586. Teaching Language and Literature in the ESL Context (3)
  • ENG 587. Current Issues in TESL/Applied Linguistics (3)
  • ENG 588. Pedagogical Grammar for TESOL (Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages) (3)
  • ENG 592. Topics in Linguistics: Linguistics Theory (3)

The department does not impose a fixed order in which you must take the classes. Students may take core classes before they have finished all of the prerequisites.

Students may take the prerequisite classes on a CR/NC basis. Core classes must be graded A-F. Three courses (9 units) qualifies a graduate student as full-time for purposes of financial aid.

Advisement Information

Please make sure to consult with the TESL Director, Dr. Mantenuto, early and frequently to make sure you’re on track with your classes. She can be reached on this email:

MA TESL students must pass their all portions of the Comprehensive Exams to earn their degree. The Comprehensive Exams run toward the end of each semester. They consist of four sections:

  • Second Language Acquisition (corresponds to ENG 585)
  • ESL Teaching Methods (corresponds to ENG 586)
  • Structure of Language (student chooses from ENG 513, ENG 514, or ENG 588)
  • Additional seminar of student’s choice

Each section takes one hour for a total of four hours for the exam (excluding breaks). For each section, students will receive two questions and select one of them to answer in a blue book. A committee of faculty members will grade each of the four sections independently on a pass/no pass basis.

Students who pass all four sections will earn the degree straightaway. Student who do not pass one or more sections may re-take those sections the following semester (students do not need to re-take any sections that they passed). Passing on the second time will earn the students the degree. Students who do not pass all four sections after two attempts are disqualified from earning the MA degree.

Students should notify the TESL Advisor of their intention to take the Comprehensive Examinations the semester before they intend to graduate! Students will work closely with the TESL advisor to select the exam topics and prepare for the exams themselves.

Admission Requirements for M.A. TESL Program

All applicants to the M.A. in English must follow the application and admission procedures outlined in the university graduate application booklet. To be admitted to the program, the applicant must have earned a baccalaureate degree from an accredited university or college and a grade point average of 3.0 or better in the last 60 semester units of upper division course work attempted (not including extension units). Applicants with majors other than linguistics may be accepted into the program, but should expect to do additional work to gain the background necessary for success in their graduate courses.

If you are slightly below a 3.0 GPA you may still apply, but you must send a personal statement and recommendation letters to the English Department at Please note in your email that you are submitting supplementary materials for admissions to the graduate program.

To apply, please submit your application through Cal State Apply

For more information, contact the TESL Coordinator, Dr. Iara Mantenuto: