Academic Conversation Skills Intensive Course: August 14-18, 2023, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm ET (Synchronous Online)

​​Why, What, and How?

Why a 5-Day Intensive Academic Conversation Skills Course?

The 5-day August intensive version of the ACS course is designed for incoming multilingual international students who are adjusting to living/studying in an English-speaking environment. By providing a mix of explicit instruction, chances to use the speaking/listening strategies being learned, and time for interaction with other incoming students from a range of departments, this course aims to prepare graduate students to be active in conversations in graduate school, both online and in person, from their first days at the University of Toronto. The course is offered in August in order to help students get ready to participate fully in orientation activities.

What is the goal of the Academic Conversation Skills (ACS) Course?

ACS is a course for non-native speakers of English who wish to improve their listening and speaking skills in order to communicate more effectively in an academic environment. If you anticipate you might have difficulty participating in class/lab discussions in English, or joining academic conversations to your classmates and professors online or in person, this course is designed to meet your needs. Over 15 hours (3 hours a day for 5 days), you will learn and practice a range of strategies designed to help you gain confidence as you develop your ability to engage in academic discussions. In the course, we consider a range of topics, such as how conversational practices might differ across cultures (factors such as levels of formality, types of interactions with professors, use of eye contact, etc.). Through a series of class exercises that require active student participation, ACS focuses on topics such as how to enter and exit conversations politely, how to present your ideas orally, and how to disagree respectfully. The goal of the course is to increase students’ confidence and effectiveness in participating in academic conversations.

How does the 5-Day Intensive Academic Conversation Skills Course work?

This course begins each day at 9:00 am with a 30-45 minute lecture and question and answer (Q and A) to introduce some of the topics that will be discussed during the day: topics such as cultural differences in conversational preferences, strategies for active listening, and common causes of miscommunication in academic conversations. Lectures will include conversational activities that students will complete in short break-out groups. Following the lecture, students will be assigned to small groups, which they will return to daily for a range of activities during the course. Throughout each day’s three-hour class, students will alternate between groups that are large and small, as well as between groups that are discipline specific (bringing together students who are all starting graduate degrees in Engineering, for example), and groups designed to bring students together from  a wide range of graduate departments. All groups are led by experienced teachers of academic conversation skills. In the various groups, students will have lots of chances to meet other new students, and to listen and speak as they learn and practice a range specific strategies for improving their English conversation skills. By alternating between large and small, and general and specialized groups, students will gain experience participating in various formats and in introducing themselves and their research to students both in and out of their own fields.


The course runs from 9:00 am − 12:00 pm ET on Monday August 14 − Friday August 18 inclusive, and only students who are able to attend all 15 hours of the course are eligible to register. Space in the course is limited, so please do not register until you have ensured that you will be able to participate for the full course. Students who register and do not attend the full course will be ineligible to take other courses with the Graduate Centre for Academic Communication (GCAC) during the fall term.

All parts of the course are online, and incoming graduate students in all time zones are welcome to participate. Following the course, there will be a few opportunities during the fall term to reconvene online, and possibly in person, with a teacher and other students from the course to discuss and address conversational challenges/surprises students have encountered in their early weeks at U of T. The course is free and open only to U of T’s graduate students. 

If you require an accommodation or for questions regarding registration, please contact

For questions regarding course content, please contact Dr. Jane Freeman:

Eligibility & Registration Procedures

In order to sign up for the 5-day intensive ACS course, you must meet the following conditions: 

  • You speak English as a second (or third or fourth) language.
  • You are starting a graduate degree (a Master’s degree or a PhD) at the University of Toronto in September 2023.
  • You are able to attend all 15 hours of the course (9:00 am − 12:00 pm ET on Monday August 14 − Friday August 18 inclusive).

PLEASE NOTE: This is a fully synchronous course that will not be recorded. Attendance at all 15 hours of the online course is mandatory for registration. The course is offered in its regular (non-intensive) format of 2 hours a week for six weeks in multiple sections starting in September. If you are not able to attend the full five-day intensive version, you will need to wait and register for a section of the course starting in September or late October. To register, click the button below: