TOEFL Listening: Vocabulary for University Life Part 3


T.A. = Teaching Assistant (noun)

A T.A. is someone who assists the professor with large classes.

Usually the T.A. is a graduate student. He or she has already earned their Bachelor’s Degree and now they are enrolled as a student in a Master’s level or PhD program.


A T.A. may take an active role in helping out in the classroom.

In this case, the T.A. may be responsible for either one or a combination of the following:

  1. The grading of student papers, exams

  2. Leading smaller discussion sections

A T.A. might assist the professor with research project.

In this case, the T.A. will most likely not be in the classroom, but instead be assigned specific research duties determined by the professor.


Student 1: Hey, are you in that big lecture for Biology class? There are so many people!

Student 2: Yes, I’m in that class. I hope I get a section with a good T.A. that can explain complicated topics. Sometimes the professor talks too fast!


Depending on the university, the T.A. may receive a full or partial discount on the university’s tuition. The T.A. might also receive payment for their work. This payment is called a stipend.


Stipend= payment or wages earned (noun)

The stipend is the money given in exchange for work. Students who are T.A.s typically earn a stipend. This is different from a salary. A salary describes one’s wages for a year. Since T.A.s usually work for a short amount of time at the university depending on the length of a semester or quarter and their job is not always guaranteed, they earn a stipend.


Student 1: How do you like your T.A. position so far?

Student 2: I’m really enjoying it. I get to help students and I’m earning a stipend that helps me pay the bills.


R.A.= Resident Assistant or Resident Advisor (noun)

The R.A. is someone who oversees a particular building where students live on campus. This building is called a dormitory.


Usually the R.A. is in their third or fourth year on campus working on their Bachelor’s Degree.

The R.A. is responsible for being available to assist students in the dormitory. R.A.s ensure that the building is safe and students are following the rules established by the university. In exchange for their work, R.A.s typically do not have to pay for the cost of living in the dorm. Depending on the university, R.A.s may get a partial discount on tuition as well.


Student 1: Is that a candle?

Student 2: Yes, it smells so good. I couldn’t resist buying it.

Student 1: Don’t light the candle in here. We aren’t allowed to burn them in our dorm room. If the R.A. sees you, you could get in trouble.

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