Speech intelligibility in classrooms affects the learning efficiency of students directly, especially for the students who are using a second language. The speech intelligibility value is determined by many factors such as speech level, signal to noise ratio, and reverberation time in the rooms. This paper investigates the contributions of these factors with subjective tests, especially speech level, which is required for designing the optimal gain for sound amplification systems in classrooms. The test material was generated by mixing the convolution output of the English Coordinate Response Measure corpus and the room impulse responses with the background noise. The subjects are all Chinese students who use English as a second language. It is found that the speech intelligibility increases first and then decreases with the increase of speech level, and the optimal English speech level is about 71 dBA in classrooms for Chinese listeners when the signal to noise ratio and the reverberation time keep constant. Finally, a regression equation is proposed to predict the speech intelligibility based on speech level, signal to noise ratio, and reverberation time. (c) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.