If you are in the World Languages Education program, pursuing licensure in the teaching of a foreign language (Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese or Spanish), you must take an oral proficiency test – an interview – before you begin student teaching. You must earn a rating of "intermediate-high" or better on the test.
NOTE: This requirement does NOT apply for students in Elementary Education or Early Childhood education who have a concentration in a modern language.
The Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) is:
- A standardized procedure for the global assessment of functional speaking ability
- An interview by telephone between you and a certified tester from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)
- A test that assesses your ability to communicate orally as measured by the criteria for 10 proficiency levels
The OPI is a carefully structured conversation between a trained and certified interviewer and you – the person whose speaking proficiency is being assessed. The interview is interactive; there is no script or prescribed set of questions, and the tester will adapt the interview based on your skills. The topic to be discussed is decided by your interests.
By asking questions, the interviewer tests your ability to handle communication at various levels of proficiency; a clear "floor" and "ceiling" of your ability is determined. Also, you might be asked to take part in a role-play to show linguistic capabilities not easily elicited through the conversational format.
Since the OPI is an assessment of speaking ability, independent of any curriculum, it does not matter when, where, why and how you acquired your speaking ability in the language.
The interview - lasting 10-30 minutes – is digitally recorded and assigned an initial rating by the tester. The interview is then rated again in a “blind” review by a second certified tester. Under the supervision of the ACTFL testing office, a final rating is assigned and an ACTFL OPI certificate is issued to those who earn a rating of intermediate-high or better.
The ACTFL Certified Testers
The testers and raters are highly specialized language professionals who have completed rigorous training in conducting the test and rating the results. ACTFL strictly monitors all testing and rating.
How to Register for the Test
If you are a language teaching student, you will need to take the OPI administered by the ACTFL. Allow four weeks for the registration process.
Once you are ready to sign up for the exam, take these five steps:
- Go directly to theACTFL LTI registration and login page.
- Create your individual account. Click the "Sign up" button under "New User."
- Once you have created your account, begin registration. Log in under "Returning User."
- The registration process requires three possible dates/times. Please consult first with your proctor, professor Mark Johnston (firstname.lastname@example.org), to determine possible dates/times.
- Complete all the information requested for registration.
Taking the Test
Once your application has been processed you will be sent an e-mail with your confirmed test date, time and other instructions. This e-mail will provide you with a unique ID and password to access your test information and status on the OPI website. Please keep this important email and website information. You will be able to verify the date and time of your OPI and, after the test, check the status of your test result. You will also be able to print your ACTFL OPI proficiency certificate. The proctor will also be notified of the OPI date, time and telephone number by email.
Finalize appointment arrangements with your proctor. All appointments are considered confirmed, unless notice is sent by the candidate or proctor. If an appointment needs to be rescheduled:
- Contact the OPI test coordinator immediately (800-486-8444 extension 14). There is no charge for rescheduling at least one business day before the scheduled appointment.
- For appointments that are canceled or rescheduled within 24 hours of the test, there is a $55.00 rescheduling/cancellation fee.
- For missed appointments, there is a $55.00 fee. A $55.00 fee for canceled applications will be deducted from your refund if you cancel the test.
Once your test is rated (usually within two to four weeks), you can view the test results on the OPI website. Each test becomes a permanent record in the ACTFL test archive. For an additional fee of $50.00 a test rating can be expedited as "express" and a final rating guaranteed within 10 business days.
Prepare for the test by reading the proficiency descriptions (below). Be sure that you fully understand the functions, level of accuracy and discourse length required at each level.
When taking the OPI, listen carefully to the questions asked by the interviewer before answering. When answering, give as detailed a response as possible. Saying little to avoid making mistakes will not improve your rating. If you do not know a specific term in the target language, describe it and try not to resort to English or making up words. If you do use English or a slang term, do not be surprised if the interviewer asks you to describe what that word means in the target language.
Language Proficiency Standards and Intermediate-High Level
Intermediate-high speakers are able to converse with ease and confidence in most routine social situations. They are successful in exchanging basic information about work, school, recreation, or particular interests and areas of competence, though hesitation and errors may be evident.
While intermediate-high speakers can handle the tasks of the advanced level, they are unable to sustain performance at that level over a variety of topics. With some consistency, speakers at the intermediate-high level can narrate and describe in major time frames (tenses) during a coherent discourse of paragraph length. However, the performance of these advanced level tasks doesn’t have to be perfect; you are allowed some mistakes (e.g., errors in the narration or description, semantically or syntactically, a disintegration of connected discourse, a reduction in breadth and appropriateness of vocabulary, or some hesitation in conversing). Overall, intermediate-high speakers can be understood by native speakers unaccustomed to dealing with non-natives, even though the dominant language is still evident and gaps in communication occur.
See a complete description of all levels of the OPI rating scale.