The ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview, or OPI, is a live, 15–30 minute telephone conversation between a certified ACTFL tester and the candidate. It is a valid and reliable test that measures how well a person speaks a language. The procedure is standardized in order to assess global speaking ability, measuring language production holistically by determining patterns of strengths and weaknesses. Through a series of personalized questions a sample of speech is elicited and rated against the proficiency levels described in ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012 – Speaking, Interagency Language Roundtable Language Skill Level Descriptors – Speaking, or the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), depending on the type of language proficiency certification that is needed.

The primary goal of the OPI is the efficient elicitation of a ratable sample. To be ratable, a speech sample must clearly demonstrate the highest sustained level of performance of the speaker (known as the «floor») and the level at which the speaker can no longer sustain the performance (known as the «ceiling»), over a variety of topics. The OPI resembles a conversation, but in fact, the tester follows a strictly controlled structure and protocol.

The ACTFL OPI is appropriate for a variety of purposes: language fluency certification, employment selection, program entrance and exit exams, placement, college credit, program evaluation and performance, and Linguist or Teacher Credentialing. The ACTFL OPI has been favorably reviewed for college credit. ACTFL provides these college credit recommendations to institutions of higher education for their consideration in awarding college credit for demonstrated oral proficiency in world languages. For more information on college credit recommendations, click here.

1. What is the format of the OPI?

The four mandatory phases of the OPI are the:

  • Warm-up
  • Level checks
  • Probes
  • Wind-down

2. How is the OPI rated?

An OPI can be requested on the ACTFL scale, Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale, or Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). An ACTFL OPI reports a rating between Novice and Superior on the ACTFL scale. An ILR OPI will rate between ILR 0 (No Proficiency) and ILR 5 (Functionally Native). A CEFR OPI reports a rating between A1 and C2.

The OPI assesses language proficiency in terms of the ability of the candidate to use the language effectively and appropriately in real-life situations. It does not address when, where, why, or the way in which a speaker has acquired his/her language. The OPI is not an achievement test assessing a speaker’s acquisition of specific aspects of course and curriculum content, nor is it tied to any specific method of instruction. The OPI does not compare one individual’s performance to others, but each individual performance to the assessment criteria.

Commercial OPIs are single rated; an ACTFL Certified OPI Tester rates the sample by identifying the ACTFL speaking proficiency level criteria met by the candidate’s performance. LTI quality assurance procedures require that over 50% of all commercial OPIs are double rated.

In an Official/Certified OPI, the recorded interview is blindly rated by two ACTFL-Certified OPI Testers whose independent ratings must agree before an official rating is released.

3. Who conducts and rates the OPI?

ACTFL Certified OPI Testers are highly specialized language professionals who have completed a rigorous training process that concludes with a tester’s demonstrated ability to consistently elicit ratable speech samples and consistently rate samples with a high degree of reliability.

ACTFL-Certified OPI Testers, through LTI and ACTFL, uphold the highest professional and ethical standards in test administration and rating.

4. How reliable is the OPI?

The reliability of ACTFL assessments is well documented by 3rd-party studies, and the rigor of ACTFL’s selection, training, and certification process for testers and raters, along with ongoing monitoring, norming and re-certification, are second to none.

5. How do I request an OPI?

For organizations wanting to schedule an OPI for candidates, you must set up a free account with Language Testing International. We will collect some basic administrative information and then provide access to a secure web-based scheduling utility. Using this utility, the organization can request assessments, track those requests, confirm appointments, and see results. Because the OPI is an interview with a live-tester, organizations must submit to LTI a request for desired days and times of day for the interview to be conducted over the phone. LTI will send back a test appointment confirmation stating the confirmed date and time, as well as phone number to call for the phone interview. Results of assessments are also posted and stored on the client utility website, allowing organizations to track their testing activity easily in a single location.

Individuals wanting to test and certify their speaking ability in a target language through a live interview with a tester can order and take an OPI by ordering a Speaking Certificate. (Click here to view and then select OPI.) At the scheduled OPI appointment time, the candidate must sign into the remote proctoring platform via a computer with an internet connection and a webcam. The remote proctor will then instruct the test-taker to call the OPI Tester by phone while observing the phone call over the computer. (The OPIc is an easier alternative for most individuals. For more information regarding the OPIc, click here.)

6. How is the OPI proctored?

Organizations can arrange to proctor OPIs on location. The tests must be proctored by an authorized, responsible individual, ideally a member of the HR department or faculty of the organization requesting the assessment. This individual, nominated by the organizing agency, will sign a form and provide it to LTI in advance of the assessment, undertaking to guarantee the identity of the candidate and the conditions under which the test is taken.

Individuals can arrange to take the language proficiency interview via LTI’s remote proctoring program by signing up for one of the Language Proficiency Certification options offered to individuals by LTI. To view individual language proficiency options, click here.



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