What is an Oral Proficiency Interview?

If you are taking a course through the Five College Center for World Languages, you may have what is called an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) conducted by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) official testing service at the end of the course.  We use two different types of oral evaluation, so some students will not have an OPI.  If you are not sure what type of oral evaluation you will have, you can ask your course organizer.

  • Oral Proficiency Interviews (OPIs) are done by telephone and typically take about 20-30 minutes.
  • This type of oral interview focuses on what the student can do with the language. There will not be any grammar questions or any reading or writing. It will be conversation, possibly a role play or two.
  • An OPI is not based on a particular textbook or syllabus, so there is no way to predict exactly what questions or topics will come up.
  • The interviewer will typically ask open-ended questions to see how you respond and then follow up based on your responses. 

Difficult Questions

You should be aware that the interviewer will ask some questions you cannot answer.  This is perfectly normal and does not mean that the OPI is not going well.  The interviewer needs to find both the “floor” (what you can do with the language) and the “ceiling” (what you can’t do yet).  So there will be some difficult questions when the interviewer is looking for the “ceiling,” but you don’t need to worry that you are doing poorly just because you can’t answer every question.

You can find more information about Oral Proficiency Interviews on the testing agency’s website

ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines

When a student does an Oral Proficiency Interview, a rating is assigned based on the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Speaking.  For information about the proficiency levels, see What are the ACTFL Guidelines? or read about them on ACTFL’s website

The testing agency will issue an official certificate with your rating, and the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages staff will send you this certificate by e-mail after the end of the semester.

If you will be taking an OPI, check out our tips on how to prepare

You may also want to read Say as Much as You Can and other articles in Strategies for Conversations for tips on taking your language proficiency as far as it can go.

What is an Oral Proficiency Interview? - Video