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Proficiency Exams

Academics / Departments & Programs / Spanish / Academics / Proficiency Exams

All education students with a major or minor in Spanish (or bilingual education) are required to pass two proficiency exams—the oral proficiency exam and the grammar exam.

Spanish proficiency exams are offered twice during the school year—once in the fall and once in the spring. Sign up at least two weeks in advance. The  dates for the Oral Proficiency Interviews (OPI/OPIc) and grammar exams will be announced several weeks in advance.

In order to be approved for student teaching, you must pass both exams one year prior to starting your student teacher internship. If this requirement is not met, you must make a formal appeal to the department to be allowed to student teach.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have not completed all portions of the proficiency requirements by the time you graduate, you will not be certified to teach Spanish. You will, however, be allowed to retake any exam portion you have not passed within five years after graduation in order to add the Spanish endorsement to your teaching certificate at that time.

  • What is the OPI, and how much does it cost?

    OPI stands for Oral Proficiency Interview. The examination consists of a 20-30 minute interview, during which you may be asked to answer questions, talk about your interests, and take part in a role-play. There are two different versions of the OPI:

    • Certified Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI)

      The certified OPI is a live telephone interview administered by an ACTFL Certified Tester. All tests are rated by a minimum of two ACTFL Raters. Ratings are made available within two weeks ($139, unless changed by LTI).

    • Certified ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview by Computer (OPIC).

      The Certified OPIc is an on-demand test of speaking proficiency delivered by computer or telephone and rated by a minimum of two ACTFL Certified Raters. Ratings are available within one week. ($70, unless changed by LTI).

    • The Spanish department does NOT allow REMOTE PROCTORING as an option to take the OPIc.
  • When should I take the OPI?

    We recommend that you take the OPI or OPIc at the end of your study-abroad experience when you are most confident with your Spanish-speaking skills.

  • How do I apply and pay for the OPI/OPIC?

    Click on this link to apply and pay for the OPI/OPIc. For additional help, please consult our detailed instructional guide.

  • What score do I need to pass the OPI?

    You must pass the OPI/OPIc with a score of Advanced Low. In order to be rated Advanced Low, you need to sustain Advanced or higher speech throughout the conversation.

  • What do I need to do to attain Advanced Low?

    Look over these CAN-DO statements from ACTFL as a self-assessment of your current skills and to see what you need to be able to do at each level. For oral practice, check out Interpersonal Communication and Presentational Speaking; for composition, Presentational Writing.

    View pages five and six of the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. Also, check out pages four and six of the OPI Familiarization Manual.

    See ACTFL advice to move from Intermediate High to Advanced Low.

  • What is the interview like? How can I prepare?

    View a list of FAQs from the ACTFL about the OPI and the OPIc.

  • Want a few tips?

    Click here to view a PDF with tips from former Calvin Spanish major Andrea Campo. She passed the OPIc and decided to share some advice with students preparing for the exam. Give it a look!

    Additionally, click here to view a PDF with useful vocabulary to learn and use when you take the OPI.

  • Looking for more practice?

    Check out this website that has many Spanish proficiency exercises. By clicking “site index” near the bottom of the page, you can view various exercises from beginning to superior levels; sample questions and answers; and practice with specific grammar topics.

    Use this website for both audio input and grammar practice.

    Click here to view sample answers for an Advanced English proficiency rating. In addition to videos of the interviews, you can read the rationale for each rating.

    For listening practice, check out the Radio Ambulante podcast, which has clips on topics ranging from politics to culture. This type of listening can help you build vocabulary, understand various viewpoints, and prepare to discuss such topics to develop your oral skills.

    To explore various activities designed for practicing grammar, click here.

    Find fifteen scaffolded situations to prepare you to talk about a topic at the intermediate, advanced, and even superior level here.

    This series of videos will allow you to view speaking samples at various ACTFL levels. There are four to five examples of different kinds of speech at each major level in Spanish. There are also examples in many other languages.

    This blog answers many basic questions about the OPI and gives advice and strategies about how to tackle the test.

    A collaborative bank of authentic audio resources, recorded by native speakers, for pedagogical or personal use. This uses the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in which a level B2 roughly corresponds to an ACTFL Advanced Low.

    Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels is intended to help language teachers gain a foundational understanding of how to evaluate Spanish speakers. The practice modules include samples of Spanish speaking at different ACTFL levels.

The grammar exam

Education students must also pass a grammar exam. This exam is offered on the same week as the OPI/OPIc on a weekday. The same sign-up deadlines apply. The cost for this exam is $20. (The first time you take it, however, it is free.) You may re-take this exam as many times as necessary. This exam is graded within the Calvin Spanish department.

It is important to know that doing excellent work in Spanish 301 and 302 will be to your advantage. The results of your grammar 301/302 exams can count for the proficiency exam if they meet the criteria. The semester following your completion of Spanish 302 you will receive a notification from the Spanish department with your scores for grammar (providing that you have filled out the BLUE sheet from your Spanish advisor).

In order to pass you need to attain the following score:

  • Grammar: 80 percent
Study aids

Download the grammar exam study guide to see descriptions of each section you will encounter on the exam and some sample questions and answers.

Download review exercises for the grammar exam for extra practice.

Download the answer key to the review exercises for the grammar exam.

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