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

The Spanish proficiency exams are offered four times during the school year—twice in the fall and twice in the spring. Sign up at least two weeks in advance. The dates for the OPI/OPIc, grammar and composition exams will be announced in the weekly Spanish department newsletter, Enlace.

In order to be approved to student teach you must pass all three 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. Download the appeal form here.

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.

The oral proficiency exam

  • 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, with ratings available within two weeks. ($139)

    • 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)

  • 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.

  • 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 5 and 6 of the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. Also check out pages 4 and 6 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.

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

  • Want a few tips?

    Click here to view a PDF with tips from a blog post written by former Calvin Spanish major Andrea Campo ('12). She passed the OPIc and decided to share some advice with students who are 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, with sample questions and answers, as well as practice with specific grammar topics.

    This website also has both audio input and grammar practice. Check it out.

    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 various 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 4-5 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.

  • What happens if I don't pass?

    You may take the exams as many times as you need to. However, LTI will not allow you to sign up for a retake until after a 90 day period between exams. You may fill out an appeal form with LTI during the application process, if needed. They will let you know if your appeal has been accepted, allowing you then to retake the OPI/OPIc before the 90 days have passed. Every time you apply to take the exam, you must pay the corresponding fee to LTI.

The grammar and composition exams

Education students must also pass a grammar and a composition exam. These exams are usually offered on the same week as the OPI/OPIc, but the written exams are on a Saturday and the OPI/OPIc is offered on a week day. The same sign up deadlines apply. The cost for these exams is $20 for one or $25 for both. (The first time you take it, however, it is free.) You may re-take these exams as many times as necessary. These exams are 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. There are certain portions of the 301 and 302 final exams that can count for the proficiency exam if they meet the criteria. These portions have to be rerated by two professors to determine the level achieved. The semester following your completion of Spanish 302 you will receive a notification from the Spanish Department with your scores for grammar and composition (providing that you have filled out the BLUE sheet from your Spanish advisor).

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

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.