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COPI - the next generation of the SOPI
Now available in Arabic and Spanish, the Computerized Oral Proficiency Instrument (COPI) is a computer-based, semi-adaptive test of Arabic and Spanish oral proficiency. Learn more.

MRTP logo
The Multimedia Rater Training Program (MRTP)
teaches users how to rate examinee performances on the SOPI or Spanish or Arabic COPI via CD-ROM. Learn more.

Related CAL Digest

Oral Proficiency Assessment: The Use of Technology in Test Development and Rater Training.


Testing / Assessment

Simulated Oral Proficiency Interviews

The Simulated Oral Proficiency Interview (SOPI) is a type of tape-mediated test of speaking proficiency. All SOPI items are based on the speaking proficiency guidelines of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). The test is presented to examinees via a test booklet and a master tape. It can be administered individually by anyone using two tape recorders. It can also be used in a language laboratory setting to test groups.

During testing, the examinee listens to directions for speaking tasks from a master tape while following along in a test booklet. As the examinee responds to each task, his or her speaking dperformance is recorded on a separate response tape. Each examinee's response tape is later evaluated by a trained rater who scores the performance according to the proficiency guidelines developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Each examinee receives a proficiency rating on the ACTFL proficiency scale.

Professional test developers at the Center for Applied Linguistics, working with leaders in the field of foreign language education, have carefully designed the SOPIs to elicit a representative performance sample of an examinee's speech in a short period of time. The test is intended for students at proficiency levels from Novice-High to Superior.

The test begins with a warm-up that helps examinees relax and become accustomed to speaking in response to the master tape. The performance-based tasks that make up the remainder of the test are:

Picture-Based Tasks

To respond to these tasks, examinees use illustrations printed in the test booklet. Picture-based speaking tasks include giving directions, describing activities in a familiar setting, and telling a story.

Topic-Based Tasks

These tasks require examinees to explain or discuss a variety of topics. Topic-based speaking tasks include describing a procedure, presenting advantages and disadvantages, explaining and defending a point of view, or describing what would happen if a hypothetical situation were to come true.

Situation-Based Tasks

In these tasks, the examinee is placed in real-life situations and is asked to respond to them in a socially and linguistically appropriate manner. Situation-based tasks include giving advice to a friend, apologizing for having offended someone, and making a formal presentation to a group.

The SOPI is not intended to replace the oral proficiency interview. It does, however, offer a standardized approach to oral proficiency testing in situations where it is not feasible to give an oral interview due to the unavailability of trained testing personnel or lack of time and budget for such testing.

The SOPI may be administered in a language laboratory setting and is thus ideally suited to large group testing. Alternatively, the test can be administered individually using two tape recorders. The administrator does not need to know the test language. There are several parallel forms of the SOPI in some languages. The test takes about 50 minutes to administer. Lower level proficiency students may stop after the first half of the test. In this case, the test administration time is about 25 minutes.

SOPI Rater Training Kits

Over the years, CAL has conducted live SOPI rater training workshops in Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish. Through these workshops, hundreds of language teachers have received training in administering and rating the SOPI. In order to provide an alternative to live training and to make rater training more accessible, CAL has developed a Self-instructional Rater Training Kit. These Kits are available for Chinese, Japanese, and Russian.

MRTP logo The Multimedia Rater Training Program (MRTP) teaches professionals to rate oral proficiency according to the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines conveniently and effectively through a hands-on introduction via CD-ROM. The MRTP is currently available in Arabic, French, German, and Spanish versions. Learn more.


Laurel Winston
Speaking Test Administration
Center for Applied Linguistics
4646 40th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20016
Tel. (202) 362-0700
Fax (202) 362-3740

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