Testing / Assessment
Simulated Oral Proficiency
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Speaking Test Administration
Center for Applied Linguistics
4646 40th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20016
Tel. (202) 362-0700
Fax (202) 362-3740
To order CAL testing products, visit the CAL Store.