OPI Oral Proficiency Interview: Complete Guide

The Oral Proficiency Interview OPI is an English test that assesses your speaking skills, and the test is usually done via a telephone interview.  The OPI Test is unscripted, meaning you can freely talk and express thoughts spontaneously. 

It is also widely used in educational institutions, government agencies, and other private organizations. This article is a complete guide for the OPI Test to help you understand its structures, scoring, and so on. Read on to find out more about this oral proficiency assessment tool. 

What is the OPI Test?

The OPI Test stands for Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI). It is an English proficiency test that measures the individual’s capacity and ability to speak a foreign language. And also, the OPI test is an interview type of test that also includes short role-playing. 

And also, the OPI is a proficiency-based test meaning it assesses the individual’s ability to use a language effectively, precisely, and accurately in day-to-day situations. It is also focused on the spontaneity and unrehearsed usage of the language. 

The test is a one-on-one interview type between the candidate and the official OPI tester. It is an interactive interview wherein the candidate is encouraged to engage in a communicative exchange. The conversation is continuous, and it slowly shifts to the speaker’s interests and abilities. 

The Oral Proficiency Interview Test mimics an informal type of conversation. However, the OPI tester guides the discussion to examine one’s abilities, leading to more linguistic functions involving diverse contexts. 

Remember that the OPI Test does not assess your intellectual abilities or specific knowledge about the language through a language program or courses or those you have learned in the academe. Instead, the OPI Test assesses the “what you can do” area with the language. 

The OPI Test is widely accepted in various educational institutions for admissions and placements, especially for language programs and other related courses. And it is also used for general assessments, exit interviews, and graduation requirements for educational institutions and academies. 

It is also highly used in commercial, private organizations, and government offices. In addition, the OPI test ratings can help in hiring and promotion, especially for those multilingual applicants and those positions that require language proficiency. The test can also be used for certification and other language proficiency purposes. 

How Much Does is Cost to Take an OPI?

The OPI Test costs around USD 139 to USD 145.

There are also additional fees that you need to pay directly to the testing centers or institutes that are proctoring for the OPI Test. And it is best to contact your nearest centers to know there about these additional fees. 

Here are the rescheduling and cancellation fees for the OPI Test. 

  • USD 60 — If you have processed the rescheduling in less than 24 hours. 
  • USD 40 — If you have processed the rescheduling in less than 72 hours.
  • USD 25 — If you have processed the cancellation in less than 24 hours.
  • USD 17.50 — If you have processed the cancellation in less than 72 hours.

What Languages is the OPI Oral Proficiency Interviews Offered In?

The Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) test caters to various languages around the world. And it is also offered to over 21 less commonly taught languages.  Here is the list of languages available for the OPI test. 

  • Afrikaans
  • Akan-Twi
  • Albanian
  • Amharic
  • Arabic
  • Armenian
  • Azerbaijani
  • Baluchi
  • Bengali
  • Bosnian
  • Bulgarian
  • Burmese
  • Cambodian
  • Cantonese
  • Cebuano
  • Chavacano
  • Czech
  • Dari
  • Dutch
  • Egyptian
  • English
  • French
  • Georgian
  • German
  • Greek (Modern)
  • Gujarati
  • Haitian Creole
  • Hausa
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Hmong/Mong
  • Hungarian 
  • Igbo
  • Ilocano
  • Indonesian
  • Iraqi
  • Italian 
  • Japanese
  • Javanese
  • Kazakh
  • Kashmiri
  • Korean
  • Kurdish
  • Lao
  • Levantine
  • Malay
  • Malayalam
  • Mandarin
  • Marshallese
  • Nepali
  • Norwegian
  • Pashto
  • Persian Farsi
  • Polish
  • Portuguese Punjabi
  • Romanian
  • Russian
  • Serbian Croatian
  • Sindhi
  • Sinhalese
  • Slovak
  • Somali
  • Spanish
  • Swahili
  • Swedish
  • Tagalog
  • Tajik
  • Tamil
  • Tausug
  • Telugu
  • Thai
  • Tigrinya
  • Turkish
  • Turkmen
  • Uighur
  • Urdu
  • Uzbek
  • Vietnamese
  • Wolof
  • Wu
  • Yoruba
  • Zulu

OPI Test Exam Format and Structure

The OPI test interview structure comprises a 20 to 30 minutes telephone conversation between the candidate and the exam proctor. It is done via a telephone call, and the whole procedure is valid and reliable in assessing your speaking ability. 

And The OPI Test also holistically determine your strength and weaknesses in terms of your speaking skills.

There are four parts to the OPI test:

  • Introduction
  • Warm-up
  • Interview
  • Cool-down

Let’s review and explore each of these test sections in detail.

Introduction

The first part of the OPI test is about the confirmation of your identity. So first, the OPI tester will need to confirm your personal information. It is then followed by a statement from the OPI tester, which introduces the OPI test process. 

Warm-up

In this part, the OPI tester is the one who will initiate the conversation. The OPI tester will then discuss some general topics to give a rapport for the interview process. The warm-up phase will provide the OPI tester with an initial impression of your speaking ability. 

Interview

There are two parts for the interview phase of the OPI test. These two parts are approaches concerning the questions asked by the OPI tester. It includes the following:

1. Level Checks

The first approach is the level checks, and it is where the OPI tester explores the highest proficiency level for the OPI test. It assesses your ability to function well at a certain proficiency level constantly. And as the interview progresses, the higher the difficulty of the linguistic demands. 

2. Probes

The probes part of the interview is where the OPI tester checks the level wherein you falter to perform or can no longer sustain the linguistic demands. The OPI tester will gather the needed evidence to prove and provide an efficient proficiency level for you. 

To further support your proficiency rating, the OPI tester goes back and forth to level checks and probes. In this way, the OPI tester will have a clearer view of your level standing. 

Cool-down

The OPI tester will ask some questions to transform the conversations into a task-type interview for the cool-down. These questions are simple and not too complex, and you can quickly answer these with ease. After these series of questions, the OPI tester will then end the interview. 

The OPI content is based on topics related to your day-to-day activities and routines, your work environment, and your school. It also covers topics about current events in your local area or on a worldwide scale. 

There is no right or wrong in the OPI Test, and you need to answer the questions spontaneously and accurately. You must think that it is a casual conversation, so you need to answer it more genuinely and avoid memorizing review materials. 

Role-Playing Section of OPI Test 

It is also a part of the OPI Test, and the role-playing section may be included in the level check or the probe. This part of the OPI Test plays a significant role in assessing your language ability because it represents social interactions, transactions, or situations that you may encounter in your real life. 

The role-playing section can be presented through a mini-drama between you and the official OPI tester. The OPI tester will choose a situation with a complication, social interaction, or even a more complex scenario in this section. 

During this part, the OPI tester will guide you to accomplish the task needed in the given situation. And once the tasks are finished, the OPI tester will provide follow-up questions to engage in more communication. 

OPI Test Scoring 

The OPI scoring and rating is done officially by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language or the ACTFL. The official ACTFL raters and testers are professional and fully certified to do the rating for the OPI test. 

There are assessment factors to be considered during the OPI test. In connection with that, the OPI raters check the functions, accuracy, content, context of the individual’s answers, and the text type used. 

1. Function

In this factor, the OPI rater checks your ability to successfully fulfill all the required tasks by following the guidelines given. Concerning that, the rater is also keen on how you could narrate, describe, persuade, or share your opinions for the given topic. 

2. Accuracy

Accuracy is also one of the factors in assessing your OPI test. This part is about how accurate and understandable you present your speech. The OPI rater also considers other factors such as your vocabulary, grammar, pragmatic competence, pronunciation, fluency, and sociolinguistic competence. 

The OPI rater also focuses on how comprehensive you deliver the information and how relevant your given examples are in relation to the context. 

3. Content & Context

For the content and context factors, the OPI rater checks how appropriate your choice of words is in presenting the topic. And they also consider your overall response to the issue. For example, is it directly related to the topic? Are your supporting details relevant? 

4. Text Type

And for this factor, the OPI raters will also check how well you produce your speech and organize your thoughts and other details about the topic. They also consider the length of your context presented. 

Also, note that these factors are not separately rated. The OPI raters will assess your performance entirely in using the language. The overall rating is solely based on how well you deliver your performance and present your ability to speak the English language. 

Below are the OPI Level Guidelines and their descriptors in each level. 

OPI LevelsLanguage Proficiency LevelDescription of the OPI Level
Level 4Advanced Professional 
  • At this level, the individual can present formal presentations that are within the range of their expertise. And also, one can participate in debates, conferences, broadcasts, and the likes.  The individual can give counsel, persuade, negotiate, and tailor and control the language used according to the context and audience. 

  • One also can express one’s opinions in comparison to a native speaker. And also, one can produce highly organized discourse, using complex sentence structure and excellent vocabulary. 

  • The individual can fully understand idioms in speeches, stylistic embellishments in sentence structure, including standard and non-standard dialects. 

  • And also, one shows accent but rarely commits mispronunciation and makes low-frequency errors in different situations. To that, the individual shows no patterns of pronunciation and communication errors.
  • Level 3General Professional Proficiency
  • The individual at this level can comprehend and join in conversations about social, economic, scientific, and some global issues.

  • Can produce professional reports and do meetings and can understand particular interests. The individual can also provide descriptions and explanations in full detail.

  • One can detect emotional overtones, hypothesize and give support opinions to specific topics. Is also able to handle unfamiliar and abstract issues. 

  • However, the individual also encounters problems in connection with fast native speakers. Has the issues about constantly thinking and translating the language in mind.
  • Level 2Limited Working Proficiency
  • The individual can comprehend and engage in routine conversations regarding current events, personal interests, work, travel, and other familiar topics. 

  • One can also engage in casual conversations, give instructions and directions, concrete descriptions of places, people, places, and other things. One can also narrate past, future, and present activities. 

  • However, the individual needs some repetition and rewording to understand the context entirely. Miscommunication is unavoidable.
  • Level 1Survival
  • The individual can understand and engage in very simple conversations such as day-to-day basis topics, routine travel, asking, and giving requests. 

  • One can ask and answer simple questions in face-to-face conversations and does ordinary courtesy requirements. However, the individual requires constant repetition, rephrasing, and a slow speech pace. 

  • And also, at this level, the individual constantly commits errors in sentence structures, has a limited set of vocabulary, with poor communication and intonation. As a result, interlanguage is dominant in some cases.
  • Level 0No Proficiency
  • The individual has no functional ability. 
  • How Does the OPI Score Compare to Other Language Proficiency Levels?

    The OPI results can also be interpreted using the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) scale, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale, and the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale depending on the client’s requirements. 

    Note that the comparison of the individual’s language proficiency with the three language assessment guidelines mentioned above determines the rating of the OPI Test. Below is a comprehensive interpretation of the OPI results using the different assessment scales: the ACTFL, CEFR, and ILR scale. 

    ACTFL Proficiency Rating:

    The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines is a language proficiency assessment used to describe an individual’s language skills, such as speaking, writing, listening, and reading. And also, the individual’s capacity in using the English language.

    This assessment scale is supported by language by multiple professionals worldwide. Note that the ACTFL is not used to measure the ways of learning the English language such, as grammar, vocabulary use, and likes. It only focuses on how well the individual uses the language to communicate and one’s oral skills. 

    There are four major levels in the ACTFL: the superior, advanced, intermediate, and novice levels. And the three latter ACTFL levels are subdivided into three sublevels: low, mid, and high. 

    The ACTFL sublevels provide a comprehensive and precise description of the major levels. These sublevels are only allocated in the ACTFL advanced, intermediate, and novice levels. 

    The Low Sublevels

    At this level, the individual has only met the minimal requirements for the proficiency level. For example, one can produce only minimal short sentences and describe past, future, and present happenings. 

    However, the listener needs to exert effort to understand the intent of the speaker entirely. One can also handle social interactions but with difficulties in grammar and pronunciation. 

    The Mid Sublevels

    The individual fitted in these sublevels can produce a quality speech in all everyday situations. One also can control language features during discussions about a wide range of contexts. In this level, the individual is also showing features and capabilities for the advanced level. 

    And also, one can express their ideas consistently while using the language. One can also provide sufficient information about a specific topic presented and shows a good set of vocabulary. 

    The High Sublevels 

    In these sublevels, the individual demonstrates confidence and ease in communicating using the language. One is also capable of functioning highly in the discussion. However, committing errors is unavoidable and evident. 

    The individual can create sentences at a certain level but cannot sustain them throughout the conversation, and there are also clear language breakdowns. 

    Note that there is a fifth level in the ACTFL, the distinguished level; however, if you take the OPI test, they do not count this specific level, and the highest possible level for the OPI based on the ACTFL scale is the superior level. 

    The ACTFL proficiency rating for OPI uses only a single set of questions, such as the yes or no questions. It helps the evaluator determine the individual’s ability in using the language and if they have met the objectives of the ACTFL levels. 

    These ACTFL levels only measure an individual’s proficiency level and do not include the learning processes on how one acquires these skills.

    Below is a chart showing the major levels of the ACTFL Proficiency General Guidelines associated with individuals’ profiles who function at certain levels. We will only show in the chart the major ACTFL levels. 

    ACTFL Major LevelsLanguage Proficiency LevelsLanguage Functions/Objectives
    SuperiorExtensive Professional Proficiency
  • The individuals at this level are well-educated native speakers and highly educated language learners with extended professional learning and educational experience.

  • Individuals at this level can discuss topics extensively, provide excellent supporting information, and can hypothesize. 

  • One has a broad knowledge of vocabulary, excellent grammar and can extensively function in any professional setting while using the English language. 

  • Also, one can deal with linguistically unfamiliar situations. 
  • Advanced Professional Proficiency
  • The individual is very flexible in using the language. And also, one shows confidence and can speak precisely with an excellent set of vocabulary. 

  • One can handle professional situations and have a greater understanding of cultural differences. 

  • One can deal effectively with different unexpected turnarounds during any discussion. 

  • The individual at this level is those languages learners with graduate degrees in language or other related courses. 

  • It also includes those with comprehensive education significant to the English language. 
  • IntermediateLimited Work Proficiency
  • At this level, the individual can engage in meaningful discussions.

  • Can maintain simple day-to-day conversations and has enough vocabulary. 

  • One can ask and answer questions about personal information, very simple directions, and other everyday activities. 
  • Novice Simple Survival Proficiency
  • The individual can communicate using minimal English words. And one can also understand selected phrases.

  • One also needs constant repetition and a slow pace to understand the main idea of the context. And one can only communicate short messages with very simple meaning about everyday topics.

  • They tend to memorize everything and commit errors most of the time whenever using the English language. Very difficult to understand. 
  • The ACTFL OPI is highly reliable and is a valid assessment for speaking proficiency. Many studies and external reviews have been conducted to evaluate the ACTFL scale’s validity and reliability. 

    And to ensure the ACTFL assessment’s high reliability, it is constantly undergoing regular reviews by the ACE Credit Review (Examination Evaluation). 

    CEFR Proficiency Rating for OPI Scores:

    The Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFR) is a standardized assessment tool for language proficiency. It consists of six CEFR levels, and each level has certain language functions. 

    Check out the chart below for a comprehensive detail of the CEFR Levels and their respective descriptors. 

    CEFR LevelsLanguage Proficiency LevelLanguage Functions/Objectives
    C2Mastery Level
  • The individual shows mastery of the language. And can understand the language with ease.

  • One also establishes fluency, precision, and spontaneity when using the language. 

  • And one can construct compelling arguments of various contexts with coherence.

  • The individual is close to or similar to a native speaker. 
  • C1Advanced Level 
  • The individual can understand the language in a wide range of contexts. As a result, there are no problems when it comes to grammar, pronunciation, and intonation. 

  • And one shows spontaneity and fluency. And also, one can use the language effectively in various settings.
  • B2Upper-Intermediate Level
  • One can understand the main ideas of texts with concrete and abstract topics. 

  • The individual can interact with native speakers fluently and shows consistency when it comes to content. 

  • And also, one can present clear and detailed information regarding different topics. 
  • B1Intermediate Level
  • One can pinpoint main ideas in everyday situations or events. 

  • The individual can also produce simple contexts about familiar topics or related to personal interests. 

  • And one is also able to present simple and short discussions about experiences, events, dreams, and ambitions. 
  • A2Elementary Level
  • One comprehends sentences presented with familiar ideas. 

  • Can establish communication using the language in simple and routine tasks. 

  • Can identify and describe using simple terms. 
  • A1Beginner Level
  • The individual can understand simple conversations about daily activities and other very familiar topics. 

  • And one can also introduce oneself and others using the language in the simple form.

  • The individual can ask, interact and answer questions about personal details. 
  • ILR Proficiency Rating for OPI Scores: 

    ILR Scale or known as the Interagency Language Roundtable Scale. It is a standardized assessment scale for language proficiency. The scoring used for this assessment scale is between 0 to 5. 

    The grading score of ILR can also be assigned separately for each English language skill, including reading, listening, speaking, writing, translation, interpretation, and intercultural communication. For the OPI scoring, the ILR scale level 0 to level 5 can be used for the score interpretation. 

    Below is a comprehensive table showing the ILR scale levels and their descriptors. 

    ILR ScaleLanguage Proficiency LevelLanguage Functions/Objectives
    ILR Level 5Native or Bilingual Proficiency
  • The individual has speaking proficiency that is equivalent to that of a professional native speaker. 

  • One shows excellent fluency in the language.

  • And the individual also has an amazing vocabulary, broad knowledge about idioms, colloquialisms, and other pertinent cultural references.
  • ILR Level 4Full Professional Proficiency
  • The individual at this level can use English accurately on all levels concerning professional needs. And also, one is fluent and can participate in any conversations regarding personal and professional experiences. 

  • One has precise vocabulary and a high degree of fluency.

  • And also, one can sometimes be taken as a native speaker and respond accordingly to unfamiliar situations. However, one commits errors in pronunciation and grammar rarely. And one can also handle informal interpreting of the language. 
  • ILR Level 3Professional Working Proficiency
  • The individual can speak the English language with enough accuracy and vocabulary. And one is also able to participate efficiently in conversations about professional, social, and other topics. 

  • One can also produce good discussions about familiar topics with ease. And can comprehend a speech at an average speed and with enough vocabulary knowledge.  

  • One has also established a reasonable control of grammar with minimal errors that do not affect the context. 
  • ILR Level 2Limited Working Proficiency
  • The individual shows confidence in using the English language in most everyday situations and casual conversations. 

  • One can also handle limited work requirements but constantly requires help in handling difficulties along the way. However, the individual can also get the gist of conversations and discussions about non-technical topics. 

  • The individual has an accent that somehow is erroneous but still intelligible. 
  • ILR Level 1Elementary Proficiency
  • The individual can fulfill traveling needs reasonably. And also, one can ask and answer questions about simple and everyday topics. 

  • One can also comprehend basic speech however needs constant repetition to help in understanding the context. The vocabulary is also enough to communicate using the English language. 

  • The individual can also write simple sentences fragments with continuous spelling and grammar errors. Can perform basic communication using the language. 
  • ILR Level 0No Proficiency
  • The individual at this level shows limited and isolated English words used in communication. One can make statements only with memorized utterances. 

  • One has difficulty reading connected prose; however one can read numbers, a few words, and phrases such as personal information, addresses, and other very familiar words. 
  • The OPI certificates will be available after two to three weeks after your scheduled exam. After that, it will be directly sent to your email. 

    OPI Exam Dates and Locations

    The OPI exam schedules are available Monday to Friday between 1 pm to 8 pm. You are also asked to register the telephone number that you are using for the exam. 

    To schedule the OPI exam, you need to set up an account with Language Testing International (LTI). This process applies to organizations that wish to schedule for the test, and the LTI will ask for some administrative information about the candidates. 

    Then the LTI will provide a secure web-based scheduling utility for this one. The organization can also arrange to take the test on-site, administered by a certified OPI tester. 

    And for those individuals wanting to take the test, you can easily register on this website. The OPI Test will be administered through a live interview with a certified OPI tester. 

    If you have already set up your account on the website, a scheduled appointment will be sent to you. You need to have access to a computer with a stable internet connection and a webcam. You will then be given instructions by the OPI tester on what to do. 

    How Do I Prepare for an OPI Oral Proficiency Inteview?

    Since the OPI Test focuses on your speaking skills and assesses your spontaneity and unrehearsed language abilities. That is why you need to focus on improving your speaking skills. In this section, we have come up with some suggestions to help you prepare for the OPI exam. 

    1. Familiarize Yourself With The OPI Test

    We already have discussed in this article the test format and the scoring for the OPI test. It will help you know the ins and outs of the test and what to expect. 

    Knowing the test structure is essential because this will anchor your review. You will know what areas you need to improve based on your present abilities. 

    2. Avoid Memorizing and Rehearsed Speeches

    One thing you should avoid in preparing for the OPI test is doing memorization and rehearsed speech structure. Instead, try to develop your spontaneity by practicing impromptu speeches. 

    Lists a topic that interests you and schedules them by day, wherein you set a time to do the impromptu speaking about it. Speak continuously and accurately, elaborate more about the topic and express your thoughts cohesively. It is also best to read about them ahead, but try not to memorize what you have read; instead, expound them in your own words. 

    3. Practice Calmness and Confidence

    Being confident when you speak says more about you. Practice in front of the mirror and imagine that you are talking to someone. It may sound funny and ridiculous to some, but this one is very effective when developing your speaking skills. 

    And also, incorporate calmness in the way you talk, practice a regulated speed while talking and avoid speaking too fast. If you do jabber, the tendency is that you will sound stressed and incomprehensible to your listener. Finally, note that the OPI test is like casual communication between colleagues. So be yourself and speak with confidence.  

    FAQs on OPI Oral Proficiency Interview

    How Long Is the Oral Proficiency Interview?

    The Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) Test lasts only for 20 to 30 minutes.

    It is a one-on-one interview between a certified OPI tester and the examinee. The interview is an interactive type and focuses on the communicative side. 

    What Does my OPI Score Mean?

    There are four ACTFL assessment levels for the OPI exam.

    The highest score in the ACTFL is Superior, and it corresponds to OPI level 4, which means that you have mastery in using the language.

    And the lowest score for the ACTFL is Novice, and it corresponds to OPI Level 0, which means there is less to no functional ability to use the language. 

    What are the 5 Basic Levels of Language Proficiency according to the ACTFL Scale?

    The five basic levels of the ACTFL scale are Distinguished, Superior, Advanced, Intermediate, and Novice.

    Note that the OPI does not include the distinguished level of the ACTFL scale and considers the Superior as the highest level and Novice as the lowest. 

    Is ACTFL Recognized?

    Yes, the ACTFL is recognized internationally and is commonly used to aid academic institutions, government agencies, private organizations, and more in assessing students’ and candidates’ language proficiency. 

    It is primarily used for placement, student assessment, program evaluation, professional language certification, hiring, and other promotional qualification in various organizations. 

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