SLE - Test of Oral Proficiency in the Second Official Language: Information
The SLE - Test of Oral Proficiency in the Second Official Language (SLE - TOP) assesses your ability to speak and understand your second official language (French or English). A certified assessor administers the test, which includes language activities about work-related matters. The test is administered by telephone or face-to-face and lasts 20 to 40 minutes. It is comprised of four parts, which are described below.
Part 1: Questions and answers about work or other familiar activities
- You will answer some brief questions about your work or other familiar activities (e.g. studies or volunteer activities, if you are not currently employed) for which short, factual answers will be expected.
- Duration: two to six minutes.
Part 2: Listening and speaking in response to short messages and conversations
- The assessor will play two short voice-mail messages (10 to 15 seconds each) and two short work-related conversations (30 to 35 seconds each).
- After listening to each recording twice, you will be asked to identify the reason for the call, what needs to be done or what help is being offered.
- Duration: approximately seven minutes.
Part 3: Talk with follow-up questions
- The assessor will propose three topics for the talk.
- You will choose one topic; then you will have a minute and a half to prepare for your talk.
- Your talk should last two to three minutes.
- After your talk, you will be asked to answer some follow-up questions.
- Duration: 10 to 12 minutes.
Part 4: Listening and speaking in response to a longer conversation
- The assessor will play a two-minute recording of a work conversation between two people at a meeting.
- After listening to the recording twice, you will be asked to provide a brief summary of its content and then answer related questions.
- Duration: 11 to 13 minutes.
The degree of difficulty of the SLE - TOP gradually increases as the test progresses. The assessor will inform you of the different phases of the test. Based on the degree of proficiency that you demonstrate during the test, the assessor will decide whether you will take two, three or all four parts. The assessor uses a computer to select questions, play the recordings and record the test.
You must arrive 15 minutes before your test is scheduled to start in order to complete administrative forms.
The content of the SLE - TOP is protected. It is very important to respect the confidentiality of this test. Please do not discuss the content of the test with others.
The assessor uses your responses to assess your ability to communicate clearly in your second official language. It is not uncommon for people to lose their train of thought at times when speaking, even in their first language. This can also happen when people become nervous or anxious. If this should happen to you during the test, you may want to mention it to the assessor. He or she will help you get back on track and will not consider this in determining the rating.
In addition, if at any time during the test you do not know the answer to a question, or if a topic is sensitive for personal or confidential reasons, be sure to inform the assessor and he or she will move on to another topic or question. This will also not affect your rating.
It is the assessor's role to guide you through the test so that he or she will have the necessary sample to appropriately evaluate your oral communication skills in your second official language. To do this, he or she may occasionally redirect you before you feel that you have said all that you could say on a particular topic.
The test is recorded to provide a record of the test for administrative purposes. All the information on the recording of the test is confidential and is protected under the Privacy Act.
The SLE - TOP evaluates your ability to communicate orally in your second official language in work-related situations. Assessors receive extensive training in administering the test and assessing both the language tasks that you can accomplish and the clarity with which you communicate. They will also try to help you feel at ease during the test.
Your final result is a global evaluation of your ability to perform language tasks in a variety of work-related contexts with the appropriate level of accuracy. The language tasks and the degree of accuracy required become more demanding from Level A to Level C. Based on your test performance, you will obtain Level A, B or C, or receive an exemption from further testing in oral proficiency. Exemption from further testing is granted to C-level candidates who do not demonstrate any major weaknesses. If your performance does not meet the minimum requirements for Level A, you will receive an X.
Assessors use the global criteria below when assigning language proficiency levels.
SLE - TOP global oral proficiency criteria
Can understand linguistically complex speech that deals with work-related topics and is spoken in standard dialect at normal speed. Can give clear, detailed descriptions of complex topics and can summarize a discussion. Can express and sustain opinions and can respond to complex and hypothetical questions. Has a fairly natural and even delivery, with occasional hesitations, but most hesitations are for ideas. Has a broad range of vocabulary and structures when talking about complex and abstract topics, with a relatively high degree of control. Makes errors, but these rarely lead to misunderstanding. Pronunciation is clear, even if an accent from another language is noticeable. Occasional mispronunciations occur, but they rarely interfere with communication.
Can understand the main points of clear standard speech that deals with concrete, work-related topics and is delivered at normal speed. Can give a simple description of a concrete topic, can explain main points comprehensibly and can compare and discuss alternatives when complications arise. Can speak with some spontaneity, although pauses for grammatical and lexical planning and repair are evident in longer stretches. Has sufficient vocabulary and a variety of simple structures to handle concrete, non-routine situations and topics and can link a series of simple elements into a connected sequence when giving a factual description. There may be miscommunication in some areas, but most stretches are clear. Pronunciation is generally clear enough to be understood, despite an evident accent from another language. Listeners will, at times, need to ask for repetition or clarification.
Can understand most speech that deals with concrete and routine topics and is delivered slowly and clearly in standard speech. Can make self understood in short contributions, even though pauses and false starts are very evident. Can talk about everyday aspects of routine activities and can handle a simple question-and-answer exchange. Has sufficient basic vocabulary and grammatical structures to conduct routine transactions involving familiar situations and topics. Structures and vocabulary borrowed from another language can interfere with the clarity of the message. Pronunciation requires close attention from the listener, but there are no long stretches that are unclear.
X: Performance does not meet the minimum requirements for Level A.
Exemption: Exemption from further testing because performance contains no major weaknesses. Can handle most situations in the second official language with excellent control of the language and a high degree of ease.
Pens, pencils and paper are available for you to take notes during the test. You may refer to your notes to help you respond to questions but you should not use them verbatim.
The assessor or the responsible officer will collect your notes after the test. The notes you have taken are shredded and will not be used to assess your performance.
Test results and feedback
The test centre will send your results to the contact person in the organization that requested your test within 5 working days. The contact person should communicate the result to you soon after. Should you not receive your results when expected, please follow up with the contact person.
You will receive written feedback on your test performance.
- Bring one piece of identification with photo and signature, and have your Personal Record Identifier (PRI) available if you are a federal government employee.
- If you need test accommodations because of a disability, please notify the responsible officer in the organization that requested your test.
- If you should feel indisposed before or during the test, tell the assessor or the officer in charge. Otherwise, you must accept the test result and the retest restrictions.
Tips / helpful hints
- Try to communicate in your second official language as much as possible before taking the test. You can listen to the radio, watch television or speak in your second official language with your colleagues and friends.
- Arrive on time and start speaking your second official language as soon as you meet the assessor. This will help you adjust more quickly to the testing session.
- We recommend that you take notes during the test.
- Do not be overly worried about making mistakes. If you cannot think of a certain word, use a simple substitute to explain the meaning. If you are aware that you are making mistakes and would feel better if you corrected them, go ahead and do so. However, remember that frequent corrections may disrupt the flow of the communication.
- Consult the Questions and Answers in the SLE section of the Public Service Commission Web site.
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