Second Language Assessors

How are the assessors selected?

Applicants are selected on the basis of their knowledge of the language that they will assess, their oral communication and their interpersonal skills.

What level of education is required to become a second language assessor?

All assessors must have a minimum of a university degree. Additional educational requirements are determined by the department or agency hiring the assessor. However, all assessors must pass a rigorous language test and demonstrate considerable interpersonal and communication skills.

What type of training do assessors receive?

Successful applicants must complete the certification program on the administration of the Second Language Evaluation - Test of Oral Proficiency (SLE - TOP) and evaluation of linguistic performance. The program lasts at least three weeks and includes a practice phase during which assessors administer tests to volunteer candidates.

Does the assessor know my level as soon as the test is over?

Assessors are trained to observe and assess your linguistic performance during the test. However, they will wait until after the test to make the final decision.

Implementation of the SLE - TOP

Why was the SLE - TOP developed?

The Public Service Commission developed the SLE - TOP in the context of the public service modernization of official languages objective. The previous Oral Interaction Test was implemented in 1984 and was administered more than 25 000 times per year. It has been replaced by the SLE - TOP to take advantage of professional developments in language assessment and to reflect changes in language usage in the federal public service.

How was the SLE - TOP developed?

The test was developed by a team of specialists in psychometric assessment, second language evaluation and applied linguistics during a period of just over two years. The development team started with a best-practices survey, extensive consultation with stakeholders and a survey to identify which linguistic activities federal public servants perform in their second official language at work. Two pilot studies, employment equity reviews and a trial administration period occurred before the test was implemented.

When was the SLE - TOP implemented?

The SLE - TOP was implemented on June 16, 2008. As of that date, the SLE Oral Interaction Test has no longer been administered.

Is the result that I obtained on my SLE Oral Interaction Test prior to June 16, 2008, still valid?

The validity period for the SLE Oral Interaction Test results remains the same. In other words, SLE - TOP and Oral Interaction Test results are valid for:

  • five years, for tests administered on or after April 1, 1990; or
  • an indefinite period of time, for persons with valid results as of April 1, 1993, who remain in the same position, provided that the linguistic profile of the position is not raised above the person's skill level while he or she is in the position.

Test content

May I take notes during the test?

Yes. We encourage you to take notes and we will provide you with the material to do so. The assessor will not read your notes and he or she will not use them to rate your linguistic performance. Your notes will be shredded at the end of the test.

How do assessors choose the questions for my test?

Assessors choose from a large bank of questions, according to information that he or she obtained during the test about your work or other familiar activities (e.g. studies or volunteer activities).

What do I do if I do not know the answer to a question?

Questions are developed so that all candidates should be able to answer them. Let the assessor know if you have not understood a question. He or she will then ask you a different question or move on to another topic.

Can I ask the assessor to repeat a question?

Yes, you may ask the assessor to repeat or reformulate a question which you did not understand. You will not be penalized unless this happens repeatedly; this would indicate a weakness in oral comprehension.

Will I be allowed to listen to the recordings more than twice?

No. To ensure that the test is administered in a fair and consistent manner, each recording is played only twice. However, persons with disabilities that may hinder their performance during the test may ask for accommodations.

Will I be penalized if I do not grasp all the details of the recordings?

No. You must demonstrate that you have understood most of the content of the recordings. You do not need to include all the details when answering the questions.

Will I be penalized if I don't talk for the full two to three minutes in Part 3 of the test?

No. However, keep in mind that it is to your advantage to use as much of the time available to demonstrate your language proficiency. It is the assessor's responsibility to ask additional questions that enable him or her to assess your language proficiency.

Will I be penalized if I talk for more than three minutes in Part 3 of the test?

No. The assessor will tell you when the time is up.

Assigning the Level

How is my linguistic performance evaluated?

The assessor uses both global and analytic criteria to rate your linguistic performance. You will find a description of the global criteria under "Information for Candidates."

Why didn't the assessor administer all four parts of the test?

Assessors stop the test when they have obtained a sufficient linguistic sample to determine your level.

How many points will I lose for each grammar mistake?

The assessment is not based on a point system, but on your overall ability to communicate.

Will I be penalized if I have a naturally slow speaking style?

Absolutely not. Speak naturally. Assessors are trained to evaluate fairly the linguistic performance of candidates who have different patterns of speech. You will not be penalized unless your speech is unclear. You will be penalized only if your communication is unclear.

Can I do well on the test even if have an accent?

Yes. What matters is that you are understood. If you have demonstrated your ability to communicate at a given level and your accent does not hinder the communication, you will obtain that level. It is possible to obtain an A, B or C level, or even an exemption from further testing, even if you have an accent.


I have a disability. Will I be able to ask for accommodations?

If you have a disability, you should inform the person who requested your test well in advance of the test date so that the appropriate measures can be taken to provide you with the necessary accommodations required during your test.


Will I receive feedback on my test performance?

Yes, you will receive written feedback on your performance on the SLE - TOP.

Recourse mechanisms and retesting

If I am not satisfied with the level I have received, do I have any recourse?

Yes. There are two options:

  • If you feel that the level assigned does not reflect your true level of proficiency, you may ask to have the test rescored.
  • If you believe that the test was administered under unfavourable conditions, you may request a retest. The situation will be assessed and, if a retest proves necessary, it will be granted.

What is the difference between a rescore and a retest?

A rescore is the process whereby an assessor other than the one who administered the test listens to the audio recording of the test and makes a decision regarding the level. A retest is a mechanism that allows for a new assessment if the test was administered under unfavourable conditions.

How do I go about requesting a rescore or retest?

Make a request through the Official Languages Co-ordinator in your organization. For students on language training, rescore requests are arranged through the Pedagogical Advisor in the National Capital Region, or the Team Head in the other regions.

If I receive a lower score on the rescore, will that score replace my original score?

Yes. Whatever score you receive when your test is rescored becomes your official score and will be entered in the test results file.

How much time do I have to request a rescore or a retest?

The candidate must initiate the request for rescoring and/or retesting within ten working days from the date on which the test results were sent to the candidate. This request is made through the responsible officer in the organization that made the request for testing.

Can I retake the SLE - TOP? How long do I have to wait before taking it again?

You must wait a minimum of 30 calendar days before taking the test again. If you are on language training, the official languages coordinator in your organization can help you decide when the time is right to take the test again. If you have questions related to a particular appointment process, inventory or pool, contact the organization’s human resources advisor responsible for the process.

Can I listen to the recording of my test?

Yes. However, to protect the security and integrity of the test certain limitations apply. More information is provided below.

Subject: Access to Test of Oral Proficiency recordings by test takers and language teachers.

As you know, the new Second Language Evaluation Test of Oral Proficiency (SLE-TOP) was implemented on June 16, 2008 and replaces the Oral Interaction (OI) Test that was in use prior to that date.

In the past, students at language schools were provided the opportunity to listen to their OI Test recording with their language teacher present in order to obtain feedback on their performance. It was possible to provide this service this without risk of compromise to the test because each OI Test session was different; different questions were asked, and the conversation between test taker and assessor varied from session to session.

Similarities and differences between the old and new test are detailed at the following address: One of several new aspects of the SLE-TOP is the much greater degree of standardization of the questions and other stimuli to which test takers are asked respond. Because the same standardized test content will be used repeatedly across different test sessions, allowing test takers to listen to their recordings with their teachers present to provide feedback would compromise the validity and continued use of the test. For this reason, access to SLE-TOP test recordings are limited (1) to the test taker him- or herself (i.e. the teacher will not be able to attend the session), and (2) to the access to which the test taker has a right according to the relevant provisions of the Privacy Act.

Test takers who are seeking access to their SLE-TOP test recording are asked to make a formal request to the Public Service Commission’s TOP test centres by fax at the following coordinates:

  • Gatineau TOP Test Centre – 819-420-8716
  • Montréal TOP Test Centre – 514-283-3654

Those who request access to their SLE-TOP recording will be offered the opportunity to listen to their recording, under the supervision of a PSC employee. The supervising employee will not discuss the individual’s performance on the test. No copies or transcriptions of the recording can be provided or permitted. The requester will normally not be permitted to have anyone with them during the listening session. Furthermore, the 30 day retest period associated with the SLE-TOP applies to listening sessions; individuals who have a listening session will need to wait 30 days after the session before retaking the test.

It is our hope that test takers will understand the necessity of these provisions given the more standardized nature of the SLE-TOP relative to the OI Test administered prior to July 16, 2008. They are designed to protect the security and integrity of the test and to ensure that the SLE testing system is fair for all test takers.