Assessment of official languages in the appointment process

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For an appointment to be based on merit, the person appointed must meet each qualification, including the official language proficiency identified for the position.

Proficiency in the official language must be assessed for bilingual and unilingual positions:

  • For a bilingual position, proficiency in both first and second official languages must be assessed.
  • For a unilingual position, proficiency in English or French must be assessed, depending on the language requirement of the position (French essential, English essential, or English or French essential).

Assessment of qualifications other than official language proficiency must be conducted in the candidate’s language of choice (English or French), regardless of the position’s location or its requirements for official language proficiency.

Frequently asked questions

Bilingual positions

1. How is the candidate’s first official language determined?

The first official language is determined by the candidate only, not by the hiring manager nor the Public Service Commission. Individuals determine their first official language based on the language in which they currently feel most proficient. If they aren’t sure, the person may choose one or the other, since both official languages will be assessed. The Public Service Commission’s second language evaluation tests should not be administered in both official languages to determine the first and second official language of candidates unless the candidates themselves aren’t sure of their first official language and ask for help with the decision.

2. How is the first official language assessed for an appointment to a bilingual position?

Hiring managers are responsible for choosing the assessment method, assessing the first official language of candidates and determining whether the official language proficiency is met. To do so, they may conduct the assessment with:

  • the same method(s) as those used to assess the other qualifications (such as interviews or written exams) or
  • a separate method to assess only the first official language

Before assessing first official language, hiring managers must determine the language skills and proficiency required for the work to be performed. Hiring managers aren’t required to reflect the A, B, C levels in all 3 language skills (reading comprehension, written expression and oral interaction skills) as established for second official language proficiency in the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Qualification Standards in Relation to Official Languages. The proficiency in first official language can be assessed in the same manner as any other merit criteria, such as knowledge, ability or competency.

Other standardized tests, such as the Public Service Commission’s Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation Test and the Written Communication Proficiency Test, may be useful in assessing skills in the first official language, where appropriate.

3. How is the second official language assessed for an appointment to a bilingual position?

The Appointment Policy requires that only the second language evaluation tests approved by the Public Service Commission can be used to assess second official language proficiency.

There are exceptions for assessing specialized or expert proficiency (refer to question 5).

In times of COVID-19, new measures are in place that provide flexibility in assessing second language qualifications. Please refer to the Information for human resources specialists: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the Public Service Commission website for more information.

4. How long are second language evaluation results valid for?

Second language evaluation results are valid for 5 years. After that, the results remain valid indefinitely, but only for the position held by the employee, unless the linguistic profile of the position is raised above the employee’s skill level.

Second language evaluation results that are more than 5 years old can be valid for a new appointment:

  • if the candidate is exempted from further second official language examinations (meaning they obtained E results)
  • when the results were valid at the time the notification of appointment or proposal of appointment (second notification) was posted, but may have expired after the second notification for internal processes (for external processes, the results must be valid at the start date agreed to in writing by the parties)
  • if the candidate is stationed abroad and unable to take second language evaluation tests during the regular working hours of the Public Service Commission’s offices in the National Capital Region
  • when an incumbent of a bilingual position is appointed to their own reclassified position, as long as the linguistic profile of the position has not been raised above their results
    • Reclassification should not be confused with a new linguistic profile for a position. For information on modifications of language requirements or linguistic profiles, consult the Treasury Board Secretariat’s Directive on Official Languages for People Management (Appendix 2).

In times of COVID-19, new measures are in place that provide flexibility in assessing second language qualifications. Please refer to the Information for human resources specialists: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the Public Service Commission website for more information.

5. How is the specialized or expert proficiency in the official language (P code in a linguistic profile) assessed?

Public Service Commission second language evaluation tests aren’t used to assess specialized or expert proficiency. Hiring managers are responsible for developing the assessment method for the P code and for conducting the assessment. Those conducting the assessment must have the technical or specialized official language skills to assess the P code. If the candidate is assessed for their specialized or expert proficiency level as part of another process, the result of the previous assessment isn’t transferable from one position to another.

Before the assessment, hiring managers determine the specialized or expert proficiency level in the language required for the position (based on the Treasury Board Secretariat’s Qualification Standards in relations to official languages).

6. Can a candidate be retested for official language proficiency during the same appointment process?

Depending on the circumstances, hiring managers have the discretion to make decisions about whether or not to assess official language proficiency (or any other qualifications) more than once in the same process. Here are some considerations when making this decision:

  • The appointment process has no closing date or a continuous intake of candidates.
  • The potential of new experiences or improved proficiency acquired by the individual since the initial assessment.
  • New second language evaluation results are available as part of another process.
  • Perceptions of fairness:
    • impact on other candidates who were eliminated because they didn’t meet this qualification;
    • equal opportunity to all candidates; and
    • impact on those who didn’t apply because they didn’t meet the qualification at the time of the advertisement, but would meet it at the time of re-assessment

Candidates must wait a minimum of 30 calendar days before retaking the Public Service Commission’s second language evaluation tests.

Unilingual positions

1. How is official language proficiency assessed for an appointment to a unilingual position?

Hiring managers are responsible for assessing a candidate’s proficiency in the language required for the position and for determining the assessment method to do so. They may conduct the assessment with:

  • the same method(s) as those used to assess the other qualifications (such as an interview or written exam); or
  • a separate assessment method to assess only the language of the position.

Before assessing candidates’ proficiency in the official language required for the position, hiring managers must determine the language skills and proficiency required for the work to be performed. Hiring managers aren’t required to reflect the A, B, C levels in all 3 language skills (reading comprehension, written expression and oral interaction skills) as established for second official language proficiency in the Treasury Board Secretariat’s Qualification Standards for second language evaluation. The language proficiency assessment for a unilingual position can be assessed in the same manner as any other merit criteria such as knowledge, ability or competency.

Other standardized tests such as the Public Service Commission’s Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation Test and the Written Communication Proficiency Test may be useful in assessing the official language proficiency required for the position, where appropriate.

Did you know?

  • The language to which a person was first exposed (mother tongue), even if it is English or French, can differ from a person’s first official language, and a person’s first official language may change over time.
  • The proficiency levels for each of the 3 language skills in the Treasury Board Secretariat qualification standards (reading, written expression and oral proficiency) indicated in the linguistic profile identify the second official language qualifications only. For example, the first part of the linguistic profile CBC/CBC is the level for those who identify English as their second official language. The second part of the linguistic profile CBC/CBC is the level of those who identify French as their second official language.
  • As with any other qualification, the results of assessment of one or both official languages must be accessible for 5 years in accordance with annex B of the Appointment Policy.
  • The Public Service Commission is the authoritative source for test results associated with its official second language evaluation for reading, writing and oral skills. Hiring managers and authorized human resources personnel must verify these results with the Public Service Commission prior to any appointment. Verification is generally done early in the appointment process.

Learn more

  • Public Service Commission regional offices offer professional recruitment and assessment services. Contact your nearest office.
  • The Public Service Commission’s Personnel Psychology Centre:
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