Second Language Evaluation – Oral Language Assessment

Test description

The Second Language Evaluation – Oral Language Assessment (SLE-OLA) was developed by the Public Service Commission to help departments and agencies staff bilingual positions. This test is available for all types of requests, although priority will be given to departments and agencies staffing positions that are related to the COVID-19 response or that ensure the effective functioning of the Government of Canada.

The test is administered remotely over the internet using a web conference tool (MS Teams) by a language assessor who is certified by the Public Service Commission. It lasts 20 to 40 minutes including pre-test instructions. Since candidates don’t need to be in a federal government building to be tested, an onsite responsible officer is not required. Candidates can take the test from home; however, they should make arrangements to be alone in a calm environment where they will not be disturbed for the duration of the test. The assessor will begin by confirming your candidate’s identity using MS Teams’ video function and then transition to audio only for the rest of the test.

The test evaluates a candidate’s ability to communicate orally in their second official language in response to work-related questions.

Proficiency criteria

The criteria for oral proficiency are defined by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Qualification Standards in Relation to Official Languages.

Level A

Level B

Level C

Understands most speech that deals with concrete and routine topics and is delivered slowly and clearly in standard speech

Understands the main points of clear standard speech that deals with concrete, work-related topics and is delivered at normal speed

Understands linguistically complex speech that deals with work-related topics and is spoken in standard dialect at normal speed

A person speaking at this level can:

  • make themselves understood in short contributions, even though pauses and false starts are very evident
  • talk about everyday aspects of routine activities
  • handle a simple question-and-answer exchange

A person speaking at this level can:

  • give a simple description of a concrete topic
  • explain main points comprehensibly
  • compare and discuss alternatives when complications arise
  • speak with some spontaneity, although pauses for grammatical and lexical planning and repair are evident in longer stretches

A person speaking at this level can:

  • give clear, detailed descriptions of complex topics
  • summarize a discussion
  • express and sustain opinions
  • respond to complex and hypothetical questions

A person speaking at this level:

  • has sufficient basic vocabulary and grammatical structures to conduct routine transactions involving familiar situations and topics
  • uses structures and vocabulary borrowed from another language which can interfere with the clarity of the message
  • has a pronunciation that requires close attention from the listener, but there are no long stretches that are unclear

A person speaking at this level:

  • has sufficient vocabulary and a variety of simple grammatical 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
  • may be miscommunicating in some areas, but most stretches are clear
  • has a pronunciation that is generally clear enough to be understood, despite an evident accent from another language
  • will, at times, be asked by the listener to repeat or clarify

A person speaking at this level:

  • 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
  • has a pronunciation that is clear, even if an accent from another language is noticeable
  • has occasional mispronunciations but they rarely interfere with communication

Protecting test integrity

All test content is copyrighted material of the Public Service Commission of Canada and is designated Protected. It may not be copied, recorded, reproduced, translated, distributed or disseminated, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means for commercial or non-commercial purposes. Any unauthorized reproduction, recording and/or disclosure of test content is in contravention of the Government Security Policy and the use of such improperly obtained or transmitted information could be found to contravene the provisions of the Public Service Employment Act.

Parties involved in the disclosure or improper use of protected test content may be investigated under the Public Service Employment Act, where a finding of fraud may be punishable on summary conviction, or may be referred to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Contact the Personnel Psychology Centre at cfp.cpp-ppc.psc@canada.ca if you think that you have seen Public Service Commission test questions posted or shared on-line (for example, on a Web site or a private chat room) or shared in another manner (for example, via practice test).

Cheating awareness

Candidate responsibilities are outlined in the candidate information section of our website. It is essential that the intended candidate takes the test themselves, in good faith, and without the help of other people and resources. Candidates will be asked for government-issued photo identification that will be verified by the assessor prior to the assessment. Any identity falsification for the taking of the test or non-compliance with instructions such as cheating may result in the invalidation of the result of this language test, an investigation under the Public Service Employment Act and possible measures that may affect their employment in the federal public service.

If there is any suspicion of test fraud, such as the candidate having access to pre-written notes during the testing session or falsifying their identity, the Assessor administering the test has a duty to intervene if possible or report this to the Public Service Commission (Personnel Psychology Centre) in order to maintain the integrity of the test. Contact the Personnel Psychology Centre at cfp.cpp-ppc.psc@canada.ca if you have reason to doubt the validity of a candidate’s assessment.

Scheduling the test

Step 1:

Requests for this test must be submitted by human resources officers through the Second Language Evaluation–Scheduling System. When scheduling the test, the fields are mandatory for the Personnel Psychology Centre to properly schedule and administer the test:

  • Select “Second Language Interview” since this test is currently not an option in the scheduling system. All requests for a second language interview will be scheduled as an oral language assessment.
  • Linguistic profile of the position: This is the required level for the position.
  • Telephone test: although the standard version of the Oral Language Assessment is conducted by MS Teams only, the system will still select “Telephone test” by default. You then need to enter the candidate’s name and phone number as these are required fields.
  • Test centre:
    • Montreal test centre: this centre should be selected for all requests from the Québec region and the Atlantic region
    • Gatineau test centre: this centre should be selected for requests from all other regions
  • Preferred date: please indicate the date you would like the candidate to be tested. Organizations are asked to discuss date options with the candidate before sending the request to avoid having to reschedule.
  • Candidate email address: please provide the candidate’s email address in the comments section of the request. This information is required to send the MS Teams meeting link to the candidate for the test, along with connection instructions. The test will not be scheduled without the candidate’s email address.
  • When the test is scheduled, confirmation of the test date and time will be sent to clients through the scheduling system, and at the same time, the MS Teams link will be sent directly to the candidate by the Public Service Commission. The scheduling confirmation clients receive will refer to the test as a second language interview for level B or C; however, all tests will be scheduled as oral language assessment.
  • Please note that clients are responsible for informing candidates of the scheduled date and time of their test as this information is not included in the Public Service Commission’s email to candidates.
  • If necessary, clients can also access the MS Teams meeting links that are sent to candidates as they are included in the comments section in the scheduling confirmation sent to clients through the scheduling system. Please note that all MS Teams meeting links are unique and can only be shared with the candidate named in the scheduling confirmation. The links are not interchangeable between candidates.
  • If the requirements as outlined above pose an accessibility barrier for your candidate, please contact us by email at cfp.els-sle.psc@canada.ca or telephone at 1-844-681-8695 for alternative options.

Step 2: Applies only to requests for positions related to the COVID-19 response or that ensure the effective functioning of the government of Canada

To benefit from the priority given to positions that are related to the COVID-19 response or that ensure the effective functioning of the government of Canada, the requestor will be required to reply to the test request with the confirmation email and include the approval from the head of human resources or a person identified by the deputy head. The Personnel Psychology Centre will grant priority to requests prior to scheduling.

Create an account:

The resources available on the Second Language Evaluation–Scheduling System main page outline the steps to sign up and create an account in the scheduling system. Once activated, it allows human resources officers to schedule candidates to be tested. Only people who have the delegated responsibility within their organization to make second language evaluation requests are permitted to create an account in the scheduling system. Typically, these delegated individuals are hiring managers, human resources advisors and assistants, and official language coordinators.

Contact information regarding the Second Language Evaluation–Scheduling System:

Accommodation measures

Candidates who have a disability or any other condition that could affect their performance on the test have the right to request that adapted measures be put in place. Only the Public Service Commission (Personnel Psychology Centre) can establish assessment accommodation measures when a Public Service Commission test is administered.

Rescheduling or cancelling

Requests for rescheduling or cancelling tests can only be submitted through the Second Language Evaluation–Scheduling System by the human resources officer who initiated the request. Advise candidates that if they are unable to attend a testing session, they must notify your organization in order for you to determine if other arrangements can be made. Requests received directly from candidates will not be actioned or responded to.

If a test is rescheduled, a new MS Teams meeting link is not required since the original link remains valid.

IMPORTANT: As organizations are asked to provide us with their 3 preferred testing dates in the system, it is understood that these dates have been confirmed with the candidate prior to sending the request, which should limit the need to reschedule tests.

Cost of test

Core jurisdiction clients

There is no fee for core jurisdiction clients (organizations that are governed under the Public Service Employment Act for their appointments).

Extended jurisdiction clients

The test administration service fee is $245 per candidate for organizations not subject to the Act that have their own appointment authority. This includes separate employers such as the Canada Revenue Agency, Parks Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, among others.

Cancellation, rescheduling and candidate no-show fees

If the Public Service Commission is not notified through the Second Language Evaluation – Scheduling System of a request to reschedule or cancel a test at least 2 working days before the test, or if a test does not take place due to a candidate’s absence, your organization will be charged with a $245 test administration fee. This no-show fee applies to both core and extended jurisdiction clients.

Before the test

  • Advise candidates that they will be receiving an email from the Public Service Commission containing the MS Teams link for the test. If they can't find it in their inbox, they should check their junk mail or spam folder. Clients should also inform the candidate of the date and time of their test.
  • Remember that clients can access the MS Teams meeting links that are sent to candidates as they are included in the comments section in the scheduling confirmation sent to clients through the scheduling system.

Prepare for the test

Here is how you can help candidates get ready for their test day:

  • Ensure candidates are aware of the information made available to them in the candidate information section on our website.
  • Ask candidates to be prepared to show a government-issued photo identification.
  • Candidates should make arrangements to be alone in a calm environment where they will not be disturbed for the duration of the test. For privacy purposes, candidates may wish to be in a neutral environment free of personal items or apply background effects in MS Teams.
  • Ask candidates to test the MS Teams meeting link they received well in advance of the scheduled test date. Access to MS Teams is required to proceed with testing. They should also become familiar with the audio and video options available to them to facilitate a smooth testing session.
  • Let candidates know that if they are using a smartphone or a tablet to connect to the meeting, they should download the MS Teams mobile application to be able to join the meeting.
  • Let candidates know that if they intend to use a computer to connect to the meeting, they must use a compatible browser, such as Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome, or download the MS Teams desktop application. Please note MS Teams is not supported by Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer.
  • Ask candidates to connect to the MS Teams meeting link at least 10 minutes before the scheduled start time of the test to ensure they have no trouble reaching the virtual waiting room. The assessor will be informed that they are waiting and will let them in at the scheduled time of the test.
  • Ask candidates to be ready to provide their personal record identifier (PRI) if they are a federal government employee. If they do not have a PRI, they will be asked to provide their date of birth for identification and recordkeeping purposes.
  • Candidates may take notes during the test so remind them to ensure that they have pens, pencils and paper available. They may refer to the notes they have taken during the test to help respond to questions. Due to the protected nature of the test, we ask that candidates destroy their notes after the test. The assessor will also remind them of this at the time of the test.
  • If the candidate feels unwell before or during the test due to a physical or psychological indisposition, they should inform the assessor. If the candidate completes the test despite their indisposition, they must accept the test result.

Test results and validity period

The level received is based on the candidate’s performance throughout the test. Based on that performance, candidates can obtain one of the following results:

  • level A, B or C
  • an X (the candidate’s performance does not meet the minimum requirements for level A)
  • an E (the candidate’s performance indicates that they can be expected to maintain proficiency at the C level indefinitely and they will receive an indefinite exemption from further testing)

Results are sent out to the requesting department or agency within 5 business days after the test administration. Information requests regarding recent test results can be emailed to cfp.els-sle .psc@canada.ca. The result sheet will be the only feedback available for this test at this time.

  • Validity of test results
    • valid for 5 years
    • valid for an indefinite period, for persons who remain in the same position, provided that the linguistic profile of the position is not raised above the person's skill level while they are in the position
    • the candidate’s Oral Language Assessment result will replace any previous valid oral test result. Any previous results will no longer be valid.
    • managers may reassess a candidate at any time prior to or after making an appointment should there be concerns about an employee’s proficiency level and/or to respect departmental policies on updating expired test results

Retest period

There is a 30-day waiting period before a candidate can retake this test. If a candidate retakes the test before the retest period is over, their result will not be valid, and they will have to wait another 30 calendar days to retake the test and receive a new valid result.

Candidate recourse mechanism

Candidates may ask for a rescore if they have concerns that the result they received does not reflect their performance during the test or if they believe that the test was not administered under favourable conditions (complaint). 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 rates the candidate’s performance without knowing the result originally granted. If the second rater disagrees with the original result, the quality assurance unit for the Oral Language Assessment makes the final decision on the result of the performance.

Candidates must initiate the rescore request, in writing, within 10 business days after the results were sent to the organization that requested the test, via the departmental human resource officer that submitted the request for testing. Departmental officers can, in turn, submit the request to rescore, in writing, to cfp.tcorelecture-rescoretop.psc@canada.ca. The following information will need to be provided by the departmental officer:

Please note that after a rescore, the candidate’s new result (whether it is higher, lower, or identical) becomes the valid and official result entered in the test results system.

If a candidate is being offered a retest, they must confirm their intention to be retested, in writing, by replying to the received notification so that their previous result can be invalidated. The result obtained in the retest will become their official result.

To schedule the retest, a new test request has to be entered in the Second Language Evaluation–Scheduling System. In the "Comments" section, please indicate “Retest offered by the Public Service Commission for (name of candidate)’s test on (date of test).”

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