Second Language Evaluation ─ Test of Oral Proficiency


Evaluates candidates’ ability to communicate orally in their second official language in work-related situations.

Evaluates all general proficiency levels required for bilingual positions in the federal public service, based on the Treasury Board 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

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 that 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
  • speaks with some spontaneity, although pauses for grammatical and lexical planning and repair are evident in longer stretches
  • may be miscommunicating in some areas, but most stretches are clear
  • has a pronunciation that is generally clear enough to be understood
  • may, 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

Note: An exemption (“E”) from further second language oral proficiency testing will be granted to persons whose performance contains no major weaknesses. They can handle all situations in the second official language with excellent control of the language and a high degree of ease.

Note: An “X” is given for performance that does not meet the minimum requirements for Level A.

Protecting test integrity

The content of the Second Language Evaluation – Test of Oral Proficiency is protected. Candidates are not permitted to disclose test content to other people (e.g., other test-takers, employees, superiors or language teachers). Any disclosure of test content is in contravention of the Policy on Government Security and the use of such improperly obtained or transmitted information could be found to contravene section 69 of the Public Service Employment Act.

Any notes written during the test must be shredded. Also, if there is any suspicion of test fraud, such as the candidate bringing pre-written notes into the testing room or copying test materials, the Human Resources (HR) advisor or the on-site officer in charge 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 Second Language Evaluation – Test of Oral Proficiency.

Parties involved in the disclosure or improper use of protected test content may be the subject of an investigation (under section 69 of the Act), where a finding of fraud may be punishable on summary conviction or may be referred to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (under section 133 of the Act).

Scheduling the test

The Public Service Commission (PSC) tests candidates only when a request is made by a federal organization through the Second Language Evaluation – Scheduling System (SLE-SS). The system allows human resources HR officers to submit requests for candidates who need to have their second language abilities evaluated (any combination of Oral Proficiency, Reading Comprehension and Written Expression).

The resources available below outline the steps to sign up and create an account. Once activated, it allows HR officers to schedule candidates to be tested at PSC offices. Please note that only the Gatineau and Montreal offices administer the Test of Oral Proficiency, either in person or by telephone.


Contact information regarding SLE-SS:

Assessment accommodation

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 when a standardized PSC test is administered.

Notify the PSC well in advance of the test date so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Scheduling of the test can only take place once the accommodation recommendations are prepared.

For additional information about assessment accommodation:


Rescheduling or cancelling
  • only the organization that scheduled the test for the candidate can cancel or make changes to the date and time of the appointment. Direct requests to the PSC by candidates to have their test date and time modified will not be accepted
  • 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
  • failure of a candidate to attend the test session or cancellations two working days or less before the test session will result in no-show fees for the requesting organization


The re-test period of 30 days does not entitle candidates to re-take the test at the end of the waiting period. The requesting organization must decide whether it can or will have a candidate re-tested.

Cost of test

Core jurisdiction clients

Extended jurisdiction clients

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

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 fee

If the PSC is not notified through the Second Language Evaluation – Scheduling System at least two working days before the test, your organization will be charged with a $245 test administration fee. This no-show fee applies to both core and extended jurisdiction clients.

Prepare for the test

Video and audio clips provide candidates with detailed explanation about the test.

Video: How well do I speak French?

Audio clips: How well do I speak French?

Test day

  • ask candidates to bring two pieces of photo identification with signature, and their Personal Record Identifier (PRI) if they are federal public servants
  • ask candidates to arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled test time in order to complete administrative forms
  • ensure to have pens, pencils and paper available for candidates to take notes during the test. They may refer to the notes they have taken during the test to help respond to questions
  • the assessor or the officer in charge (for telephone tests) will collect the notes after the test. The notes taken are shredded and will not be used to assess the candidate’s performance
  • if the candidate feels unwell before or during the test, they must tell the assessor or the officer in charge. Should they have to stop the test before it ends, due to physical or psychological indisposition, the organization will not be charged. If the candidate continues to the end, they must accept the test result and the re-test restrictions
Test results

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

  • A, B or C
  • X (their performance does not meet the requirements for level A)
  • E (their performance demonstrates that they are performing above a C level)

Validity of test results

  • valid for five years or
  • valid for an indefinite period of time for persons who remain in the same position, provided that the linguistic profile of the position is not raised above the persons' skill level while they are in the position


Managers have the discretion to have an employee tested even if the employee has a valid result

Results are sent out to the requesting organization within five days after the test administration. Information requests regarding recent test results can be emailed to For telephone tests, complete and send the following forms:

These forms must be faxed (819-420-8716) to the PSC in order for the file to be completed and the results sent out.


The feedback report is general in nature and describes the candidate’s overall performance; it is not a diagnostic tool.

The feedback report will be sent directly to the candidate. Note that there might be a gap between the time that the organization receives the results and when the candidate receives the feedback report. Priority is given to sending out the results. Contact for any questions regarding feedback.

Detailed Feedback

Detailed Feedback is a service available to organizational clients with candidates on language training who did not succeed a recent Second Language Evaluation – Test of Oral Proficiency.

The feedback session lasts approximately one hour. It provides the candidate, and their representative, with a detailed picture of their most recent test performance. Feedback is given with the aid of both detailed analysis and examples taken directly from the oral test in question. These examples may either be played from the audio recording of the test or be read verbatim by the Second Language Consultant. This will depend on the agreement established between the PSC and the candidate’s organization.

Eligibility criteria:

  1. The candidate must have taken the Second Language Evaluation – Test of Oral Proficiency within eight weeks of the date that the contract was signed
  2. The candidate must be enrolled in language training
  3. The candidate must attend the feedback session with their language training representative

The PSC will only consider Requests for Service that come from a federal government department or agency.

Please refer to the PSC price list for the cost of Detailed Feedback.

For additional information about this service:


Candidate recourse mechanism

1.  Rescore

Candidates may ask that their test be rescored if they believe the level assigned does not reflect their true performance during the test. 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 knowledge of the level originally granted. In the event that the second rater disagrees with the original level assigned, the Quality Control Unit, for the Test of Oral Proficiency, makes the final decision on the level of performance.

Candidates must initiate the request for a rescore, in writing, via the officer in charge in the organization that made the request for testing.

Arrangements for students on language training are made through the organization that presented the initial request for testing.

The process requires that the:

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

2.  Complaints

If a candidate believes that the test was administered under unfavourable conditions, they can submit their complaint, in writing, to Upon receipt of the candidate’s complaint, the Quality Control Unit of the PSC will assess the situation and communicate with the candidate directly. Depending on the findings by the Quality Control Unit, a re-test may be offered.

3. Listening to the recording

The 30-day re-test period associated with the test applies to listening sessions. This means anyone who has a listening session will need to wait 30 days after the session before retaking the test. Please note that:

  • candidates can access the recording of their test; however, certain limitations apply to protect the security and integrity of the test content
  • because the content of the test is standardized, 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 the test’s recordings are limited to the test-taker alone (i.e., the teacher will not be able to attend the session)
  • to request access to their recording, candidates can ask their HR representative to make a formal request on their behalf to the PSC’s test centres (Montreal and Gatineau) by fax at 819-420-8716

The above provisions are essential due to the standardized nature of the Test of Oral Proficiency. They are designed to protect the security and integrity of the test and to ensure that the testing system is fair for all test-takers.

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