Oral Proficiency Exam

Foreign Languages and Literatures


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What You Need to Know & What You Need to Do

What is the Oral Proficiency Exam?        

The Spanish Oral Proficiency Exam (sometimes also referred to as the Spanish Exit Interview) is an assessment of a student’s speaking ability in the target language, Spanish. The OPE is conducted by two professors, and is similar to an interview in its format. The exam is about thirty minutes in length, but only about twenty of those minutes comprise the actual speaking portion. The professors pose questions to the student, who should answer them in Spanish with the appropriate grammar and vocabulary.

Who has to take it?                                     

Spanish majors are the only students who are required to take the Spanish Oral Proficiency Exam. However, all Spanish classes do assess students’ speaking ability through other oral exams, presentations, and class participation.

When should I take this exam?                 

Any time after completing Advanced Spanish (SPAN 2301), a student is eligible to attempt the OPE. This exam is a non-negotiable requirement for graduation with a B.A. in Spanish. For this reason, it is recommended that you take the exam as soon as possible, so that it does not become a potential delay to your graduation. While there is mandated time to take the exam, there are several times that would be particularly beneficial to the student. For instance, a student just returning from a study abroad trip or an extended vacation in a Spanish-speaking country would likely be more comfortable speaking, due to the previous daily use of Spanish. Also, students choosing to take the exam immediately after completing Advanced Spanish might feel more prepared, as they had a similar-style oral exam as a component of that class which they had to prepare for. Students taking a challenging Spanish class, or who are taking more than one Spanish class in a given semester, might feel that their routine use of Spanish has prepared them for the OPE. While these are all good times to take the exam, it is up to the individual student to decide when.

How can I schedule the exam time?          

Exams only take place between weeks 2 and 12 of a given semester, and the 24 time slots are predetermined. The sign-up is operated on a “first come, first served” basis, so signing up early would be to your advantage. Information about the sign-up is usually emailed to Hispanic Studies Majors early in the semester, so keep an eye on your email for information about this!

Where do the exams take place?               

Your Spanish Oral Proficiency Exam will take place in the office of one of the professors that is assessing you. When you make your appointment, you will be notified of the room assignment for your exam.

How soon will I know my results?             

After completing the speaking portion of your exam, you will be asked to step into the hallway while the professors confer. After a brief conference, you will be invited back in the room to (1) be congratulated on passing the exam or (2) be invited to retake the exam at a later date. Regardless of the outcome of your test, the professors will give you some feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of your performance. The successful completion of your OPE will be reflected on your APAS soon after your exam.

What if I need to retake the exam?           

Students may attempt the Oral Proficiency Exam two times per semester. If you are invited to retake your exam, you will simply need to schedule the exam using Google Calendar in the same way that you scheduled your first attempt. Remember, if you plan to try again during the same semester, you should sign up sooner rather than later, as the time slots fill up quickly. If there are no remaining slots, or if none work with your schedule, you will need to wait until the following semester.

How should I prepare for the exam?         

Students can prepare in a number of ways. You could attend a Tertulia before you take the OPE so that you practice speaking with your peers. You could also review old grammar notes that you might have on hand to help you review some things that you found particularly difficult in the past. You could also think of some potential questions that the professors might ask and think of how you’d answer them, or you could enlist the help of a friend—preferably one who has passed the OPE—to chat with you in Spanish.

Below, the format of the Oral Proficiency Exam is listed. Please note that there are some
sample questions you can use for practice.

Oral Proficiency Exam Format

  • Warm up
  • Interview
    • Dinos quién eres, cómo eres, cuántos años tienes, de dónde eres, en qué consiste tu familia, que estudias, que te interesa o te gusta…
    • Cuéntanos de algún viaje o alguna aventura que hayas hecho. ¿Qué hacías rutinariamente? ¿Cuáles de tus experiencias se destacaron y por qué? Si no has viajado o tenido ninguna aventura, cuéntanos el argumento de tu película o tu libro predilecto. ¿Cómo eran los personajes? ¿Qué pasó?...
    • Ahora que estás a punto de graduarte o que hayas vuelto de estudiar en el extranjero o …., dinos que te aguarda en el futuro. Si pudieras tener la vida de tus sueños, cómo sería y por qué. Si todo fuera posible, en qué consistiría tu futuro…
  • Cool down and exit (student waits briefly in hallway)
  • Professors confer
  • Professors invite student to enter office and 1) congratulate if s/he has passed or 2) invite student to retake exam at a later date. Discussion/feedback on student’s performance ensues (regardless of outcome).