Test Descriptions for Reading, Listening, and Speaking

What’s it like taking the ACTFL Reading test?

The following information applies to the following languages only:  French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish

Students studying Korean will take the TOPIK test. Read more about it.

Students of Arabic, please check back soon for more information.

On the test you will work through ten different reading tasks, answering three questions for each one. In total, you will answer thirty questions.

About the questions:

  • Each question has four multiple-choice answers. Only one choice is correct.
  • Both the question and the possible answers are in the language you are learning (Spanish, French, Korean, etc.)
  • You may go back and change answers
  • You can only see one question at a time, but can move forward and backward to other questions.

About timing:

The test is timed. You will have a total of 50 minutes, but may spend as much or as little time within each of the ten sections as you want. The test does not automatically move you on to the next section. Keep in mind that the test becomes more challenging as you go.

Here’s an image of what the screen will look like during the test:

reading exam interface

Want to take the ACTFL reading test for a spin? You can take practice versions of the test online. They will be in English and allow you to see the format of the test and the type of questions you might encounter. Keep in mind that on the real test all questions will be in the language you are studying.

What’s it like taking the ACTFL Listening test?

The following information applies to the following languages only:  French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish

Students studying Korean will take the TOPIK test. Read more about it.

Students of Arabic, please check back soon for more information.

On the test you will work through ten different listening tasks, answering three questions for each one. In total, you will answer thirty questions.

At the beginning of each task, you will be able to view all three questions for 30 seconds before the audio begins. However, you won’t be able to see the possible answers until after you hear the audio. The questions are in the language you are learning, not English.

The audio will begin to play automatically, and will only play once. While you listen, you can take notes on a virtual "note pad" on the right side of the screen. The notes you take will remain visible after the audio stops, and you will have 20 seconds to organize these notes before the multiple-choice answers appear.

listening exam interface 1

Finally, the multiple-choice answers to each question will appear below each question.

listening exam interface 2

After you finish answering the three questions, you may move on to the next listening task. However, the test will move on automatically after two to two and a half minutes.

Key things to remember!

  • All questions and answers are in the target language
  • You may only hear the recording once.
  • You must follow a strict time schedule that is controlled by the computer:
    1. 30 seconds to preview the questions (without answers),
    2. Then the recording plays once,
    3. 20 seconds to organize and review any notes;
    4. Two - two and a half minutes to answer the three questions.
  • You cannot move back
  • You may take notes electronically while you listen to the audio.

Want to take the ACTFL listening test for a spin? You can take practice versions of the test online. They will be in English and allow you to see the format of the test and the type of questions you might encounter. Keep in mind that on the real test all questions will be in the language you are studying.

What’s it like taking the ACTFL Speaking test (OPIc)?

The following information applies to all PACE languages:   Arabic, French, German, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish

The Speaking tests takes between 30 and 45 minutes. During that time you will be asked questions by a virtual avatar. Your answers will be recorded and someone will listen to your recorded responses and rate them later.

There is a Demo OPIc, which you can view as many times as you want to become more comfortable with the avatar format.

You will be asked a series of background questions to customize the test prompts to your interests and experience. After answering them, you will begin the practice OPIc (in English) with prompts that are geared to the answers you gave on the background survey. Please note that on the actual test you may or may not be asked these background questions.

Tips for success on the OPIc:

  1. View the Demo OPIc prior to the test date to acquaint yourself with the OPIc avatar, test format, and type of questions. (Login and Password: leave blank)
  2. Continue speaking to fill the time allotted, even if you rephrase, re-word, or correct something you have already said. You only have the potential for an Intermediate or higher rating if you have a long enough speech sample. Short speech samples may not meet the criteria for a rating above Novice.
  3. The content of your actual responses or opinions will not in any way affect your rating. Only your ability to express yourself in the language is being evaluated. You need not respond truthfully to the tasks. Feel free to use your imagination to show what you can do with the language.
  4. You may be given situations with which you have no personal experience or do not know the best answer. This is not a test of logic. You are only being evaluated on your ability to use the language. Feel free to make up an answer or a string of answers to keep speaking. Be sure to elaborate on your answers to fill the time allotted and show how well you can use the language.
    • Example question: "You buy a new car or truck, and when you get home, you realize it won't fit in your garage. What do you do?"
    • Example answers: Laugh. Cry. Build an extension on the garage. Try to return the vehicle. Cut off the bumper. Call your friends and invite them to bring the food and beverages for your I'm-An-Idiot party.