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Proficiency Testing

Proficiency testing is required of all Arabic Flagship students at least once per year. This testing is usually scheduled in early October and covers all 4 skills- reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Oral Proficiency Interviews (OPIs) and writing exams will be scheduled during the following week.

Reading and Listening Exam

UMD uses a test designed by the Arabic Flagship Program at the University of Texas in Austin to test reading and listening skills. This exam usually lasts around 6 hours, with breaks between each section. Breakfast and lunch will be provided during the exam day. Studying is not necessary, but if you want to practice your skills, check out our resources page for ideas.

Oral Proficiency Interviews (OPIs)

Your OPI will be conducted over the phone with a certified OPI tester. The call will last 20-30 minutes and is designed to test your spoken Arabic.  Your examiner will ask you questions, much like a conversation, and you may answer using MSA, dialect, or a mixture of both.  Please note that ideally, you would use what is most appropriate for the question – for example, if making routine conversation, dialect may be most appropriate, but if answering a question about literature, a more formal register (MSA) would be better.  Good advice is to use the Arabic that you feel comfortable with to the best of your ability.

The questions you will be asked are designed to let you showcase your Arabic grammar, vocabulary and fluency.  Your OPI may also include a short role-play (for example, you could be told that “your car breaks down and you ask someone for help, what do you say?”)  If you are asked a question that you consider too personal or do not wish to answer, please let the examiner know and they will ask a different question.  The questions will become progressively more difficult as the interview goes on, until you can no longer answer well.  Please do not worry about this – this is normal.  This lets the tester set a ‘floor’ and ‘ceiling’ for your language skills.

Although you won't know what questions and scenarios your tester will ask, you can prepare for your OPI by taking some time beforehand to prepare some topics that you would like to discuss with your tester and practicing the relevant vocabulary for those topics. Your tester will usually ask you to introduce yourself in the beginning of your exam, and this is your time to mention things you are interested in like hobbies, your academic major, or future career plans. The tester will then ask you follow up questions about the topics you have mentioned. Remember, this is a test of your Arabic skills, not a real interview. So feel free to leave things out or make up stories depending on what you want to talk about! Perhaps you hate to cook, but know a lot of great food and kitchen vocabulary. Your OPI is a great time to show that off, and you can have fun pretending you are an avid chef. On the same note, if you have a deep love of surfing, but don't know any of the appropriate vocabulary, you might want to leave out that detail about yourself.

For more details and information, check out this Power Point from our OPI Workshop with Dr. Glanville:


Writing Exam

The writing exam is designed by our own Arabic team here at UMD. You will be given a choice of prompts and will have 60 minutes to write your essay. We recommend that you take a few minutes to outline your thoughts before beginning to write. This exam will take place in our Susquehanna computer lab, so be sure you have some practice with typing on an Arabic keyboard and feel comfortable with the PC Arabic layout. If you want to work on your typing, check out our resources page for websites with typing games and competitions.

Scores and Expected Outcomes

It is important to remember that each individual test score is only a snapshot of your abilities. As you take more tests, you will be able to follow the overall trend of your progression in Arabic. To help you understand your test scores, please see the chart below of expected proficiency levels for each year:

More information about these scores can be found on the ACTFL website.

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