Oral Proficiency Examination
Once candidates complete the orientation workshop and pass the written exam, they are eligible to take an oral proficiency exam.
For foreign language interpreters, the type and format of this performance test depends on the language they interpret, and whether a full, abbreviated or no oral proficiency exam is available in their language. Candidates who interpret more than one language must take an oral performance exam in each language. Those who interpret in languages with no full or abbreviated exam must pass an Oral Proficiency Interview at the superior level and the Versant Spoken English language test. Sign language interpreters are exempt from the oral exam requirement, but must provide evidence that they passed a RID or NAD proficiency test relevant for legal interpreting as defined by the Court Administrator and the regulations.
Candidates cannot register for an oral exam until they receive the results of the written exam. Once candidates pass the written exam, they are mailed a registration form for the oral exam. Candidates may choose from the dates listed in the interpreter program calendar. Those taking abbreviated oral exams are advised which sections of the test are available to take.
State residents are required to pay a fee of $100 for the simultaneous portion and $150 for the consecutive and sight portions. Non-residents are required to pay $125 and $175, respectively. To learn more about the oral exam and to prepare for the test, candidates should read the Overview of the Oral Performance Examination.
Full Proficiency Exam
Languages: Arabic (Egyptian and Levantine), Cantonese, French, Haitian-Creole, Hmong, Ilocano, Khmer, Korean, Laotian, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese
The full proficiency exam consists of three parts: simultaneous, consecutive and sight. Interpreters working in languages for which there is a full oral proficiency exam must take and pass all three parts. In Pennsylvania, the exam is administered in two parts: the simultaneous part is administered first followed by the consecutive and sight parts on a separate date.
Candidates listen through headphones to a recording of a simulated attorney's opening or closing argument; a colloquy between a judge, the attorneys or another party; or a cross-examination of a witness. The candidate then interprets aloud what he or she hears over the headset. This mode of interpreting simulates common situations interpreters encounter in courtrooms while interpreting for defendants during procedural hearings and trials. The statement is approximately 800 to 850 words in length, is recorded at an approximate speed of 120 words per minute and is about seven minutes long.
Candidates interpret English language statements into a foreign language and foreign language responses into English. The candidate must wait until the speaker finishes speaking before delivering the interpretation. The segments are pre-recorded and the candidate may ask to have two of the segments repeated.
Candidates are asked to interpret a document from English into the foreign language and another from the foreign language into English. Each document is approximately 225 words in length and the candidate is given six minutes to interpret each document.
Abbreviated Proficiency Exam
Languages: Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, Marshallese and Turkish
Candidates must take the simultaneous portion of the exam first. If one does not exist, candidates must take the portions that are available, either consecutive, sight or both. The scores of any passed part of the exam can be carried for a maximum of two years. The same version of the test can be taken a maximum of two times and cannot be retaken more than once in a six months period.
Languages with No Proficiency Exam
When a full or abbreviated proficiency exam does not exist in the candidate’s language, candidates are required to take an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) and the Versant Spoken English language test no later than six months after passing the written examination. Candidates in this category must also agree to take and pass a full or abbreviated oral proficiency exam in their foreign language when available.
The OPI was developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), for evaluating the language communication skills of speakers of foreign languages and is administered by Language Testing International (LTI). There are over 120 languages available.
During the interview, expert raters evaluate the candidate’s foreign language skills during a telephone interview. Candidates travel to a location with secure access to a phone line where they are required to provide a valid government issued photo ID and other verifying information. During the interview, the rater assesses the language skills and fluency level of the candidates in their language. Candidates must perform at the superior level. Results are reported back to the ICP and the candidate.
Candidates must also pass the Versant Spoken English language test. This test evaluates the spoken English skills of non-native speakers. It is administered in the same manner as the OPI. Candidates travel to a location with secure access to a phone line and after verifying their identity, the test is administered over the phone. The test is automated and the candidate’s responses are recorded. The test is approximately 15 minutes long and tests six areas: reading, sentence construction, vocabulary, fluency, pronunciation, and overall comprehension. The minimum passing score is 47.
Oral Proficiency Interviews and Versant Spoken English language tests are scheduled after candidates pass the written exam or as they become necessary. Both will be administered on the same day. Both are offered at specific locations on weekdays during business hours in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, or Pittsburgh. Candidates receive more information and a registration form after completing the written exam. The cost of the OPI is currently $139 and the Versant English Test is $39.95. Candidates who fail the OPI and the Versant English test must wait six months before retaking either one of the tests.
If I fail any part of the oral proficiency exam, can I take it again?
Languages with full oral proficiency exam
Candidates who fail the simultaneous portion of the exam may retake the test again but they must wait at least six months before attempting to retake the test. Candidates that pass the simultaneous portion but fail the consecutive or sight portions must retake whichever part they failed within one year. Candidates must pass all three parts of the oral proficiency exam within two years of the date they passed the simultaneous portion, which is equivalent to one testing cycle. The testing cycle requirement is not triggered until the candidate passes the simultaneous part of the exam.
Languages with abbreviated oral proficiency exam
When candidates fail the simultaneous part of the exam, they must wait at least six months to retake it again. In addition, they must complete the remaining parts within one year of the date they passed the simultaneous portion. They must take whatever parts are available within one testing cycle. The testing cycle requirement is not triggered until the candidate passes at least one of the available exam parts.
Sign Language Requirements
After passing the multiple-choice part of the written exam, sign language interpreters must comply with the following requirements in place of an oral examination:
- Be certified by the Register of Interpreters for the Dead (RID) or the National Association for the Deaf (NAD).
- Provide proof of RID or NAD certifications, including a copy of certificates and a valid proof of active membership or a letter from RID or NAD certifying the results of the proficiency exam and status.
- Hold a relevant RID or NAD certificate for legal interpretation as determined by the Court Administrator and the regulations.
- Be registered and in good standing with Pennsylvania's Office for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH)
If you require special accommodation because of a disability recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), please print and complete the Request for Accommodation and Document of Accommodation forms and mail them with your registration form. Every effort is made to accommodate reasonable requests.