NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL SERVICE
State Personnel Management Manual
Advisory Memorandum # 97-05
|1210 Types of
(Oral Proficiency Test: Spanish)
DECENTRALIZATION OF THE
ORAL PROFICIENCY TEST: SPANISH
This Advisory Memorandum describes uniform policies and procedures for
agencies and Civil Service staff to use in testing candidates for Spanish
language proficiency. In most cases, the information does not change what
is currently being done to provide these tests. Specifically, the Department
of Civil Service retains responsibility for the certification of examiners
and the format of the oral test. These responsibilities will be administered
by the Policy and Program Analysis Section of the Staffing Services Division.
All questions concerning this test should be directed to the Policy Section
at (518) 457-5206. Agencies have responsibility for providing the information
necessary to determine the level of language proficiency required, arranging
for the test through an in-house certified examiner or through a certified
examiner-consultant, and maintaining the necessary test materials and
records. Testing can be conducted for an entire eligible list, or on an
as-needed basis. The honorarium for an outside examiner-consultant must
be paid by the hiring agency.
In addition, this memorandum establishes a requirement that Civil Service
be informed of the results of all Spanish proficiency tests which are
conducted. This requirement ensures the quality of testing, and permits
the maintenance of a database of tested candidates and their level of
achieved Spanish language proficiency so that repeated testing of the
same candidate is not required. The database, which is maintained by the
Policy Section, will include the results of tests held by all state agencies
and local governments.
Most agencies having titles requiring Spanish language proficiency tests
are already familiar with the test and process. Typically, candidates
are tested via telephone or face-to-face in the hiring agency's offices
with personnel staff serving as administrators/monitors. The test is designed
for determining candidates' proficiency at three different levels, as
explained below. An oral test packet, consisting of instructions for conducting
the Spanish language oral test as well as the test materials needed by
the administrator/monitor, examiner, and candidate is available from the
All examiners must be certified by Civil Service. The certification process
consists of demonstrating advanced proficiency in the Spanish language
as well as training in how to conduct the oral test. Agencies choosing
to designate an in-house examiner must check with the Policy Section to
determine if the individual is already certified or to request that Civil
Service make arrangements for certification. If you choose to hire an
outside examiner on an as-needed basis you should call the Policy Section
for the name of a certified examiner.
At the examination scope conference, the level of language proficiency
required for the title is identified and established and will remain the
same for all positions within the Ube. The level of proficiency depends
on the Spanish language functions typically performed on
the job. The three levels of language proficiency and corresponding examples
of Spanish language functions that describe each level are:
Level 1: This lowest level of skill tested is for titles requiring a
relatively limited proficiency to conduct simple routine social conversations
in an understandable manner making introductions, providing basic information
about the surroundings, handling routine phone calls, or assisting others
in filling out routine English language forms. The title Clerk 1 (Spanish
Language) has been designated as Level 1.
Level 2: This skill level requires proficiency in conducting smooth understandable
conversation, or reading correspondence, official documents, and forms
to obtain accurate information. Incumbents might be required to compose
relatively simple and brief letters and memos for a variety of purposes,
to explain rules or regulations, or to discuss a problem. Some clerical,
paraprofessional, and safety and security titles have been designated
as Level 2.
Level 3: This skill level requires advanced proficiency as indicated
by a good control of grammar, a relatively large and diverse vocabulary,
and accurate communication in a variety of professional and social contexts.
The title might require such activities as: leading group activities,
conducting meetings or training classes; or administering formal tests,
inventories or questionnaires including evaluating and rating the responses.
Incumbents might be required to prepare reports explaining relatively
complex rules, regulations and procedures or to conduct interviews to
clarify values, evaluate resources, or decide on a course of action. Titles
with Spanish language parenthetics such as Personnel Administrator, Correction
Counselor, Social Worker and Psychiatrist have been designated as Level
The oral proficiency test is a single test with successful candidates
receiving a rating placing them at one of the above three oral proficiency
levels, as demonstrated during the test. It is possible for a candidate
to fail the proficiency test entirely (not demonstrating minimum ability
at Level 1), as well as not demonstrating a level of proficiency sufficient
to qualify for a particular title. The examiner uses a standardized rating
sheet to score each candidate; along with the taped record, this is used
for review of a test when necessary.
Candidates who fail to demonstrate the level of proficiency determined
for the title will remain restricted on the language parenthetic eligible
list. Retests may be granted six months after the last testing. Retesting
of a candidate is not automatic; it must come at the request of the candidate
and agencies are only obligated to conduct a retest if and when they are
actively canvassing the eligible list.
Candidates who do not achieve the proficiency level required for the
title may receive a copy of the examiners rating sheet Appeal of ratings
will not be allowed as the opportunity for retest exists.
Agencies should designate an individual from the Personnel Office staff
to be the administrator in charge of the entire Spanish Language Oral
Test program for the agency. As necessary, the administrator may designate
"monitors* to conduct the oral test in various locations throughout
The administrator should call the Policy Section at (518) 457-5206 for
the oral test packet, which is designed to be reused; test materials are
photocopied on an as needed basis. The test packet is considered security
material and must be stored in a secure manner.
Before scheduling the test call the Policy Section in Civil Service to
determine if the candidate has already passed the test at the established
proficiency level. If the candidate has passed at the appropriate level,
or a higher level, the oral test should be waived and the individual may
All test materials will be maintained in the Personnel Office by the
designated agency administrator.
To designate an in-house examiner, call the Policy Section to ensure
that the examiner has been certified by Civil Service or to make arrangements
for certifying and training the agency designee. To hire an outside examiner-consultant
on an as needed basis, call the Policy section for the name of a certified
The monitor is responsible for greeting the candidate, verifying the
identity of the candidate using photo ID, completing the pre-examination
administration materials, observing the candidate during the administration
of the test, and making a tape recording of the test.
The Personnel Office notifies the candidate and Civil Service in writing
of the test results. The oral test packet contains various sample letters
and a Civil Service form for use in accomplishing this. It is the agency's
responsibility to send copies of the Examiner's Rating Sheet to candidates
who did not qualify if they make such a request. Qualifying candidates
do not have the right to review their rating sheet. A candidate's rating
sheet and tape must be maintained in the Personnel Office for two years
after the test is held.
The Department of Civil Service will accept a PR-75 submitted with an
attestation that the individual has been successful at the appropriate
level of the oral test.
At present, the honorarium for outside examiner-consultants working on
an as-needed basis is set at $35 per candidate tested.
If you have any questions about the conduct of the test or test materials,
please call the Policy Section at the Department of Civil Service at (518)