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State Personnel Management Manual
Advisory Memorandum # 97-05

1210 Types of Tests
(Oral Proficiency Test: Spanish)
September 5, 1997



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.

The Test:

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 Policy Section.

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 3.

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 state.

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 be appointed.

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 examiner.

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) 457-5206.

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