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Language Testing Frequently Asked Questions


For Clients

Language proficiency testing evaluates how well a candidate can use language to communicate orally (listening and speaking test) and/or in writing (written test).

  • Listening/Speaking: The listening and speaking test assesses a candidate’s proficiency in oral communication. The ALTA Listening and Speaking Proficiency Test consists of several pools of prompts, with each pool targeting a specific objective (e.g. describing future plans). For this test, candidates will be speaking aloud in response to oral discussion prompts.
  • Writing: The writing test assesses a candidate’s proficiency in written communication. The ALTA Writing Proficiency Test consists of several pools of prompts designed to elicit writing samples in a variety of styles and forms. For this test, candidates will be reading prompts and responding to them in writing.
  • Translation: The translation test assesses a candidate’s ability to convey the meaning of a source language text in another language. The ALTA Translation Proficiency Test consists of three passages that encompass several topics (e.g. news article, business). The translation of the first passage is required. The candidate then chooses to translate either the second or third passage. For this test, candidates will be reading prompts and translating them in writing.
  • Interpretation: The interpretation test assesses the ability of a candidate to facilitate the oral communication between users of different languages. The ALTA Interpretation Test consists in a dialog specific to a professional field (e.g. medical) that the candidate must interpret. For this test, candidates will be listening to speakers and then orally interpreting the conversation.
  • Reading Comprehension: The reading comprehension test assesses the ability of a candidate to understand the main idea of a text as well as stated and implied details. The ALTA Reading Comprehension Test consists of a series of passages with multiple choice questions. For this test, candidates will be required to read passages and respond to multiple choice questions about the content of the passage.

ALTA has off-the-shelf tests for specific industries like: healthcare providers, law enforcement (police patrol), behavioral health, dentists and hygienists, and document reviewers. ALTA develops new industry-specific tests on an ongoing basis to meet the needs of any organization or industry.

Many of ALTA’s clients want a general test to place the skills of their candidates on a language performance scale. A standard off-the-shelf test typically meets this need.

For other clients who have needs that go beyond our standard test offerings, the ALTA team will identify the language skills and specific terminology necessary to perform the tasks. This process involves interviews, document collection, development of a customized test, and beta-testing of incumbents currently performing the job in order to determine the job’s requirements from a language standpoint. By defining the requirements for a job in quantifiable terms, an organization can use language testing results as part of the selection process and have a defensible basis for where the pass-fail line is placed when testing is done.

Imagine your organization needs to hire several customer service representatives who can handle questions from your Spanish speaking customers. The candidate’s ability to communicate effectively in Spanish is a key function of the job, but how will you ensure that the individuals you hire speak the language they say they speak? How will you ensure they are at the level of proficiency required for the task? Language testing provides an objective, standardized way to ensure that language abilities are clearly measured, which is vital when they are a key function of the position.

An independent testing organization such as ALTA has no vested interest in the outcome of the tests. We have no incentive to pass or fail candidates because of other factors such as personality, a need to fill positions, or existing relationships. An independent testing organization instead focuses only on the candidate’s performance in using the language. We have a strong interest in maintaining our reputation for quality, and our emphasis is on using valid and reliable tests to properly rate the candidate’s performance. As a result, independent language testing gives the assurance that the testing is legally defensible.

The languages are listed here.

Yes. Some of our clients test candidates in two languages when the job requires both.

Once your organization is registered, you may schedule tests in one of two ways: (1) by email at [email protected] or (2) by telephone at 888.465.4648 (U.S. only) or 404-920-3817. Scheduling is done Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET except holidays. All oral live tests begin on the hour or half hour. Normally, common languages can be scheduled with a one-day lead time, and a two-day notice is generally required for the less common languages.

Yes. You may cancel or change your schedule if you let us know by 6:00 p.m. ET on the business day prior to the test. You will be charged the full price of the evaluation for tests not canceled before 6 p.m. ET on the previous business day.

Once your organization is registered, you will be provided with a password to access the ALTA portal ( Instructions to assign tests will be emailed to the persons authorized to access the portal.

The evaluator is a native speaker of the target language. For ALTA this means that the evaluator was born, raised, and educated at the university level in the target language culture. All ALTA evaluators are first-language speakers of the language they are testing. This eliminates any possibility that the person being tested would perform at a higher skill level than the evaluator. Each evaluator is trained using recorded audio sessions of real evaluation sessions from ALTA’s archive of thousands of oral language evaluations or using ALTA’s files of writing tests. The identity of the evaluators is confidential to prevent any chance of outside influence.

For Candidates

No. ALTA only provides testing for organizations.

The listening and speaking and interpretation tests with a live speaker are over the phone and are no more than 30 minutes. The automated listening and speaking lasts 40 minutes as some sample and practice questions are included to familiarize candidates with the system. The writing test is one hour as well as the reading test. The translation test is two hours.

Yes. We have practice tests and information about the assessments available here.

We recommend you take your test as soon as possible. The expiration date is in the notification email sent to you.

The information for accessing your test is in the notification email sent to you. This will be a link for online tests (“ALTA’s online portal”) or a phone number and access code to enter for telephone tests.

Look for the notification email sent by ALTA and click on the links: “ALTA’s online portal”, or “online”. You can also access the portal by going to Your user ID is your email address.

Once your account is created, you will use the same password each time you have a test to take. Click on “password assistance” if you do not remember your password.

The notification email sent to you will let you know if the session has been scheduled by your organization or if you need to go to the ALTA portal ( to do it. Follow the instructions in the notification email.

You will have your test in your comfort of your home, in a quiet place, without anyone around. A live proctor from ProctorU will watch you taking the test through a webcam. The documents attached to your notification email tell you more about the proctored session.

The link becomes active at the exact time of the scheduled test. Make sure to refresh the page at the time of the test, otherwise the link will not become active.

No. The test cannot be scheduled or taken at the ProctorU portal. Go to the ALTA portal ( to schedule and take your proctored test.

Candidates who have an automated proctored test will be given the access code by the proctor.

No. ALTA does not call candidates unless required by the organization. You will dial the phone number and use the access code provided to you by your organization in order to be connected to your test.

Call back the number right away. If your access code does not work, hold on the line for assistance.

An email will be sent to your organization to let them know you did not call for the test. You need to contact your organization to have the test rescheduled.

Please keep in mind that your access code will not work until 5 minutes before the time of your test. If you are calling at the scheduled time and your code seems to be invalid, remain on the line and a representative will assist you.

The results of your test are sent to your organization within a week. ALTA does NOT provide candidates with results or share results with other companies. The results belong to the organization that requested the test. You may ask them to release the results to you or to the other organization.

Please call: 1-888-465-4648 or email: [email protected] — Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET

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Questions? Call 888.624.6165 or fill out this form.

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