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How to Score a CBC or CCC?

How to Score a CBC or CCC?

CBC and CCC levels on the Second Language Evaluation (SLE) are the standard profiles for public service positions. This is LRDG’s guide to achieving Level Cs and your CCC & CBC results.

The path to mastery is often longer and more demanding than the path to becoming a beginner or intermediate. This is reflected in many skills and disciplines and holds true for those mastering French or English and seeking their Level Cs on Canada’s Second Language Evaluation (SLE).

For many language learners, earning Level A and Level B on the SLE reading, writing, and oral tests may come naturally or with very little investment. However, these same candidates may find that increasing their proficiency to Level C is more challenging and will require targeted and intentional preparation.

LRDG has helped more than 50,000 learners increase their bilingual proficiency. Here is our complete “travelers guide” to helping you secure those coveted CBC and CCC profiles.


What is the SLE Test?

The SLE bilingual test is Canada’s official language assessment to gauge proficiency in French or English.

Candidates can earn a few different results when taking second language tests for reading, writing, and oral communication. These scores include levels A, B, or C.

  • Level A (beginner) is the lowest level
  • Level B (intermediate) is the widest range where most candidates reach
  • Level C (advanced) is the highest level

The results of SLE tests combine into a three-letter profile and reflect the proficiency a candidate has in a second language, specifically in workplace communication.

Individuals can additionally be assigned an X on an SLE test if they do not meet the requirements for Level A. There are also opportunities to achieve an E and be exempt from future testing if a candidate earns a high enough score.

Code P can also be required in a profile for a position requiring technical or specialized language skills in French and English. Roles that may require Code P include professional writing, dictation, editing, translation, interpretation, teaching, and testing.

The Importance of SLE Score

A bilingual position in the Canadian government will have a three-letter linguistic profile included in its job description. To qualify for and keep that position, an individual must earn the target levels.

An agency’s management sets a position’s SLE profile, and it will indicate the required French and English language proficiency for the position in reading, writing, and speech.

For example, the profile “CBC” may be included in a job description. This means the applicant or employee must earn and maintain a C level in reading comprehension, a B level in written expression, and a C level in oral communication.

A dash “-” may be used in a profile when a skill is not required.

A “CBC/CBC” profile in a job description means that an individual whose first language is French must achieve and maintain an SLE profile of CBC or higher in English. If the candidate’s first language is English, they must achieve a CBC in French.

Levels Required Before or After Hiring?

An agency or department determines the timing requirements for when a job candidate must achieve SLE results.

Depending on duties and responsibilities, a bilingual position can be imperative or non-imperative.

  • Imperative roles require a candidate to have or obtain a prescribed second language profile upon hiring.
  • Non-imperative positions allow employees to earn the required levels within two years.

The imperative appointment process is the norm, while the non-imperative process is the exception.

How to Prepare for SLE Tests

To properly prepare for an SLE exam, candidates should be familiar with the test format, how the test will be administered, the styles of questions, and the permitted amount of time to finish.

For official resources, learners should directly reference testing information from the Public Services Commission’s website.

Consult a respective test administrator or human resource manager to confirm which SLE tests and formats are required.

How to earn CBC and CCC on the SLE French Test

To understand how to improve SLE test results, candidates need to understand SLE levels are cumulative, meaning they build off each other.

Test of Reading Comprehension
Source: Public Service Commission of Canada (March 2023)
Level B Level C
Requires comprehension of most descriptive or factual material on work-related topics. Requires comprehension of text dealing with a wide variety of work-related topics.
A person reading at this level can:

  • grasp the main idea of most work-related texts,
  • identify specific details,
  • distinguish between primary and secondary ideas.
A person reading at this level can:

  • understand most complex details, inferences, and fine points of meaning,
  • and demonstrate good comprehension of specialized or less familiar material.
Level Scores
Supervised: 28 to 37

Unsupervised: 14 to 18

Supervised: 38 to 44

Unsupervised: 19 to 25


Supervised reading tests have a max of 90 minutes and must correctly answer 38 out of 50 questions (76%) to earn a Level C. A score of 45 or higher can earn an “E.”

There are types of multiple choice questions on the supervised reading test:

  • Choose the best word or group of words to insert in the blank
  • Answer a question about the text

Unsupervised reading tests are 45 minutes and candidates must correctly answer 19 out of 25 multiple-choice questions (at least 76%) to earn a Level C. The unsupervised reading test only requires candidates to choose the correct answer about a text.

Score a Level B on the SLE Writing Test

Earning a Level A on the Test of Written Expression means a candidate can handle basic communication, but Level B takes it up a notch.

The Level A candidate can write simple phrases, isolated words, and brief notes. They can fill out forms, note simple messages, and complete a table of contents. A Level A writer makes spelling errors, but getting simple information communicated accurately is what really matters.

Level B candidates write more descriptively, not just listing items but also being able to include accurate details, short descriptions, and brief comments.

Test of Written Expression
Source: Public Service Commission of Canada (March 2023)
Level A Level B
Ability to write very limited units of information. Ability to write short descriptive or factual texts.
A person at this level can write isolated words, phrases, simple statements or questions on very familiar topics using words of time, place or person. A person at this level can deal with information on work-related topics since they have sufficient vocabulary and grammar proficiency.
Level Scores
Supervised: 20 to 30

Unsupervised: 11 to 16

Supervised: 31 to 42

Unsupervised: 17 to 23


Preparing for the Test of Written Expression — Level B

Supervised Written Expression tests have a 90-minute time cap and require candidates to score at least 31 out of 55 multiple-choice questions (56%) to achieve a Level B.

  • There are two question types on the supervised writing test:
  • Fill in the blank
  • Error identification

Unsupervised writing tests are up to 45 minutes and require a score of at least 17 out of 30 fill-in-the-blank questions (56%) to earn a Level B.

Written Expression – Achieving Level C

The individual writing at Level C proficiency can add explanations and detailed descriptions where they can develop ideas and present them coherently.

Level C writers can communicate based on informal or formal contexts, require few corrections, and use the appropriate tone and meaning.

Test of Written Expression
Source: Public Service Commission of Canada (March 2023)
Level B Level C
Ability to write short descriptive or factual texts. Ability to write explanations or descriptions in various informal and formal work-related situations.
A person at this level can deal with information on work-related topics since they have sufficient vocabulary and grammar proficiency. A person at this level can write texts in which the ideas are developed and presented coherently and in which vocabulary, grammar, and spelling are generally appropriate and require few corrections.
Level Scores
Supervised: 31 to 42

Unsupervised: 17 to 23

Supervised: 43 to 51

Unsupervised: 24 to 30

Preparing for the Test of Written Expression — Level C

To earn a Level C on the supervised written test, candidates have 90 minutes to answer at least 43 out of 55 multiple choice questions correctly (78%). Candidates can earn an exemption (“E”) on future testing with 52 correct answers.

There are two question types on the supervised writing test:
Fill in the blank
Error identification

Unsupervised writing tests are up to 45 minutes and require a candidate to score 24 out of 30 (80%) fill-in-the-blank questions to earn a Level C.

French Oral Exam Preparation — Level C

To move beyond Level B to Level C on the Oral Language Assessment (OLA), a candidate must demonstrate the ability to comfortably discuss abstract thoughts, communicate cause and effect, generalize, and elaborate on hypothetical situations.

The core distinctions between a Level B speaker and a Level C speaker lie in the complexity of topics they can handle, the fluency and spontaneity of their speech, and the extent of their vocabulary and grammatical control.


Oral Language Assessment
Source: Public Service Commission of Canada (October 2023)
Level B Level C
Understands the main points of clear, standard speech that deals with concrete, work-related topics and is delivered at normal speed. Understands linguistically complex speech that deals with work-related topics and is spoken in standard dialect at normal speed.
A person speaking at this level can:

  • give a simple description of a concrete topic,
  • explain the main points comprehensibly,
  • compare and discuss alternatives when complications arise,
  • speak with some spontaneity, although pauses for grammatical and lexical planning and repair are evident in longer stretches.
A person speaking at this level can:

  • give clear, detailed descriptions of complex topics,
  • summarize a discussion,
  • express and sustain opinions,
  • respond to complex and hypothetical questions.
A person speaking at this level:

  • has sufficient vocabulary and a variety of simple grammatical structures to handle concrete, non-routine situations, and topics and can link a series of simple elements into a connected sequence when giving a factual description,
  • may be miscommunicating in some areas, but most stretches are clear,
  • has a pronunciation that is generally clear enough to be understood, despite an evident accent from another language,
  • will, at times, be asked by the listener to repeat or clarify.
A person speaking at this level:

  • has a fairly natural and even delivery, with occasional hesitations, but most hesitations are for ideas,
  • has a broad range of vocabulary and structures when talking about complex and abstract topics, with a relatively high degree of control,
  • makes errors, but these rarely lead to misunderstandings,
  • has a pronunciation that is clear, even if an accent from another language is noticeable,
  • has occasional mispronunciations but they rarely interfere with communication.


Government of Canada French Oral Test Questions

The SLE oral test is a 20- to 40-minute interview-styled assessment conducted with a live test evaluator from the Public Service Commission of Canada.

The PSC evaluator guides the test candidate’s through the assessment in a question-response conversation in their second language. The candidate simply answers the questions to the best of their ability.

French Oral Test Questions

Oral test assesors will ask more difficult as the interview session progresses.

The test begins with simple, probing questions about work or other common activities, which allow an assessor to determine if a candidate can demonstrate Level A skills.

The test then develops into questions where candidates can demonstrate Level B and Level C proficiency.

Here are the types of questions that may be asked on the test:

  • Tell me about yourself and your experience in the field.
  • Can you describe your last job and the tasks you had to perform?
  • How do you manage stress at work?
  • Describe a situation where you had to solve a complex problem while working in a team.
  • How do you establish effective relationships with your colleagues?
  • Can you talk about challenges you have faced in your career and how you overcame them?
  • How do you adapt to new technologies and changes in your work environment?
  • Describe a situation where you had to make a difficult decision. How did you approach it?
  • How do you see your career evolving in the future?
  • Why do you want to work for the Canadian government?

Oral Test Answers

In the Oral Language Assessment, an evaluator assigns a level A or C in five criteria. This includes:

  • Fluency
  • Comprehension
  • Vocabulary
  • Grammar
  • Pronunciation

To earn a Level C on the OLA test, a learner must achieve a Level C in at least four of the five categories.

LRDG’s experts have observed that an overal Level C on the oral test typically means a candidate has also received a Level C in fluency. However, many successful candidates receive Level C on the oral test with a Level B in grammar.

Key Distinctions of Level C & Level B on Oral Test

Level B Level C
Concrete, real Abstract
Recounting an event Elaborating on a hypothetical situation
Description, enumeration Explanation, elaboration
Purpose, consequences
Cause and effect



Candidates seeking a Level C on the OLA must demonstrate strong fluency in their second language. However, fluency in the SLE means having a natural, consistent flow, not necessarily speaking fast.

To achieve Level C in fluency, candidates must:

  • Have a consistent flow regardless of the subject matter.
  • Keep and maintain a confident and engaged tone.
  • Avoid pauses when searching for specific words or attempting a complex grammatical response. (Pausing is okay when gathering ideas!)
  • Express themselves with spontaneity, autonomy, and fluidity;
  • Complete long sentences with ease.

Remember: A Level C in fluency is required to earn an overall Level C.


Level C speakers must demonstrate they can decipher and understand questions and respond to them appropriately.

Candidates taking the OLA should listen carefully to their test assessor, waiting for them to complete statements rather than anticipating what the question might be. Answers that are not relevant to the topic or the question can indicate a lack of listening skills.


Vocabulary is among the three most difficult criteria for candidates, as they may struggle with breadth and precision. The other two difficult criteria are grammar and fluency.

A candidate should use a variety of vocabulary to be clear and as precise as possible while maintaining a natural flow. Repetition of the same lexicon, numerous hesitations, constant pauses to “look up a word,” and direct translations can indicate weaknesses in vocabulary.

Precision in vocabulary is paramount. For example, the word “child” can be too broad in some scenarios. It could be beneficial to use other words that offer more specific information, such as “newborn,” “baby,” “infant,” or “teenager.”

Hint: Don’t speak exactly as you would write. Not all written words, phrases, or expressions translate well into a professional conversation.


The ability to leverage a variety of grammatical techniques can demonstrate a certain mastery of a language as well as help keep speech in a natural flow.

Candidates must be able to recognize what is being asked during oral assessment questions and respond in an appropriate structure. This means you ​​should be able to use various verb conjugations, gerunds, pronouns, and comparative and superlative forms in their responses.


The importance of pronunciation is to ensure that a candidate can be understood when they speak. Even if there are minor errors in pronunciation, the important thing is that the message is clear.

Only pronunciation is assessed, not accent.


Master Second Language Skills with LRDG

Over the past two decades, LRDG has helped 50,000 learners improve their language skills while achieving an industry-leading 90% success rate on the Second Language Evaluation Tests.

Our online language learning platform connects learners with:

  • Hundreds of professional tutorsPersonalized learning paths
  • Flexible scheduling
  • One-on-one & group sessions
  • Government-approved SLE Training
  • Unlimited access to a library of training modules & materials prepared by experts

LRDG can help you master your second language and earn your SLE levels faster and on your first try. Contact us today to begin your journey.

Book a Call

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the SLE levels?

  • Level A: Beginner
  • Level B: Intermediate
  • Level C: Advanced
  • E: Exempt from future testing
  • X: Does not meet Level A requirements
  • P: Technical or specialized language skills

What distinguishes Level C from Level B in reading?

In Second Language Evaluations (SLE) Level C readers can understand complex details, inferences, and specialized material, while Level B readers grasp the main ideas and specific details of work-related texts.

What score is needed for Level C on the Test of Reading Comprehension?

For a supervised test, at least 38 out of 50 questions. For an unsupervised test, 19 out of 25 questions.

What distinguishes Level C from Level B in writing?

Level C writing in the SLE exhibits more complexity, sophisticated expression, and advanced organization than Level B. It also features a wider range of vocabulary and grammatical structures. Level B writing is clear and accurate but less complex, with simpler organization and expression.

What score is required for Level C in the Test of Written Expression?

For a supervised test, at least 43 out of 55 questions. For an unsupervised test, 24 out of 30 questions.

How is the Oral Language Assessment (OLA) scored?

An evaluator assigns a level (A, B, C) based on fluency, comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. A minimum of 4 out of 5 categories must be at Level C to earn an overall Level C, with fluency being a compulsory C.

What is the difference between Level C and Level B in the oral language assessment?

Level C in the SLE Oral Language Assessment indicates a more advanced proficiency, including natural flow, complex grammar, varied vocabulary, and a clear ability to discuss abstract topics effectively. Level B represents a intermediate proficiency where individuals can converse on familiar topics with some errors and pauses but generally maintain clear communication.