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Did the SLE format change?

Did the SLE format change?

The Canadian Second Language Evaluation (SLE) is a benchmark for language proficiency in the Canadian public service sector. However, just as the government frequently updates laws and policies, the SLE itself is periodically changed and updated. This includes changes to test formats, questions within the tests, adaptation to new testing methods, and different administration policies.

The SLE’s Origins and Establishment

The SLE was introduced to support the Official Languages Act, enacted in 1969, which formalized Canada’s commitment to supporting and respecting English and French as the country’s two official languages.

Original Format of the Tests

The original SLE comprised mainly traditional paper-based tests, focusing on reading and writing competencies. Oral proficiency was gauged during an in-person interview with a test assessor who asked strategic questions and had candidates listen to recordings to deliver a response.

The SLE Test Today

SLE reading, writing, and oral tests are all conducted online, with some exceptions to accommodate accessibility. Oral tests are conducted during a virtual conference and are conversational.

Changes to the SLE

Over the years, the SLE has undergone countless revisions, adapting to new methodologies, emergency needs, and technological advancements. A lot has changed with the SLE because of the pandemic.

The SLE is now almost exclusively administered remotely, apart from some notable exceptions due to accessibility.

Unsupervised testing

In October 2022, the PSC launched its Candidate Assessment Tool (CAT), enabling departments and agencies to administer remote, unsupervised second language tests for the Test of Reading Comprehension and Test of Written Expression. These tests are now known as the Unsupervised Test of Reading Comprehension and the Unsupervised Test of Written Expression.

The new unsupervised tests vary in question type and number. (See tables below)

Test of Written Expression

Supervised Unsupervised
  • 65 multiple-choice questions (only 55 count towards your score).             
    • 10 are pilot questions
  • Two question types:
    • Fill-in-the-blank
    • Error identification
  • 90-minute time cap
  • 30 multiple choice questions
  • Only fill-in-the-blank
  • 45-minute time cap


Test of Reading Comprehension

Supervised Unsupervised
  • 60 multiple-choice questions (only 50 count towards your score)
    • 10 are pilot questions
  • Two question types:
    • Choose the best word or group of words to insert in the blank
    • Answer a question about the text
  • 90-minute time cap
  • 25 multiple-choice questions
  • Only answering questions about the text
  • 45-minute time cap


The OLA replaces the Test of Oral Proficiency

The Oral Language Assessment (OLA) is an online SLE test developed and released in April 2021 to help departments and agencies staff bilingual positions. The OLA follows an interview format and replaces the Test of Oral Proficiency and the temporary second language interviews added in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Test of Oral Proficiency required candidates to answer various questions, listen to recordings, and make a short presentation after some preparation time. Now, the OLA flows more like a conversation, with assessors flowing conversations with questions aimed at first determining Level A and then progressing to more complex questions to elicit responses for Level B and Level C.

Frequently Asked Questions

Did the oral second language test format change?

Yes. In April 2021, the Public Service Commission phased out the Test of Oral Proficiency, which was divided into four sections, with recordings and a presentation. The Canadian government replaced it with the interview-based Oral Language Assessment, which flows like a conversation.

Did the SLE writing test change?

The Public Service Commission of Canada released a new unsupervised format of the Test of Written Expression in October 2022, which is being widely used by agencies and departments. The supervised version of the test is still available, however.

Is there a new SLE reading test?

The Public Service Commission of Canada released a new unsupervised format of the Test of Reading Comprehension in October 2022. While unsupervised tests have become the most popular test style, the supervised version is still available.