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The Ultimate Guide to SLE Test Prep

The Ultimate Guide to SLE Test Prep

The Canadian government requires public sector workers in bilingual positions to pass Second Language Evaluation (SLE) tests.

Not only does achieving advanced fluency results significantly improve someone’s job capabilities, but it makes them a more competitive candidate in Canada’s public sector, increasing their potential to secure higher-ranking and higher-earning jobs.

This blog will overview the critical aspects of SLE test prep to help learners. This includes:

  • SLE Test Structure & Format
  • Example Questions
  • Tips and Test-Taking Strategies


What’s on the Second Language Evaluation (SLE)?

The SLE is a three-part assessment designed to measure an individual’s reading, writing, and verbal communication fluency in Canada’s two official languages — English and French.

Each test results in an assessed level of A, B, or C — Level C being the highest possible. These results are used in a worker’s three-letter linguistic profile, such as “BBB” or “CBC,” and indicate which bilingual position a candidate is qualified for.

A worker’s linguistic profile reflects the scores achieved in:

    • Reading Comprehension
    • Written Expression; and
    • Oral Language Assessment.

Job descriptions will typically provide the minimum linguistic profile required for a position.

Correct SLE Resources

The most basic test preparation for the SLE is familiarity with the tests, the format used, how assessors evaluate them, and knowing what questions to expect. However, SLE test format and questions can vary depending on who is the administering agency and the test version.

While the Public Service Commission of Canada is the primary provider of SLE tests, certain third-party providers are also qualified to administer them. These third-party exams may differ in certain aspects, such as the number of questions and their style.

Official language tests can periodically change or be updated, too. So, it’s critical to consult a human resource manager, training supervisor, or hiring team to confirm which agency will administer a test and which version of the test will be offered.

Verifying test information will ensure candidates choose test prep resources that match their respective test.

Note: For this blog, we will only explore the PSC-administered tests.

Reading Comprehension

The Test of Reading Comprehension test evaluates a candidate’s ability to understand written texts effectively.

The reading test can be supervised or unsupervised and typically taken online. While the two versions are similar, supervised tests require a test session officer to be present.

For each question, candidates read a passage of text and make a multiple-choice selection in response. Questions on the reading test regard common workplace text scenarios on workplace-related topics, including:

  • Emails
  • Notes/memos
  • Letters
  • Information bulletins
  • Excerpts from reports
  • Research papers

Level Rubric

Level A — Limited Comprehension: The individual who reads at a Level A proficiency has a limited scope of reading comprehension and can:

  • Understand simple texts
  • Grasp main ideas on familiar topics

Level B — Comprehend Most Texts: Test takers who comprehend most descriptive and factual work-related texts can receive a Level B, which indicates they can:

  • Grasp the main ideas of work texts.
  • Recognize and understand specific details.
  • Decipher primary and secondary ideas.

Level C — Fluent reader: The test candidate who reads and understands texts on various work-related subjects can achieve a Level C. A person reading at this level can:

  • Understand complex details, inferences, and specific points of view.
  • Comprehend text passages on unfamiliar material.

Unsupervised Test of Reading Comprehension

The Unsupervised Test of Reading Comprehension is an abridged version of the SLE reading test conducted remotely. Candidates taking the unsupervised test have 45 minutes to answer 25 multiple-choice questions.

For each question, candidates will be asked to read a text and then asked a question about the content. Below the text will be several possible answers to the question, and the best answer should be selected.

Unsupervised Scoring
Level A: 9 to 13
Level B: 14 to 18
Level C: 19 to 25

Those scoring 0 to 8 receive an “X” classification, indicating they do not have the reading proficiency required for Level A. Unsupervised tests are not eligible for exemptions.

Test of Reading Comprehension (Supervised)

The supervised Test of Reading Comprehension is a 90-minute assessment with 60 questions. Candidates are assigned scores based on 50 questions. Ten unidentified questions in the test are pilot questions.

Each question will require an individual to read a passage of text, and choose from multiple-choice answers. There are two styles of questions on the supervised tests, including 1) requiring candidates to select the best word or phrase to fill in a blank and 2) choosing the most appropriate response to a prompt.

Supervised Scoring
Level A: 18 to 27
Level B: 28 to 37
Level C: 38 to 44

Scores of 17 and lower earn a candidate an “X,” indicating they do not meet the requirements for a Level A.

Supervised tests offer the opportunity to achieve an “E” status if the candidate scores 45 to 50 (equivalent to 90% or higher). This status indefinitely exempts someone from future retesting in the respective test.


SLE Reading Comprehension Practice Test Questions

Questions are from the Public Service Commission “Préparation à l’évaluation du français langue seconde: COMPRÉHENSION DE L’ÉCRIT 1 ET 2”

Question Type 1 — Fill in the blank

For this type of question, choose the best word or group of words to complete the sentence from among the four response options.

Example Question:
À : Aline Richer
De : Olivia Péréra
Objet : Remise de rapport

Je t’envoie par courriel le rapport trimestriel que tu m’avais demandé _________ (A). Il faut que tu m’envoies le plus vite possible tes commentaires. Nous avons avancé la réunion de demain après-midi. Elle _________ (B) à 10 h au lieu de 14 h.

Question 1
Choisissez le mot le plus approprié à insérer dans l’espace en blanc « A ».

  1. demain
  2. prochainement
  3. hier
  4. bientôt

Question 2
Choisissez l’expression la plus appropriée à insérer dans l’espace en blanc « B ».

  1. se tiendra
  2. sera planifiée
  3. sera annulée
  4. sera annoncée

Answer Key
Question 1 — Choice 3

The verb “m’avais demandé” is in the past perfect tense, which indicates that the action of “demanding the report” took place in the past. Therefore, “hier” makes the most logical sense as it aligns with the past tense used in the sentence. Using “demain” (tomorrow), “prochainement,” or “bientôt” would be inconsistent with the verb tense, as these words suggest that the report is needed in the future, contradicting the action that has already occurred.

Question 2 — Choice 1

The context indicates that the meeting originally scheduled for tomorrow afternoon has been moved to an earlier time. The phrase “se tiendra” translates to “will be held,” which aligns well with the context, indicating that the meeting will now occur at 10 a.m. instead of 2 p.m.

Question Type 2 — Choose the Best Answer

For this type of question, the candidate will see a question about a text and must choose the option that best answers it.

Example Question:
5 mai : Déjeuner-causerie sur l’ergonomie, 65, avenue Guigues, de 11 h 45 à 13 h, Salon de la collaboration

Un ergothérapeute de la compagnie Medics vous renseignera sur la bonne position à adopter afin d’éviter de développer des maladies professionnelles. De plus, cette séance d’information sera diffusée par Internet pour vous permettre d’y avoir accès à partir de votre poste de travail. Si vous avez des questions, il vous sera également possible de les poser en direct à notre expert. On vous attend en grand nombre!

Question 3
Selon le texte ci-dessus :

  1. Les places pour participer à cette causerie sont limitées.
  2. L’expert pourra poser des questions aux participants.
  3. On pourra assister à la séance d’information sans se déplacer.
  4. Il faudra envoyer ses questions à la compagnie Medics.

Question 4
Quel est le but du texte?

  1. Informer au sujet d’une causerie relative à la santé et à la sécurité au travail et des façons d’y participer.
  2. Annoncer aux employés qu’on les attend à la présentation d’un ergothérapeute.
  3. Annoncer aux employés que la séance se fera par Internet et qu’ils pourront poser des questions.
  4. Annoncer aux employés qu’on leur permet d’assister à une séance d’information.

Answer Key
Question 3 — Choice 3

The text does not indicate that the places for the talk are limited (option 1), nor does it say that questions must go to the company Medics (option 4). Also, it doesn’t suggest that the expert will ask questions to the participants (option 2).

Question 4 — Choice 1

While options 2, 3, and 4 capture elements of what the text conveys, none encapsulate the full range of information provided.

Written Expression

The Test of Written Expression assesses an individual’s knowledge of grammar and vocabulary in French or English, and measures their capability in effectively writing in the focus language.
The writing test is administered in either a supervised or unsupervised format and completed online. Supervised tests require a test session officer to be present.

Each question will require a candidate to read a portion of written text, and they are asked multiple-choice questions on various concepts necessary to effectively communicate through writing for tasks dealing with work-related situations.

The work-related texts include emails, memos, bulletins, reports, and research.

Level Rubric

Level A — Limited
Individuals who are able to communicate with isolated details and skills are assigned a Level A result. At this level, a candidate can generally write words or statements on familiar topics and describe who, what, and where.

Level B — Sufficient
Those who can write short, descriptive texts with a sufficient grasp of vocabulary and grammar can earn Level B.

Level C — High Proficiency
Learners who can explain and describe a variety of informal and work-related topics through written text can achieve a Level C. These texts are organised and presented coherently, require few corrections, and generally have appropriate spelling and grammar.

Test of Written Expression (Supervised)

The Supervised Test of Written Expression is a 90-minute test with 65 multiple-choice questions. Only 55 questions will count toward a test taker’s final score, and 10 are pilot questions. Pilot questions are included for administrative purposes and not identified to the candidate.

The written SLE test assesses an individual’s knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, and other aspects of written communication necessary to perform writing tasks for work-related scenarios.

The supervised version of the test includes two question styles, including 1) error identification and 2) fill-in-the-blank.

Supervised Scoring
Level A: 20 to 30
Level B: 31 to 42
Level C: 43 to 51

Scores of 19 and lower on the written test qualify for an “X” status, indicating that the candidate does not meet the requirements for a Level A.

Supervised test candidates can qualify for an “E,” or exemption if they score between 52 to 55 (equivalent to 95% or higher). This status indefinitely exempts them from future retesting in the respective test.

Unsupervised Test of Written Expression

Those taking the Unsupervised Test of Written Expression will have 45 minutes to answer 30 multiple-choice questions. The unsupervised test only includes fill-in-the-blank-styled questions and features no pilot questions.

Test takers must select the most appropriate word or phrase to complete a sentence or to choose the correct version of a sentence in a paragraph.

Unsupervised Scoring
Level A: 11 to 16
Level B: 17 to 23
Level C: 24 to 30

Those scoring 0 to 10 will receive an “X,” meaning they do not meet the requirements for a Level A. Exemptions are not offered through unsupervised testing.


SLE Written Expression Example Questions

Questions are from the Public Service Commission “Préparation à l’évaluation du français langue seconde EXPRESSION ÉCRITE 1 ET 2.”

Question Type 1 — Fill in the blank

For this question style, candidates read a text containing a blank space and choose the word or group of words that best completes the sentence from among four options.

Example Question
Quel mot ou groupe de mots complète le mieux le texte?
Plusieurs personnes auront la chance d’obtenir une chaise ergonomique _______ les mois à venir.

Question 1

  1. par
  2. sur
  3. en
  4. dans

Answer Key
The answer is choice 4, “dans.” The other options don’t fit as well in this context: “Par” would imply that people are getting chairs by the means of the months, which doesn’t make sense.
“Sur” would suggest that the chairs are somehow on top of the months, which is not logical.
“En” would imply a specific duration or a condition, which is not the intended meaning here.

Question Type 2 — Error Identification

In an error identification question, a candidate identifies the underlined and bold words within the text that contain an error. If the text has no errors, option 4, “none of the above,” should be selected.

Example Question
Le ministre de l’Environnement a récemment prononcé un discours dans l’assemblée générale annuelle (1) de l’Association canadienne de l’hydroélectricité. Le ministre en a profité pour souligner les initiatives visant à encourager (2) les producteurs d’énergie renouvelable, les particuliers ainsi que les entreprises (3), et à réduire leurs émissions de gaz à effet de serre.

  1. dans l’assemblée générale annuelle
  2. les initiatives visant à encourager
  3. les particuliers ainsi que les entreprises
  4. aucune correction

Answer Key
Option 1 contains an error. The correct phrase should be “à l’assemblée générale annuelle.”


Oral Language Assessment

The SLE Oral Language Assessment is a virtual assessment developed by the PSC and administered remotely by a certified assessor. The test measures a candidate’s ability to communicate orally in their second official language through a series of questions on work-related situations.

The PSC introduced the oral language assessment in April 2021, replacing the Test of Oral Proficiency and the brief second language interviews.


The oral assessment lasts approximately between 20 and 40 minutes and held via Microsoft Teams. A brief video session allows an assessor to confirm the candidate’s identity, and the remainder of the test is audio only.

There is no special preparation needed for this test, and candidates should simply answer the questions to the best of their ability. The assessor plays an active role in directing the flow of the test, deciding which questions to ask a candidate to showcase their proficiency at various levels.

The test follows a structured format that becomes increasingly challenging. It begins with straightforward questions about work and other familiar activities.

Responses to initial questions help the assessor determine whether a candidate meets the requirements for Level A. As the test progresses, the questions evolve to assess B-level and then C-level skills.

Level Rubric

Unlike the reading and writing portions of the SLE tests, which use a numeric grading system, oral language assessment results are determined by a qualitative rubric.

Level A — Communicating and interacting with others concerning simple, repetitive issues in a routine work environment.

A person speaking at this level:

  • knows basic vocabulary and grammatical structures to conduct routine interactions
  • uses borrowed language structures and vocabulary from other languages, interfering with the clarity of their message
  • has a pronunciation that requires close attention, but there are no long stretches that are unclear

Level B — Shows ability to report and discuss more complex work-related issues in their second official language, including instructions and factual descriptions.

A person speaking at this level:

  • has sufficient vocabulary and a variety of simple grammatical structures to handle concrete, non-routine situations.
  • may miscommunicate frequently, but most stretches are clear
  • has a pronunciation that is generally clear enough to be understood, despite an evident accent from another language
  • sometimes has to repeat themselves to be understood.

Level C — Proficient in a second language to discuss and understand abstract and sometimes unfamiliar workplace concepts, including conversations requiring persuasion, debate, and presentation.

A person speaking at this level:

  • has a natural and even delivery, with occasional hesitations for ideas
  • has a broad range of vocabulary and structures when talking about complex and abstract topics
  • makes errors, but these rarely lead to misunderstanding
  • has clear pronunciation even if an accent from another language is noticeable

If a candidate does not demonstrate the minimum requirements for level A, they will be given an “X” on the oral proficiency test.

If it is clear a candidate can indefinitely earn a C level, they are assigned an “E” status, indefinitely exempting them from future retesting.

Test Prep Tips

Knowing how to test well is essential in achieving a desited score level. Not being familiar with or prepared to apply language skills in a testing format puts candidates at a great risk of making unnecessary mistakes.

Here are some tips to ensure a candidate achieves the highest score possible.

Immersion in the Language

Achieving proficiency in a second language often requires more than just studying grammar and vocabulary – it requires immersion and familiarity with practical, real-world applications.

In the weeks leading up to an SLE test — mainly before the Oral Assessment — candidates should incorporate the target language into their daily life as much as possible, whether through consuming media (books, films, podcasts) in the other language, conversing with native speakers, or even switching a phone or computer’s language settings.

Immersion can help learners begin to think in the target language and become familiar with phrasing and proper conjugation, significantly boosting chances of success in the SLE.

Take Practice Tests

Utilising practice and self-assessment tests from the Public Service Commission of Canada’s website or other third-party providers like LRDG is essential to SLE test preparation.

These practice tests allow learners to familiarise themselves with the exam format, the types of questions they might encounter, and the pace at which they must work. Consistently taking these tests can help identify areas where learners require improvement and increase their confidence.

PSC Self-Assessment testing materials are here.

Plenty of Rest

While pulling all-nighters to cram may seem more productive, research has shown that adequate rest is crucial to effective learning and test performance.

For example, a 2009 study from the University of California – Los Angeles found learners who studied over time were 90% more effective than those who crammed the night before.

Getting enough sleep, especially in the days leading up to the test, allows a learners brain to consolidate the information they’ve learned. Sleep also ensures a candidate is mentally and physically alert on test day, making it easier to recall information and maintain focus throughout the exam.

Answer the Questions

SLE assessments rely on learners’ input to assess their proficiency. That means it is always better to attempt an answer than leave a question blank or decline to respond during the oral assessment.

Candidates are not penalised for wrong answers on multiple-choice test questions but do get rewarded for correct ones. In the oral interview questions, confidently attempting an answer will showcase a candidate’s proficiency much better than a timid reply or a non-answer.

Time Management

Knowing and tracking how much time is allowed within a test is important. Time tracking can help a candidate progress through an examination more efficiently.

With limited time, candidates should not invest too much time on a single question.  Instead, they should progress through the test at a natural pace, skipping over questions that could consume more than two minutes of their time. Go back to harder questions after completing the others.

In the oral assessment, candidates should strive to speak naturally on a topic or in a conversation for up to two minutes. Timing and recording oneself speaking is a great way to practice speaking this long.

Skimming Questions

Glancing over or skimming through questions before beginning an exam can be helpful as long as it does not consume an unreasonable amount of time.

Skimming over the questions gives a candidate a general overview of the questions they will encounter and can help them identify which areas require more attention and time. Some questions may even offer hints or insights into another one.


Find Support Groups, Resources & Tutors

Online Communities

For those looking to join online communities of SLE learners, social media is a valuable source for finding free and relevant insights.

The GC French Tests Preparation (unofficial) group on Facebook provides space for learners to ask questions, get feedback, connect with other learners, and even find more timely resources and updates on SLE testing. The Canada Public Servants subreddit also frequently features posts that can be helpful to learners, such as rundowns of where to find helpful information and even detailed exam walkthroughs.

While these are great starting points, learners should avoid misleading information and out-of-date resources.

Tutoring Services

Finding a quality tutor significantly enhances a learner’s preparation for SLE tests.

Tutors specialising in second language preparation can provide personalised guidance and feedback tailored to specific learning needs and goals. They can help a learner pinpoint their weaknesses, train them on effective strategies to overcome those deficiencies and provide structured practice opportunities.

Furthermore, a tutor can offer consistent motivation and support, boosting a language learner’s confidence while helping to drive down anxiety. A tutor’s expertise and personalised approach can accelerate the learning process, making test preparation more efficient and more successful.

How LRDG Can Help

LRDG has helped 30,000 public servants obtain Level B and Level C SLE requirements through a combination of one-on-one (or small group) instruction with language experts and its professional online language learning platform.

Learners with LRDG are equipped with personalised and flexible learning paths built around their goals, capabilities, timeline, and availability. More than 1,000 hours of training modules  and multimedia resources are available online for LRDG learners, and there are no semester requirements.


Contact our team now 


Frequently Asked Questions

How to prepare for the SLE?

Preparing for the SLE involves a combination of self-study, practicing with available test materials, utilising online resources, and seeking help from tutors or language training services like LRDG.

What are SLE test prep tips?

The best tips for SLE tests are to manage test time effectively, answer all questions since there is no penalty for being incorrect, and take plenty of practice assessments to familiarise oneself with test formats.

What is a good score on the SLE?

Scoring differs across all three SLE tests (reading, writing, and oral communication). However, Level B and Level C proficiency are the most commonly required for bilingual positions, with C being the highest. Those taking supervised versions of the SLE tests can achieve an E, or “exempt,” status if their proficiency surpasses a C-level or can demonstrate they will maintain oral fluency indefinitely.