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What is the SLE Test of Written Expression?

What is the SLE Test of Written Expression?

Pass the SLE Test of Written Expression

The Test of Written Expression is one of three Second Language Evaluations (SLE) administered by the Public Service Commission (PSC) of Canada. It is designed to assess an individual’s proficiency in writing on work-related topics in French or English.

As its name suggests, the test of written expression measures an individual’s ability to write in the focus language. It includes multi-choice questions involving grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, spelling, and information organisation.


How is the Test Taken?

The Test of Written Expression can be taken online through the PSC and is administered in either a supervised or unsupervised format. While mostly the same in terms of content, supervised PSC tests are proctored by a test session officer.

Paper versions of the tests are available in certain circumstances. However, most supervised tests are conducted online through the PSC’s online testing facility.

Candidates using the PSC online test facility have their questions automatically scored once they have finished the test or if they have run out of their prescribed testing time.

Test of Written Expression (Supervised)

Those taking the supervised version of the written expression test will be provided 90 minutes to answer 65 multiple-choice questions. These questions include error identification and fill-in-the-blank prompts.

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 are not identified.

Unsupervised Test of Written Expression

Those taking an 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 queries and has no pilot questions.

What’s on the SLE Written Test?

The multiple-choice questions are based on short texts or sentences, and test takers are asked to select the most appropriate word or phrase to complete a sentence or to choose the correct version of a sentence or a paragraph.


Let’s look at some of the questions you should expect:

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? Il a refusé ______________ nos offres.


  1. tous
  2. tout
  3. toute
  4. toutes

Answer & Explanation
The correct choice is 4: “toutes.”
In this sentence, “nos offres” (our offers) is a plural feminine noun. Therefore, the word that fills in the blank must agree in gender and number with “nos offres.”

Question Type 2 — Error Identification

Error identification questions are only relevant for those taking supervised versions of the test of written expressions.

In an error identification, candidates must select the bold text within the sentence that contains grammatical, punctuation, and conjugation errors. However, be aware. Some questions may not contain mistakes at all.

In the following question, a candidate must be able to determine if and where an error is present. This question includes the option, “Aucun des choix offerts” or “None of the choices offered.” If there are no errors in the passage, answer 4 is correct.

Example Question

Le Conseil du Trésor exige que (1) les ministères exercent un strict contrôle sur (2) les biens immobiliers dont (3) ils possèdent.


  1. que
  2. sur
  3. dont
  4. aucune correction

The correct choice is option 3, “dont.”

The relative pronoun to use here is “que” since the object possessed “real estate” is a direct object that answers the question “what?”

How is the Test of Written Expression Graded?

Three language levels can be achieved through SLE assessments, Levels A, B, and C — with Level C being the most advanced.

Depending on if a test of written expression is supervised or unsupervised will affect the way results are reported. However, the rubric criteria for the level-grade results are the same.

Level A

Level A is the minimum level of language skills for positions involving understanding texts on a limited scale of topics. Someone at this level would not be expected to write complex or detailed information in a second language.

Level A written language capability typically can:

  • Write isolated words and phrases on very familiar topics.
  • Compose simple statements or questions.
  • Use words pertaining to time, place, or person in the writing.

Level B

Level B for the written test is required for positions that require the ability to comprehend short descriptive or factual texts in a second language.

In addition to the capabilities of Level A, a test taker writing at Level B can:

  • Write with sufficient mastery of grammar to convey detailed information effectively.
  • Utilise an adequate vocabulary to deal with work-related topics.
  • Handle and comprehend explicit information.

Those with B-level proficiency can make style revisions and corrections in grammar and vocabulary.

Level C

To achieve a C-Level, language learners must be able to write clearly and coherently in various formal and informal work situations.

Level C writers are able to:

  • Write texts that present ideas in a developed and coherent manner.
  • Ensure that vocabulary, grammar, and spelling are generally appropriate in the text.
  • Craft the text in a way that requires few corrections.

Scores for Supervised Writing Tests

These scores will earn the following results on a supervised test of written expression:

  • 20 to 30 — Level A
  • 31 to 42 — Level B
  • 43 to 51 — Level C

Someone who scores 0 to 19 will receive an “X” status, indicating their performance does not meet the minimum requirements for Level A.

Those taking supervised assessments can earn E status by scoring a 52 to 55 (95%), indefinitely exempting them from retesting requirements.

Scores for Unsupervised Writing Tests

The score breakdown for the unsupervised test of written expression is as follows:

  • 11 to 16 — Level A
  • 17 to 23 — Level B
  • 24 to 30 — Level C

A score of 10 or below earns an evaluation of an X result. Unsupervised tests are not eligible for E results for exemptions.

After the Test

Results from SLE tests are valid for five years and remain valid indefinitely for employees who maintain the same position as long as the position’s linguistic requirements are not raised.

Those who achieve an E result are indefinitely exempt from future testing.

SLE results from tests taken directly through the PSC are transferable across the federal government and crown corporations. Results achieved through qualified third-party testing providers only apply within the agency where one earns them.

There is a 30-day waiting period following a test for candidates to be eligible to redo the assessment.


Tips for Taking the SLE Test of Written Expression

The right approach and strategies can help you confidently navigate the test of written expression and avoid pointless mistakes. Nothing is quite as disappointing as knowing your language concepts but being unable to repeat and perform them in a test setting.

Here are some practical tips to help you excel in this test and ensure the highest grade possible.

Time Management

From the moment you sit down, pace your answer speed. The total test duration is 45 minutes, so the key is to budget your time effectively. Be sure to avoid getting stuck on a difficult question for too long, as every question carries equal weight.

Elimination Strategy

Keep in mind not all options are equally likely. One effective strategy is to first eliminate choices that seem most unlikely. Narrowing down your options can help you make a faster-informed decision.

Guessing is Okay

If all else fails, remember, it’s okay to make a guess. This test doesn’t penalise wrong answers, so answering all questions is better than leaving some blank.

Understanding Test Complexity

The test of written expression is structured so that the questions at the beginning are generally the shortest and most straightforward. As you progress, the length and complexity of the questions gradually increase. Knowing this pattern can help you manage your time and expectations better.

Practice Tests

Strictly reviewing your language concepts will only get you so far. You need to be familiar with how to apply those concepts in a test setting. That means you should invest time into taking practice tests.

LRDG’s Test of Written Expression Prep & Practice

LRDG’s online language tutoring platform specialises in preparing PSC job candidates and employees for SLE tests, including the Test of Written Expression. We offer tools to gauge current competencies, track a learner’s progress, and establish a timeline of goals to reach to pass tests within a specific period.

Learners who use LRDG’s platform also have access to our qualified testing services, allowing them to test directly through LRDG coordinators and receive feedback and results that are looped back into their personal learning path.

Book a call with our team to kickstart your bilingual journey and take full advantage of LRDG’s testing resources.

Contact our team now 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the SLE Test of Written Expression?

The SLE Test of Written Expression is an exam designed to assess the English or French language proficiency of federal public servants. It measures an individual’s ability to write in the chosen language, covering grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, spelling, and information organisation.

How is the Test of Written Expression administered?

The Test of Written Expression is taken online through the Public Service Commission’s Online Testing Facility or an official, qualified provider, such as LRDG.

What types of questions are on the Test of Written Expression?

The test of written expression contains multiple-choice questions. Questions are based on short texts or sentences, and candidates must select the most appropriate word or phrase to complete a sentence or choose the correct version of a sentence or paragraph. On supervised tests, candidates will also identify errors within a passage.

How is the Test of Written Expression Assessed?

The test grades are categorised into three levels – A, B, and C, with C being the most advanced. Scores required for these levels differ between supervised and unsupervised versions of the test of written expression.

What are some tips for doing well on the Test of Written Expression?

Helpful strategies include managing your time effectively, employing an elimination strategy to discard unlikely options, and understanding the test’s complexity. Completing practice tests is crucial to familiarise yourself with the test setting.