One of the things that I did before leaving my last job at the Korean Defense Language Institute was something called OPIC Test Prep. OPIC which stands for Oral Proficiency Interview by Computer. It is a global, standardized assessment of speaking ability. I scoured the Net when I taught it, and there are several places out there that have a collection of questions.
I want to provide some of the best questions and come up with a standardized way I helped students prepare for this class. Besides doing one-on-one questioning and assessment of their ability and how to improve, I also had them practice with one another. I gave them all these questions and then put them in groups of three or pairs and had them assess and help each other. Depending on the level of your students this may or may not be helpful
The test begins typically with fairly general questions on self-introduction and some other topic connected with it.
Here are some examples:
- Tell me a little bit about yourself and your family.
- Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do for a living.
- Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do in your free time.
- Tell me a little bit about yourself and your school.
- Tell me a little bit about yourself and your best friend.
Topics for Discussion
I’ve heard a lot about this test from my students who took it. The test first asks you to select certain subjects you like and then proceeds to throw questions at you based on your interests. The funniest conversation I remember was that there was a soldier who responded that he was interested in fashion. The test gave him a question like this: “You responded that you like fashion in the survey. Please tell me which fashion you like the best and how has your taste in fashion changed over the last 10 years.”
Needless to say, he was dumbstruck. He was not in the least concerned about fashion, but he thought it would be an easy topic. Let your students know that their questions will be based on the survey choices, and they should carefully consider whether you can talk about that subject well.
Here are some sample topics and questions they might see:
- You responded that you work in the survey. Can you describe one of your colleagues that you work with? What does he/she look like?
- You indicated you work. Please give me a description of the company you work for. What is the name of the company? What kind of business does it do? Where is it located? Give me a detailed description of your company?
- Tell me how you get from your house to work everyday from beginning to end. How long does it usually take to get to work? You indicated in the survey that you work. What is your normal workday like? Please describe your typical day at the office.
- There must have been a time when you worked to solve problems at work. Think of one of those times and describe the challenge and tell me what you did to overcome it.
Describe one of your professors to me. What kind of person is he or she? What do you like or dislike about him or her?
- You indicated in the survey that you go to school. What kind of courses are you taking or had you taken in the past? Please describe the classes you are taking or have taken in as much detail as possible.
- Tell me about the last classes you took. Why did you choose them? What did you do in those classes?
- I would like to know about something memorable that happened to you in one of your classes. What kinds of interesting episodes do you have? Please tell me about one from the beginning to the end.
- You indicated in the survey that you are a college student. I would assume that you have classes you like and classes you don’t like. Compare one class you have liked a lot to a class you have disliked.
- Tell me how you spend time with your family or friends.
- Do you go to parks? Do you chat on the phone?
- What do you usually do to keep in touch and spend time with family and friends?
- Describe one of your favorite restaurants where you often go to eat.
- What type of food do they serve there?
- What do you like about that restaurant?
- I would like to talk about where you live. Describe your house to me. What does it look like? Where is it located?
- Let’s talk about where you live. Tell me what you like and don’t like about your neighborhood.
- Tell me how you first met one of your neighbors. Describe in detail when you met and everything that happened during your first few meetings.
- Tell me what you do with your neighbors. How often do you see them? What do you like to do with them, and what do you usually talk about with them?
- I would like to know whether there were any memorable events that took place in your neighborhood since you started living there. Can you tell me about the event and why it was so memorable?
You indicated that you love reading books. Tell me about your favorite book and what the story was all about.
- What kinds of books and what authors do you like to read? What time of the day do you usually read?
- I would imagine that there are some books that have been especially memorable for you. Tell me about one of them. When and how you came to read that book? What was the book about? How has reading that book influenced you?
- Is going to coffee shops popular in your country?
- What kind of coffee shops are there?
Tell me about your hobbies. What kind of hobbies do you have? When and where do you do your hobbies?
Another important stage of the test is role-playing. However, since there isn’t another person, the student will have to role play by himself or herself. Some students really get into it and pretend that someone else is answering them, but if you’ll notice most of the questions have someone leaving a message on voicemail or something like that. It’s important to point this out to students so that they don’t answer the question in the wrong way.
Here are a few examples of what kinds of questions they might have. If you do these in class in groups, have groups of three with one student observing and trying to provide feedback to the student answering the question. The other student can be the computer asking the question. And the final student will be the one taking the test.
Have them switch places or rotate parts with each new role play they try out. Here are just a few samples of the types of questions they might encounter on the test.
- I’d like to give you a situation and ask you to act it out. You want to take a trip within your own country. Call the travel agent and ask three or four questions to find out the information you need.
- I’d like to give you a situation and ask you to act it out. Imagine that a neighbor or family member asks you to take care of his/her plants while he/she is away. Ask three or four questions to find out what you need to do.
- Now, I’m going to give you a situation and ask you to act it out. Let’s say you would like to buy tickets for a sports event for you and your friend. Please ask the person at the ticket booth three or four questions about things you would like to know about the upcoming sports event.
- I’m sorry there’s a problem which you need to resolve. You booked a nonrefundable airline ticket. However, something has happened that prevents you from traveling next week. Call the travel agent and explained what has happened.
- Let me now give you a situation and ask you to act it out. Let’s say you’re going to need a ride from a friend to get to work tomorrow morning. Call a friend and leave a message on his voice mail. Tell him that you need a ride and then ask three questions to find out things you need to know about getting a ride from him tomorrow.
- I’d like to give you a situation and ask you to act it out. You receive a call from a family member asking that you help her prepare for a big party. Call the family member and leave a message asking three or four questions to find out everything you can about the party.
- I’d like to give you a situation and ask you to act it out. Your friend calls to invite you to a movie. Ask him three or four questions to find out more about that movie.
- I’d like to give you a situation and ask you to act it out. You are being interviewed for a new job. Ask the interviewer three or four questions to find out more about this job.
- I’d like to give you a situation and ask you to act it out. You’ve just been told that your current boss is leaving the company. Call your boss and leave a message, asking three or four questions about the situation
Good Luck on the OPIc Class
Those are just some of the questions that they might encounter on the test. Students who have taken the test themselves can help you by providing some questions of their own. The questions run in a similar vein. It is the topic that changes. Giving them a variety of issues can help them be prepared for whatever comes their way.
Have a great class and make this an active and exciting exercise. Don’t let any student be sitting there with no part. They are either questioning and coaching or answering. Get them all involved in their small groups. And as always, remember, Teaching English is Fun!