Writing Proficiency Test


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Writing Proficiency Test (WPT) Description

The ACTFL Writing Proficiency Test (WPT) is a web-based, proctored, standardized test of the global assessment of functional writing ability in a language. The WPT measures how well a person spontaneously writes in a language (without access to revisions and/or editing tools). Rating occurs by comparing the writer's performance of specific writing tasks to the criteria stated by a proficiency rating scale such as the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Writing.

Proficiency-Oriented, Criterion-Referenced Approach

ACTFL writing tests assess writing proficiency in terms of the ability to write effectively and appropriately for real-life writing purposes. The WPT does not address when, where, why, or how an individual learned to write. The ACTFL WPT is not an achievement test assessing a writer’s acquisition of specific aspects of course and/or curriculum content, nor is it tied to any specific method of instruction. The ACTFL WPT does not compare one individual’s writing to another; rather, it compares each individual’s writing to the descriptors for writing as stated in the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, for example.

Reasons to Use the WPT

Official ACTFL WPT ratings can be used for a variety of purposes in the academic, commercial, and government communities. In academia, writing proficiency ratings can be used for admissions, placement into language programs, general assessments, or for exit/ graduation requirements. In business and government communities, WPT ratings can be used for certification, hiring, and promotion in multilingual positions.


Official ACTFL WPTs are currently available in the following languages: Albanian, Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian Farsi, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbo/Croatian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, and Vietnamese.

Seal of Biliteracy

The WPT is available for the Seal of Biliteracy for high school students, grades 11 – 12. Visit the Seal of Biliteracy Assessment page for more information.


  • Introduction and Warm-Up: This section contains directions, information on test-taking strategies, and a warm-up activity at the Novice level.
  • Background Survey: The Background Survey is a questionnaire that elicits information about the test taker’s work, school, home, personal activities, and interests. The survey answers determine the pool of prompts from which the computer randomly selects topics for the writing tasks.
  • Self-Assessment: Test takers select the description they feel most accurately describes their writing ability in the target language. This determines which one of three WPT test forms is generated for the specific individual.
  • Prompts: The ACTFL WPT includes four to five prompts for written responses dealing with practical, social, and professional topics that are encountered in informal and formal contexts. Each prompt contains 2 to 3 tasks.

The choices made by the test taker in response to the Background Survey and the Self-Assessment ensure that each test taker receives a customized and unique test.

  • Tasks and Contexts: The writer is presented with tasks and contexts representing the range of proficiency levels from Novice to Superior on the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012 – Writing. The tasks and prompts are written in English; the responses are written in the target language.
  • Time: The average time examinees typically take to complete all WPT prompts ranges from 40 to 80 minutes, depending on the proficiency level of the test taker.

Proficiency Ranges

The WPT assesses the full range of the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines—from Novice to Superior on 3 different test forms. The results of the self-assessment identify the appropriate form.

  • Form 1 can provide a rating within the proficiency range of Novice Low to Intermediate Mid (NL – IM). The average administration time is 40 minutes.
  • Form 2 can provide a rating within the proficiency range of Novice Low to Advanced Mid (NL – AM). The average administration time is 60 minutes.
  • Form 3 can provide a rating within the proficiency range of Novice Low to Superior (NL – S). The average administration time is 80 minutes.

Assessment Criteria

The WPT is rated exclusively by ACTFL-certified raters. For details on WPT rater certification, visit here. Responses on the Writing Proficiency Test (WPT) are assessed from a global perspective. In evaluating writing, the following criteria are considered:

  • Functions or global tasks the writer performs
  • Content areas and contexts within which the writer performs the tasks
  • Accuracy of the writing
  • Length and organization of the text the writer produces

Note that discrete linguistic components are viewed from a communicative perspective and are thus considered in terms of how they contribute to the message communicated by the overall written sample.

Tests are double-rated and an official ACTFL WPT certificate is issued to the candidate. The certificate includes the rating and the description of the rating.


Prior to taking ACTFL’s Writing Proficiency Test (WPT), we suggest the following:

Reliability and Validity

The ACTFL WPT is a valid and reliable assessment of writing proficiency (e.g. Surface & Dierdorff, 2004; Tschirner & Barenfenger, 2011). ACTFL assessments also undergo regular external reviews as part of the ACE CREDIT review process. A bibliography of ACTFL’s ACE Review studies can be found here.