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ACTFL Writing Proficiency Assessments


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 the way in which 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 individual’s writing; rather, it compares each individual’s writing to the descriptors for writing as stated in the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, for example.


Official ACTFL WPTs are currently available in the following languages: Albanian, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.


  • 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 which 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 will randomly select topics for the writing tasks.
  • Self-Assessment: Test takers select the description that 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 & Contexts: The writer is presented with tasks and contexts that represent 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.

The Seal of Biliteracy Form:

The Seal of Biliteracy form is appropriate for high school students, grades 11 – 12 and targets the proficiency range of Novice Low to Advanced Mid. This form is available in a number of less commonly taught / tested languages. Visit ACTFL’s Seal of Biliteracy Assessment page for more information.

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.

Other Rating Scales

In addition to the ACTFL Proficiency Rating Scale, rating can also take place using the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR), the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), and the STANAG 6001 Language Proficiency Levels.

Test Administration & Delivery

Visit Language Testing International (LTI), the ACTFL Test Administration Office, to learn more about: