Proficiency Oral Interview

Passing your Proficiency Oral Interview is easier knowing the following...

When it comes time for the proficiency oral interview, most students get a little nervous. And for good reason too.

The fact is, the proficiency oral interview is probably one of the least well-prepared for sections of the Michigan proficiency exams.

Let's remember a couple of things, shall we?

First, you should remember that it's natural to feel a little nervous when you speak to a person for the first time. In addition, it's natural to feel a little more nervous when speaking to someone in a language other than your mother tongue.

Add to the fact that you are being graded during your proficiency oral interview and you have the makings of a very stressful situation.

Revised Speaking Test Information CLICK HERE

My advice?

Don't worry!

Why not?

Because the people who do the interview are trained to help you feel comfortable. They know that you are nervous and they will try to help you feel more relaxed.

How do they do that?

They get you to talk about yourself. Most people don't have difficulties talking about themselves. After all, it's the one subject we've been talking about ourselves our whole lives!

The first section of the interview lasts a few short minutes (2-3) and is more of a general introduction. You should be able to talk (ask and answer questions) about your family, hometown, school, work, interests and/or hobbies in this section of the test.

Many times, the second section of the interview is a continuation of the first part of the interview. That is, the interviewer will not take you through the 'standard exam' of a theme based picture discussion. Rather, the interviewer will guide the conversation based on what you told them in the first part of the interview.

Imagine doing the whole interview based on your favorite hobby or latest interest!

Remember, the proficiency oral interview is simply a conversation in English. You are graded on pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and overall fluency. The exam is a one to one interview with the examiner.

Exams usually last from 12-15 minutes. That's it.

DO'S and DONT'S or, a few things to remember.


  • arrive at least 15 minutes before your interview time

  • speak clearly

  • smile : - ) it will help you relax

  • take the lead in the conversation when it's appropriate (ie, ask questions)


  • chew gum

  • be afraid to ask the examiner to repeat or explain something

  • worry about "small" mistakes - fluency is more important

  • give one-word answers! This is definitely not the time for yes/no answers. The following example should NOT resemble your proficiency oral interview.


Examiner: Do you like to cook?

You: Yes

Examiner: Would you like to work as a chef?

You: No

Examiner: Why not?

You: I don't know

The above is a little exaggerated, but you understand the point I'm trying to make, right? In fact, your interview should be more like the following...


Examiner: Do you like to cook?

You: Yes, I love it! It helps me relax. Plus, I like to eat what I cook so I get to enjoy it twice. (smile)

Examiner: Would you like to work as a chef?

You: No, I don't think so.

Examiner: Why not?

You: Well let's see, probably because I have an uncle who is a chef and he works really hard. He's always working on weekends, and holidays and I don't think I would like to do that. Do you ever cook?

The above illustrates a more expansive and active candidate during the interview. Don't wait for the examiner to ask all the questions. Get involved in the conversation. Find out something about the examiner!

To learn more proficient ways of expressing your opinions in the interview, click on proficiency oral interview.