Blog / how to test for language proficiency

How to test for language proficiency

By Joanna, FlexiQuiz.
8 minute read.

lady with megaphone doing language test

Now more than ever, organizations are looking at ways to save money on recruitment costs but still hire the best talent for the role.

Multiple language skills are essential for some roles, so language proficiency tests can help assess hundreds of individuals.

What is a language proficiency test?

Language proficiency tests allow recruiters to evaluate a candidate's ability objectively.

From English to Spanish to Mandarin, tests can identify if the candidate has the right skills at the right level, from a basic grasp to fluency.

By creating your own custom tests, you can assess a candidate's language skills based on the role's needs within your organization. For instance, if you're looking for a copywriter at an airline, you can focus your questions on assessing travel writing skills.

Tests can consist of various question types that allow you to measure different language skills. Popular question types include multiple choice, fill-in-the-blanks, matching and video uploads.

This article will focus on three areas: testing for the four essential language skills, tools to assess a candidate's ability and the benefits of testing.

The four key language skills

Typically, four skills can be used to measure a candidate's ability to understand and communicate in a language: reading, writing, listening and speaking.

The level of competency required for each skill can vary depending on the job role.

reading, listening, speaking, writing icons


A reading test allows you to check that candidates can read, understand and process written text in any given language.

This skills test can be anything from reading a commercial contract to marketing guidelines or short emails.

To test, you can share some written information relevant to the role. Candidates can respond by answering multiple-choice questions, writing a free text answer or sharing an audio recording.


Test that the candidate accurately listens to what is said and understands the nuances of a given language.

Listening is vital for customer-facing roles, attending meetings, zoom calls, conferences and more.

It's easy to assess listening skills by sharing an audio or video recording to which candidates can listen. Job applicants need to answer a series of questions that relate to what they have heard.


The speaking test measures how well a person can speak another language and whether they can have a discussion with someone.

The candidate's capabilities may vary depending on the proficiency required for the role. For example, does the employee need a basic grasp of the language or a rich vocabulary with clear speech and the proper intonation?

Assessments can include questions in various formations, including text, audio and video. Job applicants can respond by uploading a video or audio recording.

language speaking test place to upload voice recording


This test assesses how well a candidate can write in any given language.

Writing tests can ensure candidates are able to write clear and accurate communications, such as presentations, emails to clients or sales copy.

There are five core skills that you can evaluate as part of the candidate's writing test:-

Grammar: Check that the candidates use the proper rules to structure the language.

Spelling: Check that the candidate uses the correct letter sequences and characters.

Paragraph and sentence construction: Ensure the candidate's text reads well as part of a paragraph or sentence.

Conjugation: Check that the candidate uses the correct verb form to express mood, tense and person.

These are a few sample questions:

Tools to test language capabilities

Online software such as FlexiQuiz allows you to test candidates' language abilities before investing time and money in a meeting.

FlexiQuiz provides a full range of features to help you test candidates' abilities in any language and at any level.

These are a few of our most popular features:

  • Adding media: Ask questions or share information in various video, audio and text formats.
  • 9 question types: Various questions allow you to measure different skills.
  • Timers: Ensure candidates only have enough time to answer the question by adding a time limit by page or the whole quiz.
  • Localization: Create tests in any language, including all navigation buttons, emails and respondent messages.
  • Category scoring: Score each quiz by category to identify an applicant's top skills, such as reading, writing, listening or speaking.
  • Auto-scoring: The system can score most question types in real-time so that you can efficiently assess a large number of candidates.
  • Question bank: Save your questions in your question bank to help build future tests quickly.
  • Online and mobile friendly: FlexiQuiz is cloud-based meaning there is no software to download. Candidates can securely respond in their own time using any device connected to the internet.
  • Email notifications: Instantly send a follow-up email to thank applicants for submitting the test and share the next steps.
  • Advanced reporting: Check how long a candidate spends on a page and efficiently manage large volumes of responses.
  • Schedule close times: Set how long candidates can access and complete the language recruitment test.

Benefits of language proficiency tests

There are many benefits to using custom language proficiency tests when you need to fill a role that requires a second language.

These are some popular benefits:

Objective comparison of candidates

You can avoid unconscious bias during recruitment by using online tests that fairly measure the candidate's language skills.

Candidates answer pre-determined questions with unambiguous responses. For example:

Responses can be easily compared to other candidates so that you can focus on questions that require manual marking.

Saves money

Recruiting the right person can be expensive and take a lot of time. You want to recruit someone with the right language skills instead of finding out they cannot converse later.

According to a study by Glassdoor, it costs the average company in the United States about $4,000 and 24 days to recruit the right person for a role. Costs include assessments, marketing the position, background checks and onboarding.

Therefore, finding the person with the right skill set for the role is essential.

A language test early in the process enables you to identify suitable candidates for the next stage. FlexiQuiz offers good value pricing that allows you to test hundreds of people for less than $25 monthly.

Helps you recruit faster

Creating an online test with the FlexiQuiz software for business is quick and easy. Once you've made a template, it's simple to adapt for future roles.

Online language proficiency tests can be securely shared with job applicants for them to complete at home at a suitable time.

You can quickly identify top performers. Most question types can be automatically scored, giving you an instant picture of the candidate's strengths and weaknesses by skillset. Depending on the number of applicants, data can be sorted and downloaded for further analysis.

Try FlexiQuiz to create a language proficiency test that meets your organization's needs. Create a free online quiz >>