Learn More About the OPI

One of the most common questions we get each year is about language proficiency and eligibility for Lauder’s five regional Programs of Concentration (Africa, East and Southeast Asia, Europe, Latin America, and South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa) and the Global program. As we look towards the admissions for this year, we wanted to elaborate on what exactly it takes to be a good fit, linguistically, for Lauder.

All applicants to Lauder are required to complete at least one Oral Proficiency Interview, known as the OPI, as part of their application. The OPI measures speaking ability and is scored according to the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, which include five major levels of proficiency (Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Superior, and Distinguished).  The major levels of Advanced, Intermediate, and Novice are divided into High, Mid, and Low sub-levels.

An Advanced rating (at any sub-level) is the expected level for admission to Lauder’s regional Programs of Concentration. That means you must score at least at the Advanced Low in the language you wish to study at Lauder, e.g. Portuguese or Spanish for Latin America, Mandarin, Japanese or Korean for our East & SE Asia program, etc. (For more information on languages and testing, read through the OPI information on our website.)

For applicants to Lauder’s Global program, one OPI at the superior level in any language other than English is required of all applicants; applicants are welcome to submit more than one OPI to show proficiency in other languages. The same is true for the Africa non-language program (taught in English.)

What can you expect during the OPI? The test itself is a twenty to thirty minute phone conversation in language with a language tester who will rate your speaking abilities. You will receive your OPI rating within a few days of the test – score results are not immediately available. There is no written component. OPIs are only administered by phone so be sure to have access to a landline for the call.

To schedule an OPI, complete and submit LTI’s online application, and be sure to register as a Lauder applicant. Lauder applicants are not required to have proctors for their OPI If you have any questions about the OPI or about scheduling your OPI please contact LTI by telephone at +1 914-963-7110 or by email at testing@languagetesting.com.

How to submit your score: our admissions team has access online to your score rating. There is no need to mail in an official result or certificate of your OPI rating. However, if you have your OPI score by the time you submit your MBA/MA application, please be sure to include the score in your application.

Questions about language proficiency? Please contact me at karak@wharton.upenn.edu. We also recommend you be sure to read through the detailed language requirements on our website and listen to our sample audio clips. In addition, applicants are always welcome to to sit-in on a Lauder language class in Philadelphia.

Finally, check out the great tips from former students about preparing for the OPI!

Don’t focus too much on using everything you know, i.e. verb conjugations, but rather on the flow and complexity of the conversation (ideas/content). – Spanish track, Class of 2015

If you mention a job or hobby, know the technical terms so you don’t get stuck. – Portuguese track, Class of 2015

Listen or watch the news in your testing language for a couple of weeks before your OPI. This will help you learn the vocabulary to discuss current issues. – Hindi, Class of 2014

Don’t get stressed out, it’s a conversation and speak to your comfort level. – Japanese, Class of 2015

Answer the question. It is easy to get tripped up by even a simple question, and you are being evaluated on language skills not the content. For example, I was asked what was my favorite country I have traveled to, and I think I spent too much time thinking of what is actually my favorite instead of choosing one I like and supporting my answer. – Russian, Class of 2015

If it’s for a language you haven’t spoken for a while and at which you might feel rusty, read or watch material in that language starting at least a week before. That helped me bring back my fluidity. And remember not to us foreign words even if it’s a common practice in everyday usage. – Global, Class of 2015 (remember, this applicant was aiming for a Superior because he was applying to Global)

Have an idea of what you want to talk about: the format of the OPI is largely determined by what you say, so you can help steer the conversation your way. – French, Class of 2015

Do not hesitate to reach out to our office at any time with questions about the OPI or any aspect of the Lauder application.

Good luck!

Kara Keenan Sweeney
Director of Admissions Marketing & Financial Aid