We have 3 steps for how to make an Interpretive Assessment that is proficiency-based. Note: We think listening is equally important, but for the sake of a how to, a written example is much easier to explain. Let’s see those 3 steps!


Before starting, gather information that will help you to determine the proficiency level of the assessment.

Review the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines.

ACTFL Reading Novice


What can a Novice understand? What about an Intermediate? Where are your students?

ACTFL Interpretive Reading


Find a proficiency-based rubric to quickly and fairly assess them. Use this as a reminder while making the assessment.


JCPS Rubric, 2014

Keep a list of topics and/or vocabulary close by to reference. If they haven’t seen it before, then it should not be assessed.

Level 1 Topics


This takes the most time. Find an AuthRes that is one sub-level higher than the goal. This allows them the opportunity to exceed expectations. Also think about these questions while choosing…

– Age appropriate?

– Current? Try to stick to the last 4 years or so.

– Appropriate for proficiency level? Look back at those ACTFL guidelines!

– Familiar topics and vocabulary? Check your list!

Let’s look at an English example so everyone can follow along. Good news! This Enfocamp.com website has several languages available. It has lots of information like brochures, charts, tables, lists and videos supported with visuals that align with my topics and is written in a simplified format which is great for Novice students. The last screenshot would be better for students entering Intermediate.

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Based on my training and class experiences, I prefer to write the questions in English so it shows what they truly understand. When the questions are in the target language, it changes the assessment to a kind of interpersonal (they have to understand in order to answer). I would love to learn more about other options, so please share if you have some.

Include a variety of questions that check for comprehension. You can use multiple choice or open-ended. Here are some examples…

– What event is this website advertising? (main idea)

– Who/Where/When is the event? (detail)

– What day is salad not served for dinner? (combination of details, 2 words needed to answer: salad and Tuesday)

– What activity is after breakfast and before lunch? (combination of details: 3 words needed: breakfast, lunch, and the answer)

– Who would most likely attend the event? (inference) Answer could include options like: someone who is interested in sports/fashion/games/cooking. These questions are great, because they don’t have to know one specific word to answer it. They can use several context words to get to the correct answer.

– Is the review positive, negative or undecided? (inference)

– Where does the camp take place? What are some clues that support your answer. (cultural reference)

– Look at the schedule of events. What cultural influences do you notice? (cultural reference)

DOUBLE CHECK the questions to your expectations. Are the topics/vocabulary familiar to them? Look at the answers to the questions to check this.

REPEAT the steps until you have covered most of the topics. If you want to make this into a the first part of an IPA (Integrated Performance Assessment), add a scenario and make the questions more personalized so they can be discussed later.

After you have an interpretive assessment, the next big question is HOW to GRADE it! At my previous district, the assessment was multiple choice and there was a range to assign the level. Ex: 20-18 correct = exceeding expectations, 17-14 = meeting expectations, 13-9 = approaching expectations. For this to be accurate, there need to be some questions that let students show they are exceeding the expectations, so at a higher proficiency level. Another way that I’ve done is to have open-ended questions. Then I use the rubric to mark where they are answering. Wherever the majority of the marks are, that is their level. Again this is another area that I would like to learn more about.

Do you have other questions about how to create an Interpretive Assessment? Write them below!

Featured Photo from http://www.ymcatwincities.org