Taking the OPI in Russian

So, I am now a Master of Arts. I have my Master’s degree and I’ve already got a teaching job DSC_1041lined up for the fall, so I was feeling good. Then I took the OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview) in Russian. Ahhhhh, nothing will take you down a notch like doing horribly on a test. Let me first explain that I DON’T TEST WELL. Something about the pressure just makes my brain buckle. I, for some reason, was feeling really nervous about the OPI, so this anxiety did not help my performance. I really just took it because I took a class on Language Testing, where we talked in great depth about the OPI so I was curious to experience. Additionally, I wanted my official score so that I can put my level down on my resume or CV. I still don’t know my score, and I don’t know that I want to know.

Here are a couple of my observations:

-To establish that you speak on the Superior level you are supposed to be able to speak at the discourse level(page length). Well, the interview is only 30 minutes, so they’re cutting you off to start on the next topic before you can neatly make your argument.

That rush just contributed to my anxiety and made me stutter.  Moreover, I did the stupid thing that I always do when I’m speaking (in any language) in a high pressure situation. I start to talk about really random things that, in my head, perfectly relate to the topic, but usually I don’t end up tying them into what I’m talking about (this is why I always use Powerpoints when I teach. They keep me on track).

The interview went so fast and I was so stressed out that I couldn’t really remember what exactly I had said about things.  I had this vague memory that I had mentioned at some point the bible and the end of the world. He (and probably you) must have thought I was wacko.  Well, in my head this tied in perfectly to the question he asked me about citizens’ responsibility to improve the ecological situation of our planet. What I WANTED to explain was that I live in a state of very religious people who believe the worsening of conditions on earth is a sign of the end of the world… and since you can’t stop the end of the world why try and keep the world in good shape. Although I am religious, I think we need to respect the earth and do our part. Well, that makes sense, right? But I don’t think I ended up saying the part after the ellipses. So to my interviewer it just sounded like I was ranting about the end of the world.

Ahhhh, but what can you do.  It is what it is.

In preparation for my OPI I was trying to search on the internet to know what to expect as far as format and possible topics go.  So I thought I’d do a blog post in case there’s anyone else out there who wants to get a feel for possible topics that might come up.

1. I talked about myself, my areas of interest and so on.

2. He, upon finding out that I have trained to be come a teacher, asked me (in Russian, obviously) “What should teacher’s raises be based on? Grades? Student Ratings?”

3. He then asked me my opinion of online learning, whether it is an effective method and so on.

4. He then asked me “Some people are complaining that the money spent on the Sochi olympics might have been better spent on developing social programs or improving infrastructure. Do you think that that money would have been better spent and if so, on what?”

We kind of danced around in circles on this topic and I concluded, “Ну, мы зря обсуждаем эту тему–все уже решенно. Эти деньги уже трачены” (We’re discussing this topic in vain. Everything is already decided. That money is already spent)

Looking back I realize he was trying to get me to hypothesize, (a grammatical skill needed at the advanced and superior levels) which I can do in terms of the language but couldn’t in that moment in terms of imagination.

But I did explain that if the goal of these games is to make a good impression they might want to start with some of their recent political policies that seem to be pushing parts of the world further away and are by no means making a good impression.

Or if the goal is to develop tourism they might want to start with simplification of the visa process (which I’m doing right now for my trip this summer and it’s a pain) and eliminating bureaucracy and corruption.

And the last question, which I already mentioned, was about our responsibility to take care of our planet.

Maybe I’m overly talkative but I felt like he was interrupting me and not letting me finish up my argument.

Anyway, I have major issues with the system of assessment if they’re rushing you to try and elicit very specific grammar structures. Maybe if I take it again(which most people do) I’ll have a better experience.

But if you’re taking it anytime soon. Good luck to you. Just relax (which I didn’t do) and enjoy the ride.

Find out my results in this post.

Categories Blog, Russian CultureTags , ,

4 thoughts on “Taking the OPI in Russian

  1. Congratulations! I envy you! 🙂

  2. Thanks for posting this! I’ll be going abroad to St. Petersburg this semester and plan to take the OPI when I graduate. It’s nice to read how they structure the interview!

  3. Heads up, the way the OPI works, you aren’t graded for your opinions and the like. Being cut off isn’t exactly desireable, but it is understandable from the test-taker’s point of view. Just remember that every conversation is recorded and graded by two separate entities. Their scores have to match eachother’s in terms of your language proficiency. As such, it isn’t necessary for you to finish the question, just display a genuine understanding of the question answered and show that can you reply accordingly.

    Also, you’re allowed to deviate from a superior ranking and still get superior. They test the floor and ceiling of your language level. As long as you average superior, you should be good.

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