Alta Language Services

4-5 Arabic, Dutch, English, French, General, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Tests

March 10, 2013

Price  $60 for oral exam or written exam; $30 for reading exam
Skill Level  Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

I do not profess to be an expert in testing services. After a Google search, I chose Alta Language Services for my own testing needs because it is efficient and inexpensive.

Alta Language Services, according to its website, is “a leader in language testing for government agencies and businesses nationwide” that “develops and administers thousands of language tests each year.” It is the official language-testing provider for the city of Los Angeles as well as the state of Arizona.

Alta offers testing in more than 90 languages. Over a period of years, I have done both oral and written tests with them in several languages. 

When I first started, the written tests were 30 minutes, but have since increased to an hour. The oral exams are shorter, and all of mine have been conducted over the telephone by native speakers who asked me a series of questions (20-something for Spanish, for instance) to elicit conversation so they could judge my competence.

I have found the testers pleasant and professional. However, my scores, though in the ball park of what I might have expected, sometimes seemed a little random. Self-assessment is a dicey game, but as an example, in Italian I managed to score—after having studied that language only three months in my entire life—as high as I did in German, and higher than I did in either Spanish and French. Those other three languages had all previously received years of my attention.

If you work for an organization that wants to test its employees, and if the skills really matter for how you allocate the employees workwise, I would perhaps consider more expensive and exhaustive tests than the ones I took with Alta. I do see that the company offers customized testing, and if I gain experience with other testing organizations in the future, I will add more suggestions to this directory of resources.

Me, About to Take My Spanish Test from Alta Language Services
Me, About to Take My Spanish Test from Alta Language Services

Comments (6)

Veronica • Posted on Mon, September 21, 2015 - 4:16 pm EST

Hi Ellen

Could you tell me how to prepare for Spanish ALTA?  I know so far that my weak area is Subjunctive. 

How did you prepare?    Can an individual call ALTA and schedule testing?



Ellen Jovin • Posted on Thu, September 24, 2015 - 11:02 am EST

Yes, an individual can definitely call. That’s just what I did. It is really easy to set up.

As for preparing, I think they do a darned good job of designing a test that really doesn’t allow you to prepare specifically for the test. Just work on your skills overall and that will help you do better. :)

Ai • Posted on Fri, January 20, 2017 - 7:08 pm EST

Hi Ellen,
I am considering applying for a position for a Japanese fluent document attorney and they have an ALTA test that candidates have to pass. I was just wondering how hard it really is. I really want this position and I’m just not confident what level of language is required. Any advice will help.
Thank you.


Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sun, January 22, 2017 - 10:10 pm EST

Hello, Ai! I haven’t tested different adult language tests focusing on a professional market, so I can’t offer a comparative analysis, but I found Alta’s reasonable. If anything, I would guess that the tests are on the easier side. HOWEVER I have not tried their tests for Japanese. Important question: which type of test do you have to take? I have taken their oral and written tests, but not the reading comprehension. I can’t remember whether there’s a fourth test type. I liked the oral exams a lot and thought they were fun/well set up. I feel staying relaxed on the call would be helpful. I did get hopped up during my various oral exams, but I made a real effort to stay natural, listen carefully to the questions, and not rush my answers. GOOD LUCK TO YOU!!!

Marchand • Posted on Thu, March 02, 2017 - 9:27 am EST

I took the comprehension test in my native language… that was a requirement for a job… clearly the test was not written by a native speaker but more likely by someone who didn’t have full command of French and who used as synonymous, words that actually have slightly different meanings… I scored better in Russian, even if I had to make an educated guess to a few questions…

CTT • Posted on Wed, March 21, 2018 - 5:10 pm EST

Thanks for the useful info provided here. Regarding the French Test, is it better to go for the automated telephone questions or request for a live session with an evaluator.

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