ABSTRACT  The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) has developed an oral proficiency test, the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI), which may become the official test of oral performance for prospective foreign language teachers in Texas. Professionals in foreign language education are raising concerns about the effect of anxiety on Oral Proficiency Interview ratings. The purpose of this study was to provide an assessment of how anxiety may influence scores on the OPI.

An examination of the relationship between anxiety and oral performance must take foreign language ability into account. In this study, subjects' foreign language proficiency was assessed through a Self-Appraisal of Language Proficiency questionnaire and a dictation test. Subjects' anxiety was assessed on the basis of four independent anxiety measures: the State Anxiety Inventory, the Cognitive Interference Questionnaire, a Self-Report of Anxiety, and a Foreign Language Anxiety Scale of Reactions.

A total of sixty subjects took the OPI at the University of Texas at Austin, Southwest Texas State University, or the University of Texas at El Paso. These subjects were either majors in French, German, or Spanish or prospective French, German, or Spanish teachers at one of these three institutions. The Self-Appraisal of Speaking Proficiency and the State Anxiety Inventory were administered before the OPI, and the other anxiety instruments were given immediately after it.

Results showed significant negative correlations between anxiety and the OPI, but once the effects of ability were accounted for, the correlations were no longer significant. In other words, once the effect of an individual's language proficiency was accounted for, oral performance no longer decreased as anxiety increased.

An important qualification that must be noted is that subjects were aware that the OPI in this study represented an unofficial administration of the test. Therefore, this study does not provide data on anxiety levels for official test situations.