Skip to main content

The SIELE: Here's What You Need to Know | Spanish Proficiency Test

May 23, 2018

The SIELE: Here's What You Need to Know | Spanish Proficiency Test

Aspiring expats, you’ll want to read this! If you’re interested in someday working or studying in a Hispanic country, you may need to take a new Spanish proficiency test called the SIELE. Learn more about it in this guest post from Matthew at Listen & Learn


The Instituto Cervantes, a globally recognized non-profit organization created by the Spanish government, and three highly respected universities in Spain, Mexico, and Argentina, have created a Spanish language proficiency exam that is going to change how the world thinks of Spanish as a second language. It’s called the Servicio Internacional de Evaluación de la Lengua Español (SIELE) and it’s slated to be far more ubiquitous than any of its predecessors.

It is already available as of this year in the United States, China, and Brazil, and will almost certainly expand to other nations within the decade. If you have any interest in working or studying in a predominately Hispanic country, here is everything you need to know about where, why, and how to take the SIELE before you leave.

Where Can I Take the SIELE?

The exam is taken online, but it must be done in a designated exam center. There are currently around 100 registered centers scattered throughout the major U.S. cities, and that number will soon expand thanks to the ease by which an institution can obtain authorization to allow test-takers to use their facilities. For now, exam centers can be found in Seattle, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, San Antonio, Chicago, and New York.

How Do I Take The SIELE And What It Will Cost Me?

In total, the exam consists of four separate sections: reading, listening, writing, and speaking. If you so choose, you can complete all four sections in one sitting over the span of three hours. However, you’ll also have the option of splitting the exam in parts, with each sitting consisting of two of the four parts. The full exam costs $175. If you prefer to take two sections at a time instead of four, the smaller exams vary between $85 and $90. Prices will vary if you intend to take the exam in a country outside the United States.

What Distinguishes The SIELE From Other Proficiency Exams?

  • Integration of Dialect: There are a number of special new features that set the SIELE apart from anything that came before it. Among the most interesting yet challenging is the integration of the numerous Spanish dialects from around the world. Whereas in past exams dialect was only tentatively included, the SIELE will extensively integrate vocabulary, accents, grammar, and expressions ranging from Argentina to Mexico to Spain, as well as the many nations in between.
  • Quick Results: For exams prior to the SIELE, results typically took two to three months. For the SIELE, test-takers will receive a score for reading and listening immediately upon completion, since the test is taken on the computer. The full assessment will be provided within no more than three weeks. So if, say, you have a potential employer or university that has shown interest in you, but first wants you to prove your Spanish proficiency, you will now be able to do so in a timely manner.
  • New Evaluation System Will Become The Norm: In past exams, test-takers had to decide which level they wanted to take. At the end, they would either pass or fail for that particular level. If they failed, nothing happened. If they passed, be it by an inch or a mile, they could put that level on their résumés. For the SIELE, there is only one exam for all takers, and it is evaluated on a point system of 1 to 1,000. This will prove more attractive to employers, as they will be able to evaluate your skill level to a more exact degree.
  • The Credential’s Validity Is Limited To Two Years: At first glance, you may assume that this is a disadvantage, but the fact of the matter is that the fresher the credential, the more valuable it is to an employer. If you had attained adequate proficiency a decade ago but have no way of proving you have kept up your language studies, you are of lesser value than someone who has just recently completed an exam and is at the height of his or her studies and is still improving.

What Can I Expect From The Actual Exam?

  • Reading: You’ll be tasked with completing five sections, which add up to 38 questions based on reading passages designed to test your reading comprehension level. You will have exactly one hour to complete it.
  • Listening: You will be required to demonstrate your understanding of six listening tasks, delivered in the form of recordings. This section also has a total of 38 questions. You’ll have exactly 55 minutes to complete this section.
  • Writing: There are only two tasks for this section, in which you’ll be required to react to content by writing full responses. Grammar and sentence structure will be taken into account, but above all, coherence will be the most important factor. This section takes one hour.
  • Speaking: This section only lasts between 15 and 20 minutes. This too will be delivered to you in the form of recordings, and you’ll need to respond with recorded spoken answers. There will be a total of five tasks for this section.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

Until this year, the closest resemblance the world had to a Spanish equivalent of the TOEFL was the Diploma of Spanish as a Foreign Language (DELE), which to this day is only taken by roughly 70,000 people per year. The SIELE is projected to have some 300,000 test-takers in its opening year and that number is expected to reach over 700,000 within half a decade. If you’d like to find your nearest test center and sign up to take the SIELE, you can do so by clicking here. If you know something we don’t about Spanish proficiency tests, please let us know in the comments section below.

Looking for a local or online Spanish tutor? Start your search here.


Matthew writes for Listen & Learn, a language-training company that offers customized group and individual packages around the world. Take one of their 18 free language level tests. Matthew is from Philadelphia and has lived in Argentina and Colombia, splitting his time writing and teaching English. If you have any questions or comments, you can contact Matthew at

Photo by The LEAF Project

Free TakeLessons Resource


Suzy S.