English Language Proficiency Assessment (ELPA)


The National Institute of Public Administration (INTAN) offers the English Language Proficiency Assessment (ELPA) aimed at assessing the use of the English language at the workplace for public service officers. To date, more than 10, 000 officers from various schemes of service from Grades 41 and above have taken the assessment.

Development of ELPA

The ELPA was introduced in 1998 for junior and mid-level officers in the Administrative and Diplomatic Service (ADS). This assessment administered by the English Language Unit (ELU) of the Language Program was developed between 1997 and 2000 by the ELU in collaboration with Testing and Evaluation experts from the Reading University, UK.

ELPA Test Components

The ELPA assessment comprises three components: Reading, Writing and Speaking. Each component has been carefully designed to assess officers’ use of the English at the workplace in a in a variety of situations and settings.

Rationale for Developing ELPA

As with other tests of language for occupational purposes, the focus of ELPA is on “job-specific” proficiency as determined by the nature of the officers English language job requirements in their respective departments and ministries. The rationale for this assessment was to put in place a mechanism enabling INTAN, the Public Service Department (PSD), and other agencies to assess public service employees’ English language proficiency to facilitate appropriate planning for placement and training. The test is unique being the first of its kind to be developed for the public service in Malaysia. The test development phase which included conducting a language needs survey, drawing of the test specifications, and developing and field-testing test items covered a period of years before the first test form was rolled out in 1998. These stages were necessary to provide the validity evidence needed for the use of this test on the target population.

Repurposing of ELPA

Although initially developed for the ADS service, PSD instituted a policy change extending the use of ELPA to other services aimed at addressing two important issues. The first was based on growing concerns at the perceived weakness in English language capacity of lower and middle management officers which was seen as compromising the competitiveness of the officers in matters of governance and public management. In addition, the repurposing of ELPA served as meeting the requirement of a competency-based assessment as a result of the introduction of a comprehensive remuneration package comprising four core components namely:


  1. Improvement of service conditions

  2. Modification to the salary structure

  3. Enhanced career development opportunities

  4. Assessment of competency levels


As an effort for continuous improvement in the validity of test score interpretations, a huge study was undertaken in 2008 to investigate the impact of repurposing of ELPA. The following table represents the schemes of service the ELPA covers since it was first operationalised in 1998.


On December 21 2016, PSD introduced a new circular Pekeliling PP Bil. 8/2016 which mandated INTAN to be the “ third party” for English Language assessment of their officers. This circular which will subsequently affect the career prospects Federal Public Officers officers from across 28 schemes of services across 4 Grade levels, outlined the process and procedures as well as the pre –requisite for ministries and agencies to fast-track their officers to strategic posts as a measure for rewarding highly talented and competent civil servants. With this circular the use of ELPA as the first screening instrument for fast-tracking purposes is now official and set into motion. In 2015, when this idea of fast-tracking talented officers to higher strategic posts was first mooted, the PSD recognised the importance of creating a talent pool of officers who are capable of taking on higher posts should the need arise. Although the use of ELPA as the first screening instrument as an initial predictor of success in higher stategic leadership positions has been cautioned, PSD believes that officers who are selected or screened for these positions must have a high degree of competency in the English Language for them to function effciently in their positions.


Contact Us

Senior Training Consultant
Unit Penilaian dan Pemerkasaan Penggunaan Bahasa Inggeris
Cluster for Language Excellence
National Institute of Public Administration (INTAN)
Jalan Elmu Off Jalan Prof Diraja Ungku Aziz
59100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: 03-7966 1413

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