NSA Language Test: DLPT + DLAB?

Hi all. I’m a college senior studying Arabic (Levantine Arabic specifically) and am applying at the NSA for their linguist/language analyst position. I made it through the first round of review and have just been offered appointments to take language tests. However, I’m a little confused about what I’m actually going to be testing for. My testing appointments are split over two days. There is a 4 hour morning session (unlabeled, just says “testing”) on Wednesday, and then the next day an 8 hour session (labeled as listening in the morning and reading in the afternoon). I’m not sure what that initial Wednesday morning test is since it’s unlabeled. I asked the scheduling folks but they either didn’t know or were unwilling to tell me. I’m theorizing it’s the DLAB, since the job posting gives requirements as either (for example) 2/2 on the ILR scale or 110 on the DLAB. It couldn’t be another language, right? I also put Spanish on my application, which I could get an advanced score on, but if it were another language I’d imagine they’d label it as listening and reading. Honestly I’m hoping it’s the DLAB since I feel like I could do pretty well on that. I’m a little worried about the DLPT because my Arabic is rusty and if they’re only counting dialects like Sudanese Arabic for a lower 1/1 score requirement and not other Arabic dialects then I’m screwed lol. So if I could also take the DLAB, then I might be able to enter into their language acquisition programs and get paid to learn Chinese or Russian or Farsi or another language like that. Has anyone else had an experience similar to this? Did you take the DLAB too?

I didn’t think they did DLAB testing for new hires but maybe its what you said: possibly consider you for other languages. The demand for Arabic has dropped off a bit but maybe they think that if you could learn Arabic you could probably learn another language, but they would still need a DLAB score to put you into a cross-training program.

Thanks for the reply! Yeah, I know they’re definitely doing cross-training programs right now because when I spoke with the NSA representatives at a job fair last month they told me they were specifically hiring Arabic linguists to train to be Chinese linguists, so honestly I’m kind of hoping I get to do that. It would be fun to be paid to learn a language I’ve always wanted to learn anyways. That’s why I’m wondering if maybe the DLAB is part of the initial hiring screen, especially since they also gave DLAB test scores in the job posting (specifically for the cross-training programs) and I don’t think that test is usually given to civilians. We’ll see!!

Sounds odd, but I guess Chinese linguists are not that easy to find.

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Adding an update here so someone else might find this helpful, but they did not have me do the DLAB. Turns out that extra test on my schedule was for a listening exam for Levantine Arabic, and the other two exams were MSA reading and listening. I’m pretty sure I failed overall, which I’m pretty bummed about. Guess I’ll have to keep applying!

Why do you think you failed? How difficult was it?

Did you use any study guides?

I used some random stuff I found online but I think if I could go back I would have done more practice stuff through OSA on the DLIFLC’s website.

I will also say that there’s a chance I did get a passing score because the test might have been designed to place you between 0 to 2 or 3, in which case if I did meh or okay on it, that might have put me at a 1/1 which is what I think I needed.

I just didn’t feel confident on it at all. Especially the first day with the Levantine Arabic listening exam. I’ve only ever studied Jordanian Arabic specifically, and they included the Syrian and Lebanese and Palestinian dialects as well, which were more different than I thought they’d be. Plus, since it’s the colloquial dialect, all of the recordings were very informal and sometimes not very good quality, so that made it hard. I also have a lot of health problems that were flaring very badly during the two days I was there, so I spent a lot of time being sick in the bathroom or trying to stay upright at my computer. Still though, those are all just excuses, I’m just not as good at Arabic as I once was. I’m hoping that there’s a chance I scraped by with a 1/1, since the MSA tests were much easier (reading went pretty well I thought and the listening exam was much easier to understand since they were generally all good recordings of news broadcasts and the like). I am confident that I would do well in the job and in the development program, I just don’t know if my tests reflected that.

Did you apply on their website or some where else? I don’t see any language opening.

I know a Chinese speaker who is interested

I think NSA job openings open and close on a regular basis. If you don’t see an opening now, check back every few weeks.

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I believe the job posting closed a few days ago unfortunately. It was posted for about six weeks. Tell them to keep checking periodically and maybe they can catch the next one.

I did take the DLPT, the test system is if you pass one stage you move on to the next,
if you fail, you’re out!!
Stage 1. was MSA through and through, writing (translation), reading, listing and comprehension.
Stage 2. was all in Iraqi Dialect, which consisted 2 parts:
A: listing and comprehension, reading and writing!
B: Phone calls conversation, each phone call approx 50 minutes long,
first one was in English, second one was Iraqi dialect and MSA.

It was a bit intense but doable if a person’s native tongue is from that targeted language.

Oh really? Were those two stages in the same trip/visit? I did the Levantine listening exam on my first day and then MSA reading and listening on the next day. I’m not sure if that means I passed or not.

No, they were on two different dates.
They sent me a notification email letting me know that I’ve passed the first stage and moving forward with a new testing stage; further details were also provided!

Later when I did pass the second stage, I got an email letting me know that I had passed and I moved on to the security component phase.
I think every agency has its own style regarding notifying candidates.
It sounds like you’ve passed the tests but they didn’t notify you officially!!

FYI, I did the DLPT for a linguist position with a three-letter agency,
I’m still in the dilemma of waiting for my TS/SCI to be issued!
it’s been two years and a half.

Best of luck.

Thank you!! Fingers crossed!! And best of luck to you on the TS/SCI. 2.5 years sounds hellish. I hope they’re able to complete that for you soon!

Many thanks.
Yeah, it’s very tiring to wait that long!

Best wishes to you too.