Incoming and Transfer Students
The foreign language placement exam is an assessment tool that the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures uses to determine the course in our curriculum that is right for your level in a given language.
In short, you probably do. Most students will need to take a foreign language placement exam, but for more information about who is required to take the placement exam and who can exempt it.
Placement exams are offered in Ancient Greek, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. If your language is not listed here, and you wish to fulfill your foreign language requirement in that language, email your request to email@example.com.
All majors require demonstration of a certain level of proficiency in a foreign language, but these requirements vary according to a student’s major area of interest. So to determine your requirement, first you need to determine what you plan to study at USC and then figure out in which College or School that major is. You can see foreign language requirements for each College/School on the academic bulletin. Also, we recommend that you speak with your academic advisor regarding your College's GFL requirement.
We strongly encourage you to take the placement exam before your orientation session for two reasons. First, most students will receive their placement score the same day or within two days. When these students meet with their adviser at orientation, they will be able to speak in concrete terms about their foreign language requirement and which foreign language classes they will have to take at USC. Additionally, if students take their placement exams early, they don’t have to worry about it later, and can avoid having to take it hastily in their last year or semester of classes in order to graduate.
Students are not permitted to take placement exams during orientation since this would interfere with activities already planned for those days.
Placement exams are offered in conjunction with orientation sessions. They take place the afternoon before each summer orientation session. If you live farther from campus, you are encouraged to include time for taking the placement exam in your travel plans.
Unlike the math placement exam, foreign language placement exams are taken on campus. During summer placement exam sessions, students will check in on the ground floor of the Humanities Office Building.
No. You must register for a placement exam. If your registration cannot be confirmed when you show up to take the placement exam, you will not be allowed to take it.
You will register for placement exams online. Follow the instructions carefully and be sure to check your email for the confirmation you will receive because it contains important information about your exam.
Please bring your photo ID and a copy of your confirmation email.
Different languages use different formats.
French, German, and Spanish– There are two phases of these exams. Most students will only need to take the first phase. This is a multiple choice, self-adaptive exam. Students receive questions of varying difficulty based on grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. This first phase of the placement exam usually takes 20-40 minutes.
The second phase of the placement exam is for students with higher levels of proficiencies or students whose proficiency cannot be determined by the multiple choice exam. The phase two for German and French have writing and speaking activities. The phase two for Spanish has grammar, writing, and speaking activities. The phase II exam usually takes 45 minutes to an hour.
Chinese, Italian, Latin – These are online multiple choice exams. They take from 30-45 minutes for most students.
Japanese, Portuguese, Russian – These exams are paper/pencil exams. These exams generally take about an hour, but could take up to 1.5 hours.
Ancient Greek - This is a paper/pencil translation exam. For this assessment, you are allowed to bring an Ancient Greek/English lexicon to use.
Arabic – For more information about this exam, please contact us.
Students who only need to take the French, German, Spanish Phase I exam, as well as students who take the Chinese, Italian, and Latin placement exams will receive their scores immediately upon completion of the exam. Placement results will be updated to student records the following morning and can be found on Self-Service Carolina if the student needs to reference it in the future.
Results for the French, German, and Spanish Phase II exams are available on Self-Service Carolina within two days.
Results for the Arabic, Japanese, Portuguese, and Russian exams may take up to two weeks to return and be processed.
After placement scores have been processed, you can find your score on Self-Service Carolina at my.sc.edu.
We give placement exams to approximately 5,000 students each year, so we cannot offer individual appointments to take the placement exam. If you cannot make it to a placement exam during the summer, then you will need to wait to take the placement exam on a later testing date. We offer placement exams a few days before the beginning of classes for both fall and spring semesters and at least twice each month during the semester. Our placement dates are updated to our placement webpage here once they become available.
Remember, you are encouraged to take the placement exam as early as possible!
No. You will not be awarded credit based on your language placement score alone. Some students who score above the first course in the curriculum may be eligible for back credit if they take the course they place into and receive a B or better in that class. This is not guaranteed. Please note the following exceptions:
- If you have AP or IB credit for 121 and/or 122, you are not eligible to receive additional back credit.
- If you are a native speaker of the language, you are not eligible to receive additional back credit.
- If you have transferring college-level foreign language credit from another institution, you are not eligible to receive additional back credit.
- If you took the placement exam and took a course different from that in which you were placed, you are not eligible to receive additional back credit.
When registering, you may simply select several languages. Your registration information will be processed for each of the exams that you wish to take. Please keep in mind, however, that students should not take placement exams in languages that they have never previously studied.
If you have either never previously studied the language, or if it has been over five years since you last studied the language, you may request exemption from the placement exam by submitting the online exemption form. Once you receive confirmation via email that the form has been approved and processed, you will be eligible to register for the introductory-level course in that language.
Although the French, German and Spanish Phase I exams are not timed, most students complete these exams in approximately 30 minutes. The Phase II exams in French, German and Spanish, if required, can take an additional hour to complete.
Placement exams in Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Portuguese and Russian take approximately one hour to complete.
This depends on your language. French, German and Spanish have two phases to their placement exams. The Phase I Exam is an online multiple choice, adaptive assessment tool which takes testing items from a pool of thousands of questions. Most students will only need to take this portion of the exam. However, students with more extensive experience in the language and who score high enough on the first phase will need to take our Phase II exam which consists of both writing and oral proficiency sections.
The Chinese, Italian, and Latin placement exams are electronic multiple-choice tests.
The Arabic, Japanese, Portuguese, and Russian exams are traditional paper/pencil exams with a variety of one word, short answer, and free response questions.
Please email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Once your original appointment has been canceled, you will be permitted to register for a new testing date/time.
Please register for one exam via our placement registration webpage. After receiving confirmation of your first exam, send an email to email@example.com that the other languages be manually added to your registration information.
Yes. A 4 on the Phase I French, German or Spanish placement exam only indicates that you have qualified for the second part of the placement exam. You are required to take the Phase II test in order to receive a permanent score for your records. A 4 on the Phase I exam can neither exempt you from your College's GFL requirement nor can it place you into our skills-based foreign language curriculum.
Students who only need to take the French, German, Spanish Phase I exam, as well as students who take the Chinese, Italian, and Latin placement exams will receive their scores immediately upon completion of the exam.
Results for the French, German, and Spanish Phase II exams, as well as the Arabic, Japanese, Portuguese, and Russian exams may take up to two weeks to return and be processed. Once scores are available, you can find your score on SelfService Caroina at my.sc.edu .
You may have satisfied the foreign language requirement for any college at USC. Then, if you take one of the qualifying upper-level language courses and earn at least a B, you may be eligible for up to seven hours of "advanced standing" credit (for 121 and 122).
Even though the University of South Carolina has a policy on placement for AP language scores we highly recommend that you take the placement Exam since it is geared towards our curriculum. Traditionally students place higher than what the University placement policy recommends. The University test gives you a chance to begin your sequence of study at a higher level and complete the core requirement sooner or get to your minor or major credits in the chosen language faster.
No. A student may take the Placement Test only once: a second score in the same language is not valid. The results of the Placement Test are binding for five (5) years; that is, a student may not take a course at a lower level than his/her proficiency score indicates.
No. Once a student begins a foreign language course sequence on a USC campus, he/she is no longer eligible to take the placement exam in that language.
No. The University of South Carolina does not accept American Sign Language as a foreign language.
No. You will not be allowed to stay in a class that is not appropriate for your score. Should you feel that your class is too easy after a class or two you need to talk to your instructor to work out a resolution.
If you took the Placement Exam more than 5 years ago you have two choices- You can take the test again or you may choose to start your sequence of study at the beginning level. Once you begin a foreign language course sequence, however, you are no longer permitted to take the placement exam in that language.
Your score is valid for 5 years.
You can find detailed information on what your score means.
You may begin the study of another foreign language at USC. Once your completed Form to Request Exemption from the Placement Exam has been approved, you will then be permitted to register for the introductory-level course in the language. You do not have to take a placement test in that language first.
If you want to study a language other than the one you studied in high school but would like to start that language at a level other than beginning you will need to take a placement test for that language.
Please email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For questions not addressed here, please contact a placement coordinator by emailing email@example.com or calling 803-777-0816.