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College of Arts & Sciences
Foreign Language Placement Testing

FAQ - Current Students

How do I register to take an exam?  Please register via our placement registration webpage.

What is the format for the placement exam and how long will each take?
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 the Arabic Placement Coordinator.

Do I have to take Phase II if I score 4 on the French, German or Spanish Phase I exam? 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.

How long will it take to get my results?
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

What are the benefits of doing well on the placement exam and receiving a high score (back-credit)?
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 back credit (for 121 and 122).  Our back credit form can be found HERE.  The completed form may be emailed to or dropped off in the main office on the 8th floor of the Welsh Humanities Office Bldg.

I have an AP score of 3 or higher in a language what should I do? 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.

Can I take the placement exam more than once and use the better score? No. A student may take the placement exam only once: a second score in the same language is not valid. The results of the placement exam 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. 

I have already taken a foreign language course at USC.  Can I now take the placement exam to attempt to exempt my College's GFL requirement?  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.

Can I take American Sign Language to fulfill my language requirement? No. The University of South Carolina does not accept American Sign Language as a foreign language.

Can I place myself in a different level than what the placement score indicates? 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.

I took the placement exam several years ago. Can I take it again? 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.

How long is my score valid? Your score is valid for 5 years.

What does my score mean? Go here for a detailed answer.

I want to study a language different from the one I studied in high school. What do I need to do? You may begin the study of another foreign language at USC. Once your completed Placement Exemption Form 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 the beginning level you will need to take a placement test for that language.

I want to use a language that is not offered at USC to fulfill my language requirement. What do I need to do? Please email your request to   


For questions not addressed here, please contact a placement coordinator by emailing or calling 803-777-0816.