FAQ - Incoming Students
Welcome to USC! This website is for incoming students to answer some of your questions about foreign language requirements and the placement exam.
1. What is the foreign language placement exam?
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.
2. Do I need to take the placement exam?
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, go to this page.
3. In which languages are placement exams offered?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. How do I know what my College's foreign language requirement is?
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. To determine your requirement, you need to decide on a major and look at the foreign language requirement for the College or School in which your major is located. You can see foreign language requirements for each College/School here. Also, we recommend that you speak with your academic advisor regarding your College's GFL requirement.
5. When should I take my foreign language placement exam?
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 advisor 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.
Incoming students are not permitted to take placement exams during orientation since this would interfere with activities already planned for those days.
6. When are placement exams offered for incoming freshman and transfer students?
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.
7. Where are placement exams taken?
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 Classroom Building. For information about parking during the summer, see this page.
8. Can I just show up and take a placement exam?
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.
9. How can I register for a placement exam?
You will register for placement exams online at this webpage. 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.
10. What should I do if I did not get my confirmation e-mail?
We ask students to register using their USC e-mail accounts because your email will be coming from a USC account and the account will recognize it as coming from the same server and send it to your inbox, not a junk folder.
If you used your USC email account to register, but did not get the confirmation message, send an e-mail to email@example.com, and we will try to figure out what happened. If you used an account other than your USC email, check your junk/spam folder for the confirmation email.
11. How do I cancel/reschedule my appointment?
You should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org requesting that we cancel your current appointment. Once you receive confirmation that your current registration has been canceled, you will be able to register for a different testing date.
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.
14. 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 my.sc.edu.
15. Can I make an individual appointment to take the placement exam if I cannot make it to a placement exam during the summer?
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!
16. Will I automatically get credit if I score high enough on the placement exam to exempt my foreign language requirement?
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.
17. How do I register to take more than one placement exam?
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.
18. I wish to study a language that I have never previously studied. How should I register for the introductory-level course in the "new" language?
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 placement 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.