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College of Arts & Sciences
Foreign Language Placement Testing

FAQ for 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  

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 Global Foreign Language requirement.

5. When should I take my foreign language placement exam?

We strongly encourage you to take the placement exam at least two weeks before you are scheduled to meet with your academic advisor.  Although most students will receive the results of their exam within a couple days after completing it, those students who score a 4 on the French, German or Spanish exam will also be required to take the Phase II exam to determine their placement either into our curriculum.

6. When are placement exams offered for incoming freshman and transfer students?

The Latin exam and Phase I exams in French, German and Spanish Placement exams are offered each Wednesday throughout May, June and July.  Registration is mandatory for each of our testing dates.  If the Phase 2 exam is also required, students will receive an email the Friday following their Phase I exam indicating this.  The Phase 2 exam will be offered the Monday after each of our Phase I exams.

7. 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 University email for the confirmation you will receive because it contains important information about your exam.  Additionally, you will receive actual testing instructions the Tuesday morning before your scheduled exam.

8. What should I do if I did not get my confirmation e-mail?

If you used your USC email account to register, but did not get the confirmation message, send an e-mail to, 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.

9.  How do I cancel/reschedule my appointment?

You should send an email to 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.

10.  What type of computer system requirements are needed?

Most newer Windows and Mac operating systems will work.  Additionally, you will need a webcam, microphone and speakers and a broadband internet connections.  More specific information regarding system requirements can be found here.

11. What will I be required to do to take the exam?

The day prior to your scheduled exam, you will receive an email detailing how you will download Respondus Lockdown browser with webcam monitoring and take a practice quiz to test for technology issues.  On the day you will take the exam, you will take a short honor code assessment and then will be allowed to take the placement exam.

12. 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 separate exams.  Most students will only need to take the first exam, however.  The Phase I exam is is a timed (50 min) multiple-choice assessment with questions of varying difficulty based on grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.  

The second phase of the placement exam is for students with higher levels of proficiencies or for 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 2 exam usually takes 45 minutes to an hour.

Latin – The Latin exam is an online multiple-choice exam.  Generally, students complete it in 30-45 minutes.

13. How long will it take to get my results?

Results for the Latin exam and the French, German, and Spanish Phase I and Phase II exams can take up to one week to process.  Generally, however, results are available on Self-Service Carolina in two to three days.

14. How do I find out my score?

Your placement score can be found under the Student menu on Self-Service Carolina.  From there you can click Student Profile and then select the Testing tab. 

15. 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.

16. How do I register to take more than one placement exam?

This summer (May, June and July), you will be allowed to take an exam in only one language.  However, once campus reopens, you will be allowed to register for other language exams through our placement website.

17. 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 four 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.

18. 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.