Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Exit Assessment of Language Proficiency

Program: Modern Languages Department, College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Assessment: Exit Assessment of Language Proficiency


There has been a significant move within the foreign language profession to document the language proficiency of graduating students. Some faculty in the Modern Languages Department participated in establishing national proficiency guidelines, so it is natural that our department would adopt these guidelines. Given that universities teach languages differently, we also wanted to gauge our students’ proficiency in relation to their peers nationwide. Our specific goal was to assess our students’ exiting language proficiency using external metrics standard in our profession.


We used a proficiency test that is used nationally and was developed by the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages. It is a standardized oral test with a series of prompts and is taken individually. We require all language majors and minors to complete this test during their final semester of college. A faculty member administers the test to a student and uses a standard set of rubrics to assess proficiency.


As a result of administering these proficiency tests, our department gains information about our students’ proficiency compared to their peers’ nationwide, faculty use the results to modify language teaching techniques, and students receive feedback on their proficiency.


We have considered making a minimum level of proficiency on the test a graduation requirement. However, we cannot because we believe that proficiency cannot be achieved without using the language in a country where it is spoken and because studying abroad often poses a financial burden to students.

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