Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Placement Test for Assessing Language Proficiency

Program: Modern Languages Department, College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Assessment: Placement Test for Assessing Language Proficiency


For students enrolling in language courses, correct placement is crucial if they are to reap the most benefits from a course. We needed an effective and efficient way to assess students’ language proficiency before they enrolled in a course.


We use web-based adaptive tests developed by a national university consortium. These tests assess knowledge in reading skills, grammar, and vocabulary; the tests are offered in French, German, and Spanish. Student performance is automatically and immediately scored online. All students who have studied a foreign language before and who want to take a language course in our department are directed to take this test. After completing the test, a student sees a score sheet that includes the score, a referral to the appropriate course, and instructions (if necessary) to bring the score sheet to the department for prerequisite waivers to be issued.


The web-based placement test has helped to place students into language courses that are most appropriate to their proficiency levels. The department continues to use this placement test for French, German, and Spanish. 


Students in other languages can contact Sue Connelly for information about how to proceed.

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