Placement Testing

About Placement Tests

The Language Center administers placement tests to all students who intend to continue studying a foreign language at Stanford. The purpose is to assess students' current language abilities in order to match them to the language courses most suitable for their level. Accurate initial placement is a key factor in successfully learning a foreign language. Therefore, students must enroll in the class in which they place (or an applicable conversation class), rather than trying to self-place. Language course prerequisites are strictly enforced and students will not be permitted to enroll in a class unless they have placed into it or have completed the prerequisite course (not applicable to beginning-level courses).

Placement exams in each language consist of both text and oral components. Proficiency testing measures what students are able to do with the language, rather than accumulated knowledge. Therefore, we do not recommend trying to study for the test.

 

For most languages, after completing the online text portion of the examination, students proceed to the oral portion (procedures vary by language and time of year). The combined results of oral and written components determine the most appropriate course for the student who decides to continue studying that language, whether to fulfill the language requirement or for personal or professional interest. Note that language placement results are valid for one academic year or 10 months. 

As mentioned, placement testing varies by language and time of year.  For many languages, scheduled placement testing occurs in the summer and beginning of fall quarter only, so students should plan accordingly. A few of the more commonly taught languages (Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish) offer limited placement testing in mid-quarter during Fall and Winter, for students who missed the summer testing period.  

For planning purposes, please check the placement testing page for each language for details on the required components and the testing schedule. The Language Center offers classes in more than 40 languages, and not all of them are listed in these placement testing webpages.  If you know that we offer a particular language and you do not see a placement test listed here, please email us to inquire about testing in that language. After reviewing this website, including the specific page for your language, if you have any questions, please email the languagecenter [at] stanford.edu (subject: Placement%20Testing) (Language Center).

Remember these tests are for placement purposes, and are not achievement tests. Rather than receiving a score, you will receive a placement into a class where you can maximize your learning.  Your placement results will only be known to you and to members of the Language Center who direct placement testing. They will not be reported to all members of the department or recorded on your transcript.

AY 2022-2023 Placement Testing

For Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish, testing began June 1.  The online text component should have been completed, and an online oral interview appointment secured, by July 15.

If you have missed this deadline, please take the test ASAP.  Testing will conclude August 31. We cannot guarantee appointments or placements for students who have missed the deadline. 

For other languages, please check the details listed for that language.

Should you take a placement test?

If you have no prior experience with the language, you do not need to take a placement test. Enroll in the first quarter of the first-year sequence. 

All students with any prior exposure to a language they intend to continue studying at Stanford, including formal study or home background, must take a placement test in that language before enrolling in a course. Self-placing is not allowed in language classes.

  • If you have minimal experience with the language and believe you should start at the very beginning, take the placement test. Students with any background (study or home background) in a language may not self-place, even into beginning-level courses.
  • Even if you have AP, SAT II or IB scores that fulfill the undergraduate language requirement, you still need to take a placement test if you plan to continue in that language at Stanford.
  • If you are continuing in a language for which you do not see a scheduled placement test, please email the Language Center to inquire about arranging a test: languagecenter [at] stanford.edu (subject: Placement%20Testing)
  • Because of the nature of language acquisition and maintenance, placement test results are valid for one academic year. After ten months, the placement test must be retaken if you have not yet taken a class in that language at Stanford.

We can't say it enough:  Testing schedules and procedures vary by language. For more information on the schedule and procedures for a specific language, please click on the appropriate link for that language on this page. If you have further questions, please contact languagecenter [at] stanford.edu.

Honor Code

While taking any placement test, remember that you are subject to the Stanford Honor Code and Fundamental Standard.  Specifically, you are not permitted to receive outside assistance on these examinations.  "Outside assistance" means, among other things, the use of books, notes, dictionaries, grammar books, spell checkers, grammar checkers, translation tools, cutting and pasting foreign language items from the web, and composing items in writing before speaking.

It is very important that you do your best on this exam and that you do not receive any help with it. In order to make good judgments about your language placement in Stanford programs, we need good information about your level and knowledge.

View Full Placement Testing Information + Schedule

Placement Results

Effective academic year 2021-2022 and beyond:  Whether language placement tests are conducted via Canvas, Zoom, or in person, most language placement test results will be uploaded to students' records in Axess and each student will receive their results by email within about 10 days.  If you do not receive an email within two weeks of your placement test, feel free to contact the Language Center to inquire about it. Since email will be the primary method of delivering language placement results to students, it is very important that students keep that email communication for future reference. NOTE:  The placement is valid for 10 months from the date the test was completed.