Skip to content

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 of testing is diagnostic: it assesses students' current language abilities in order to match them to the course most suitable for that level. Accurate initial placement is a key factor in successfully learning a foreign language. Placement exams in each language consist of both written and oral components.

All written portions test grammatical features as well as the ability to write connected discourse and to read authentic prose material. After completing the written portion of the examination, all Stanford students proceed to the oral interview portion. The combined results of both written and oral components of the placement exam determine the most appropriate language course for the student who decides to continue studying that language, whether to fulfill the language requirement or for personal or professional interest. Proficiency testing measures what students are able to do with the language.

Remember these tests are for placement purposes, and are not achievement tests. They are not graded in the traditional sense, but used to match you to an appropriate level where you can be an effective learner. Your placement results will 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, to the Registrar, or recorded on your transcript.

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.

Please note:

  • Because of the nature of language acquisition and maintenance, placement test results are valid for one calendar year. After one year, the placement test must be retaken if a student intends to study the language at Stanford and has not yet done so.
  • Taking a placement test and placing out of the first year of any language fulfills the Undergraduate Language Requirement. Read more about fulfilling the Language Requirement

Placement Test Guidelines

All students with any prior exposure (such as formal study or home background) to a language they intend to continue studying at Stanford must take a placement test in that language before enrolling in a course. Students may not self-place into language courses and must enroll according to their placement results.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In the case of Spanish ONLY: if you are an incoming or current freshman who received a 4 or 5 on the AP Spanish Language Exam, or a 630 or above on the SAT II in Spanish, you do not need to take the online portion of the Spanish placement test. This exemption applies only to incoming and current freshmen.
  • If you are continuing in a Special Language, please contact Eva Prionas to arrange a placement test: eprionas@stanford.edu

The 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 the right side of this page. If you have further questions, please contact languagecenter@stanford.edu