French Department

Placement Exam

Incoming first-year students will take the placement exam during the summer before arriving at Reed. For those who are not first-year students, they may arrange to take it at other points during the year. Those students should contact the chair of the French department for information on how to take the exam.

The exam consists of a one-hour online exam that tests both grammar and reading comprehension. There is no oral portion of the exam. To prepare, we recommend that students review any French textbooks that they have studied and focus on the fundamentals of grammar. 

Once students have taken the exam, they will be informed of their placement by email; the registrar will also be informed of their placement. Students can place into our first-year courses (French 111 or 112), our second-year courses (French 211 or 212), or third-year/literature courses (300-level French courses): 

  • First-year French (French 111 and 112): This is the introductory language sequence. French 111 presupposes no previous knowledge of French. French 111 and 112 cover all aspects of French grammar, reading, and speaking. 
  • Second-year French (French 211 and 212): This is our intermediate language sequence. These courses review French grammar while building on existing knowledge and also introduce students to the study of literary texts in French. At the end of the year, students are able to speak, read, and write in French fluidly and have met the prerequisite for our advanced language classes and our literature classes. 
  • Third-year French (French 320 or 321) or literature classes: Students who place into this level have the choice of taking a one-semester advanced grammar course (French 320), an advanced conversation course (French 321), or any of our one-semester literature classes.  Students who have questions about which path to take should feel free to speak to any of the faculty in the department who can help advise them in their choice.

The French department encourages students to contact us individually if there are concerns about placement or level. We understand that the placement exam is just one mechanism to assess language preparation and are happy to discuss individual placements with you. That said, we have found that our exam does a very good job of identifying the appropriate level for students and that most students have found it to be an accurate measure of their preparation.