French Department

Placement Exam

The placement exam is offered formally as part of Orientation each year so incoming first-year students should wait until Orientation to take the exam. For those who are not first-year students, you may take the exam during Orientation but we are also able to arrange for individual students 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, the chair of the French department will inform them individually of their placement via email; their academic adviser will also be informed of their placement. Students can place into one of three levels (mid-year placement in the first two years of French language is not possible): 

  • First-year French (French 110): This is the beginning course to our language sequence. It presupposes no previous knowledge of French and covers all aspects of French grammar, reading, and speaking. This is a yearlong class.
  • Second-year French (French 210): This is the second year of our language sequence. The course presumes familiarity with French grammar but does a full review of French grammar while building on existing knowledge. At the end of the year, students are able to speak, read, and write in French fluidly and have met the prerequisite for all of our literature classes. This is a yearlong class.
  • Third-year French (French 320) or literature classes: Students who place into this level have the choice of either taking a one-semester advanced grammar and stylistics course (French 320) or taking 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.