Language Proficiency Testing

Penn Language Center provides foreign language proficiency testing to students who wish to fulfill a foreign language requirement at Penn or at another institution. Testing is administered by PLC faculty and is therefore available only in the languages taught by the Center. Students may submit requests for testing at any time of year, however scheduling is subject to instructor availability. Expect slightly longer turnarounds during the start of each semester, final exam periods, and the summer months. 

Proficiency exams consist of a written portion to assess reading and writing skills and an oral proficiency interview to assess listening and speaking skills. The format of the written test varies with each language but typically includes various sections such as multiple choice, fill in the blank, reading comprehension, and essay prompts. Each exam should take no more than 90 minutes to two hours to complete. Because the exams are intended to be a true measure of proficiency, PLC cannot provide study materials or sample questions. Retakes are also not permitted.

Proficiency exam results are presented as ratings of each of the four skills based on the ACTFL proficiency standards.

Penn Students

Penn students who do not have official documentation (e.g. high school transcript, Seal of Biliteracy, IB scores, O levels, etc.) to verify proficiency may request a proficiency exam for languages offered by PLC. For testing in languages offered by other departments at the University of Pennsylvania, please refer to their testing policies:

Proficiency exams are available to Penn students for a small number of languages not currently taught at Penn. They include Albanian, Armenian, Bulgarian, and Shona and are subject to faculty availability. For all other languages, students must identify an outside institution to provide testing.

Please note: Testing out of the language requirement does not award a student with course credits but rather exempts a student from having to take language courses.


Steps for Penn Students

  • Complete the online request form and email to make an appointment to take the written exam at our office in Williams Hall.
  • Upon successful completion of the written exam, PLC will arrange for an Oral Proficiency Interview with the language faculty.
  • Test scores are sent via email with confirmation of language waiver if applicable.
Non-Penn Students

Penn Language Center offers students at other institutions the opportunity to demonstrate their proficiency in a foreign language with a proficiency exam administered by PLC faculty. Testing is typically available only in the languages currently taught at the Center. Results are provided in the form of a letter indicating a student's proficiency level in each of the four skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) based on the ACTFL standards. Schools can then determine if these results satisfy their language requirement. PLC proficiency exams do not provide course credits.  


Steps for Non-Penn Students

  • Identify a proctor at your school (e.g. testing center, language department, advisor, etc.). No proficiency in the target language is required. 
  • Find out where test scores should be sent.
  • Complete the online request form for a proficiency exam and submit the $175 fee.
  • PLC will send the exam to the proctor indicated on your request form. Take the written portion of the proficiency exam at your school with your proctor.
  • Upon successful completion of the written exam, PLC will make arrangements for an Oral Proficiency Interview with our faculty.
  • Test scores are sent to the student's school at the address specified.
Placement Exams

Students looking to place into a language course should contact the language instructor to determine the level best suited to their proficiency. 

A note to incoming students: placement/proficiency exams administered by PLC are not scheduled during New Student Orientation but are given only upon request.