World Languages & Literatures

Placement Exam and Retroactive Credit

Language Exams Offered:

Placement exams are offered in all languages taught at SMU (Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Russian and Spanish).


SMU fees and tuition cover the fee for all placement exam testing. No further payment is required.

Should I Take the Placement Exam?

Incoming students who are considering enrolling in a language course and who have had instruction in high school or elsewhere prior to enrolling at SMU in that language should take the placement exam prior to attending AARO. Advisors cannot register a student for ANY language classes if s/he needs to have taken placement exam but has not. The following students are exempted from the placement exam for the purposes of the Second Language Requirement under the University Curriculum (UC):
  • Students who attended an international high school where English was not the primary language of instruction
  • Students who scored a 4 or 5 on a language Advanced Placement exam*
  • Students who scored a 5, 6, or 7 on a HL International Baccalaureate exam*
  • Transfer students will be assessed on a case-by-case basis by the WLL Advisor
*Please note that students who have taken AP or IB exams but have not yet received their results by the time they come to AARO, and who wish to continue their language study their first semester on campus, will need to take a placement exam in order to be accurately placed in a language course.

Retroactive Credit:

By taking a placement exam students have the opportunity to receive retroactive credit for beginning and intermediate courses in their language of study. Once students have completed the course into which they were placed with a grade of C or higher they may request any retroactive credit earned (up to a maximum of 16 credits depending on the language of study).

Requests for retroactive credit are handled in the Office of World Languages and Literatures in 309 Clements Hall. Retroactive credits do not count toward fulfilling the Second Language Requirement. For example, if a student’s placement exam score indicated s/he should enroll in 1402, the student would need to take 1402 and 2401 to fulfill the language requirement, despite the fact that retroactive credit for 1401 may be awarded after completion of 1402.

Timing of Exam:

Although some students review for the exam, it is to a student’s advantage to have the exam reflect his/her current knowledge of the language. There is no time limit on the exam, but it generally takes less than one hour.

Results are valid for 12 months from the date the placement exam is taken.

How to Take a Placement Exam:

A placement exam may be taken online via Blackboard at any time, from any location via computer with Internet access and speakers.
  • If you are an incoming first-year, you should be set to take the exam. Go to and click on WLL PL Exam. If you cannot see the link, please email Rachel Hall ( your ID number and date you will begin classes at SMU and you will be added within 48 hours. If you can see the link, select the language in which you wish to test. Please note that for native speakers, the Chinese exam is an in-person exam given by the Chinese chair, Professor Xia. Email her at to schedule a testing. The listening section for both Chinese and Japanese need to be taken in person in 234 Clements during the testing times scheduled during AARO or by appointment with Rachel Hall (
A placement exam may be taken only once in each language. Exam results are monitored on a regular basis and duplicate or questionable testing scores will result in a hold on WLL class registration and a mandatory meeting with a WLL representative.

At the conclusion of testing, be sure to save your score results by taking a screenshot and emailing it to yourself. Please note that SMU professors review all exam results and students may be contacted for oral language testing based on test results.


Japanese, Chinese & Arabic are two-part exams.

  • Part I: online
  • Part II (Arabic): schedule with Professor Elverskog after finishing part I.
  • Part II (Japanese & Chinese): Take in the World Languages Technology Center. Email to schedule. 

Need a copy of your scores?

To retrieve your placement test results for the French, German, Spanish and Russian placement exams:

  1. Sign in to Blackboard
  2. In “My Courses” section click on Placement Exam
  3. On the left-hand section click on the “Placement Exam Link
  4. Click the link under the test for which you wish to retrieve results and enter the password given
  5. Choose the language exam in which you tested
  6. Fill out the top of the survey form exactly as you did the first time
  7. Press the Resume button
  8. Print or take a screenshot of your results to print later

Placement According to Test Results:


There are 2 parts to this exam. Part I is online. Part II is taken in person with the Arabic area chair who will determine placement upon completion of Part II.


For native/heritage speakers, placement will be determined by the Chinese area chair upon completion of the in-person exam.
For all other students, there are two parts to the exam. The written portion may be taken online. The listening section is taken in person during AARO testing times or by appointment with Rachel Hall - Combine scores from the written and listening sections to determine placement.
0-12: Enroll in CHIN 1401
13-22: Enroll in CHIN 1402
23-31: Enroll in CHIN 2401
32-42: Enroll in CHIN 2402
43-55: Enroll in CHIN 3311
56-62: Enroll in CHIN 3312


0-249: Enroll in FREN 1502

250-299: Enroll in FREN 1402

300-449: Enroll in FREN 2401

450-649: Enroll in FREN 2455

Above 650: Enroll in FREN 3356; to "pass out" of SLR, please contact Professor Oscherwitz for additional testing


0-300: Enroll in GERM 1401

300-399: Enroll in GERM 1402

400-449: Enroll in GERM 2311

450-500: Enroll in GERM 2312

Above 500: If you are a native speaker or if you have been educated in a German school you should consult with the German Area Chair (Dr. Gordon Birrell - before registering for a German class; all others should enroll in GERM 3311.


0-19: Enroll in ITAL 1401

20-45: Enroll in ITAL 1402

46-69: Enroll in ITAL 2401

70-84: Enroll in ITAL 2402

85-100: If you are a native speaker or attended school in Italy, please contact the Italian Area Chair (Teresa Brentegani - before registering for an Italian class. All others scoring in this range should enroll in either 3357 or 3373.


There are two parts to the exam. The written portion may be taken online. The listening section is taken in person during AARO testing times or by appointment with Rachel Hall - Combine scores from the written and listening sections to determine placement.

0-18: Enroll in JAPN 1401

20-44: Enroll in JAPN 1402

44-64: Enroll in JAPN 2401

66-86: Enroll in JAPN 2402

88 or higher: Contact Professor Flores to enroll in 3311 or higher.


0-35: Enroll in LATIN 1401

36-50: Enroll in LATIN 1402

51-65: Enroll in LATIN 2311

66-80: Enroll in LATIN 2312

Above 80: Enroll in any 3000-level class 


Below 250: Enroll in RUSS 1401

250-349: Enroll in RUSS 1402

350-449: Enroll in RUSS 2341

450-550: Enroll in RUSS 2351

Above 550: Enroll in RUSS 3341/RUSS 3361


0-249: Enroll in SPAN 1401, or SPAN 1502 if you have studied Spanish 2+ years

250-299: Enroll in SPAN 1402

300-499: Enroll in SPAN 2401

500-649: Enroll in SPAN 2302

Above 650: Enroll in SPAN 3358. Heritage* speakers should enroll in 4358. Native* speakers should enroll in 4395.

Students who do not wish to abide by their placement exam results may petition the chair for an exemption (granted only in rare cases), or enroll in a language in which they have not had instruction.

*Categories such as native, non-native and heritage refer to the students’ linguistic proficiency level and are determined by the Spanish area.


Additional information may be found at the World Languages and Literatures website ( as well as the individual language websites.

General questions or concerns about placement should be sent to Rachel Hall:

Language specific questions about the placement exam should be directed to language area chairs:

Please contact Disability Accommodations and Success Strategies at 214-768-1470 if you have any questions regarding services for students with disabilities.