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Taking the test | Enrolling in language classes | After the test

Fall 2020

Fall placement testing for all Asian & Middle Eastern languages has been rescheduled (from the original date of 8/17, which was before the fall calendar changed) and is happening remotely during the summer. Every language has a different plan, so please consult the information on the main page for the language you want.

Everyone who possibly can should plan to take any needed placement tests before fall term starts. If you need a placement test that’s happening on specific scheduled dates (Chinese, Japanese, or Korean) and there is a compelling reason why you can’t make any of those dates, please email Lori Harris about your situation.  We’ll figure something out!  There will be makeup placement testing going on through the first week of school.

Who should take the test?

I have some background in this language, but I don’t know very much/I can’t read and write.  Can I just start in 101?

No, you are still required to take the placement test, though you may be placed into 101. (For Korean, if you score below 25 on the online portion, you don’t need to take the rest of the test, but will be placed into 101.)

I’m a transfer student and I have transfer credit in the language I want to continue with.  Can I just continue on from where I was at my old school?

No, you are required to take the placement test. Language programs at different schools vary, and your old school might have covered more or less than we do in the same amount of time. The evaluation of your language transfer credit by Admissions should be regarded as preliminary; it may be adjusted based on your placement result (so that you don’t get stuck taking a class you already have credit for). You won’t lose any transfer hours, though.

I’m a native speaker of another language.  Can I be exempted from the foreign language requirement? Do I have to take a placement test?

For academic purposes at Carolina, a native speaker is defined as a student raised in a country outside the U.S. and formally educated through all or most of high school in a language other than English. If that’s you, then you may be eligible for a waiver of the language requirement (and would not need to take a placement test). To request such a waiver, please submit the native-speaker questionnaire on the Advising website. If you have submitted a waiver request and wish to follow up about it (allow at least a couple of weeks for a reply), the person to contact is Dean Andrea Caldwell in Academic Advising.

If you do not fit that definition (for instance, you immigrated to the U.S. before starting high school, or you went to high school in another country but the classes were taught in English, or you were raised and educated in the U.S. but you have learned another language from your family and speak it at home), you’ll be classified as an experiential speaker of the language, rather than a native speaker. You will need to take the placement test.

I have my scores from the AP/SAT/IB test; can I use that for placement/credit?

For Asian and Middle Eastern languages other than Chinese, Japanese, or Korean: Sorry, no. We do not accept any standardized test scores, but only use our own placement tests.

For Chinese: Test scores are accepted for credit, but not for placement. If you have a sufficiently high score on the AP, SAT Subject Test, or IB test in Chinese, you will receive BE (“by exam”) credit for CHIN 203, which will give you 4 hours toward graduation, and will satisfy the general language requirement. However, if you wish to continue studying Chinese, you will also need to take the departmental placement test to determine which level to begin with.

For Japanese: Test scores are accepted for credit, but not for placement. If you have a sufficiently high score on the AP, SAT Subject Test, or IB test in Japanese, you will receive BE (“by exam”) credit for JAPN 203, which will give you 4 hours toward graduation, and will satisfy the general language requirement. However, if you wish to continue studying Japanese, you will also need to take the departmental placement test to determine which level to begin with.

For Korean: Test scores are accepted for credit, but not for placement. If you have a sufficiently high score on the SAT Subject Test in Korean, you will receive BE (“by exam”) credit for KOR 203, which will give you 4 hours toward graduation, and will satisfy the general language requirement. However, if you wish to continue studying Korean, you will also need to take the departmental placement test to determine which level to begin with.

What are the minimum scores to satisfy the language requirement?

Please consult the Advising Guide for the year you enrolled at Carolina. If you are an incoming student, you may also consult the Admissions website.

I studied an Asian language in high school, but I want to change to a different language in college. Do I still have to take the placement test in my high school language?

Yes, you should. Everyone is supposed to take a placement test in their high school language if possible, and this is a good idea because it may satisfy the language requirement for you; or even if you don’t place that high, it will let you know what level you are at in that language in case your plans change and you want to come back to it. Think of it as information to help you make more informed decisions.

However, regardless of your placement result, you are certainly not obliged to continue studying your high school language. There are many foreign languages offered at Carolina, including quite a few that won’t have been available at your high school; for a complete list, consult

What if I’m not planning to take a language class until spring semester?

We recommend taking the placement test in the fall anyway. If you take the fall test you’ll already know your placement when early registration for spring begins, and thus be sure you’re enrolling in the correct class. Also, if you place into a class only offered in fall, you may choose to reconsider your decision and take the class now, rather than waiting a whole year.

Taking the test

When is the test given?

We mainly give placement tests twice a year, at the start of fall and spring semesters. We will also arrange placement testing as needed for anyone who is hoping to place into a summer session course they would like to take.

The fall tests are held on the day before the first day of classes. For fall 2020, due to the pandemic situation, we’re giving them remotely during the summer.  Makeup testing (also remote) will be available through the first week of classes, but everyone who knows they need a placement test should try to take it before the start of fall.

The spring tests are held during the first week of classes in January.  Since there is a much smaller number of people taking the spring tests, and since there is often no free day in the calendar between when students return to campus and when classes actually start, the tests are arranged at various times during that first week depending on availability of both the professor giving the test and the students who need to take it. We may sometimes also offer the opportunity for students needing placement for spring to schedule tests individually in late fall.

What should I bring to the test?

All you need is something to write with.

What’s the format of the test, and what will be covered? How should I prepare for it?

Click for information on Arabic | Chinese | Hebrew | Hindi-Urdu | Japanese | Korean | Persian | Turkish

I need to take an Asian-language placement test, but the test time conflicts with another placement test in another department that I also need to take.  What should I do?

Go ahead and sign up for the Asian-language placement you need, but in the Questions/Comments space on the webform, explain your problem. We’ll get back to you and work something out.

What if I need to take a placement test in a different Asian language that you don’t have listed?

Sorry, the Department of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies probably cannot help you. We only offer placement tests in the languages we teach. If the language you know is not taught at Carolina, you probably will not be able to use it for the language requirement here. Talk with Academic Advising about your situation.

Enrolling in language classes

Can I enroll for a class if I haven’t taken the placement test yet?

Absolutely! In the fall, most new students enroll for classes before they have the opportunity to take the placement test.  We encourage you to tentatively enroll in whatever level you think you should be in (using the self-assessment guides available on our website), and will help you adjust your registration if your estimate turns out to be wrong. So go ahead and enroll, but make sure to also sign up for the placement test.

What if I have a good speaking knowledge of the language, but don’t know how to read/write it?  Is there any alternative for me to starting at the 101 level?

For Chinese: The Chinese curriculum has a track (the B or heritage track) that may be appropriate for you.  The first class on the B track is CHIN 111, and even if you can’t read or write Chinese at all, you can place into this class if your spoken proficiency is good enough.

For Hindi-Urdu: We offer two one-credit script classes that address exactly this situation.  Follow this link for a detailed explanation.

If I want to, can I choose to take a class other than the one I placed into?

No, not without permission from the department.

What if I place into a class that’s not offered this semester?

That can certainly happen. Because almost all of our language classes are offered either in fall only or in spring only, new students in the fall may place into a level that won’t be offered until spring.  In that case, you will have to wait a semester to resume your language study. If you are concerned about keeping your language skills fresh, we recommend attending some of the events we sponsor or getting involved with some of the Asia-related student organizations.

After the test

How can I find out my placement result?

In some cases you may be told on the spot by the instructor giving the test.  But mostly we will notify you by email. If you take the test at the start of the semester, you should get an email within a couple of days.

What if I don’t agree with my placement result, or I think the class I placed into is too hard/too easy for me?

Your first step should be to either discuss it with your teacher (if you’re attending the class you were placed into) or meet with the placement coordinator for that language. Placement is not a perfect science by any means, and every year we do usually make a few adjustments. If you don’t think the class you were placed in is the best level for you, we are always happy to discuss it and re-evaluate.  Ultimately, however, the department’s decision will be final.

Placement coordinators:

Will I get credit for the courses I place out of?

No, not in the sense of receiving actual credit hours for them. Current University policy is that BE (by exam) credit is awarded only for standardized test scores, not for departmental placement exams. You can, however, fulfill language requirements without actually receiving credit hours.

I took the placement test; when will I see my results in the Tar Heel Tracker?

Results from fall placement tests should appear in your Tracker by the end of October.  Spring results should appear by the end of February.

Still have questions?

If you have any question not answered by this FAQ, or need help with any placement issue, please contact Lori Harris in the Asian & Middle Eastern Studies office.