Frequently Asked Questions about UW System Foreign Language Placement Tests

1. What are the tests used for?

The tests are administered to students after they have been admitted to a UW campus. The tests are used to place students in the appropriate college-level language course.

2. Shouldn’t the number of language units earned in high school determine placement?

Our research has found that there is not a one-to-one relationship between high school units and college semesters of a language. Also, high school programs vary markedly in their emphases on particular skills and learning objectives and the placement tests are necessary to assure a certain level of common preparation.

3. Will my students get credit for the placement tests?

No. Placement tests are used for placement only, not proficiency. Some campuses may award retro credit on the basis of completion of a more advanced course but the placement test itself does not result in college credit. To learn more about retro credit policies, contact the particular campus of interest.

4. Can I find out how my students score?

No. Placement scores are considered part of the student’s confidential record. A student can request that his/her score be sent to you but that request must be in writing and signed by the student. Some campuses provide high schools with summary data on students that attend that college but only if there are enough students to mask individual data and often only on request from the school district.

5. What do the tests measure?

The tests measure language usage and reading skills. A blueprint of the particular objectives and sample questions are provided in the "Description and Samples" for each language.

6. Why aren’t listening, writing and speaking skills tested?

The foreign language placement tests are part of a battery of tests that are given prior to registration and need to be administered and scored efficiently. The tests can only measure those primary skills that make the most difference in determining preparedness for each course level. Language usage and reading comprehension are the primary building blocks in the entry level language courses. Our research found that when students were advanced a level on the basis of strong listening skills they did significantly less well than students who placed in the same course with the higher reading and language skills.

7. Can I get a copy of the test?

No. The tests are secure placement instruments but you can find sample items and the test blueprint in the "Description and Samples" booklet or on our website.

8. Are there preparation materials available?

Because the tests are to determine proper placement, no special preparation is necessary. However, students may find sample items and a full-length practice test on our website for those who wish to familiarize themselves with the directions, timing and types of questions that will be asked.