World Languages and Cultures FAQs


Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Language Placement Exam

  1. Why do I have to take a language placement exam?
    The study of a second language is an essential component of the Core Curriculum goals of Saint Mary's College, and all undergraduates must demonstrate proficiency in a second language. We highly recommend that you take the Foreign Language Placement Diagnostic Exam as a diagnostic tool for accurate placement. The results of the online Foreign Language Placement Diagnostic Exam are used solely for placement purposes; scores are not recorded on transcripts or academic records.  Taking the exam in the language you want to study allows us to place you much more accurately.  

    We offer the exam in the following languages:  French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.  Please send an email indicating the language exam you wish to take to: Additional information about the exam, including a username and password, will be provided at this time.  

  2. When should I take the online placement exam?
    You should take the exam as soon as possible if you have not satisfied the requirement, ideally prior to entrance at Saint Mary's, or during the first semester. The exam is web-based and can be taken at any time on your personal computer or in the library computer lab.  The exam takes about 40 minutes to an hour to complete and is accessed via a unique username and password that will be provided to each student in an email.  We strongly encourage all students to complete the requirement by the end of their sophomore year, and taking the placement exam earlier can help you do this.  

  3. How do I log on to the exam?
    You will need to provide your complete name and the access code for the exam.  Please contact Dr. Maria Luisa Ruiz at for the appropriate code.  

  4. How long does the exam take?
    The exam is untimed, but it typically takes about 40 minutes to complete, and it must be done in one sitting.  Take all the time you need, but be aware that after 5 minutes on the same test item, the system will display the following message:  "The system will log you out in 5 minutes.  If you need additional time, please click here."  Clicking the button will give you an additional five minutes before the message appears again.  

  5. How and when do I know my score?
    Your score will be sent directly to Dr. Maria Luisa Ruiz, Placement and Proficiency Coordinator, within five working days.  She will notify you directly of your results.

  6. Do I have to take the placement exam in the language that I took in high school?
    Accurate initial is a key factor in successfully learning a second language. So, if you intend to study the same language you studied in high school, it is strongly suggested that you take the placement exam for that language. If you intend to study a language different from the one you took in high school, you may enroll in level 101 and do not have to take the placement exam. 

  7. Can I consult a dictionary or grammar text while taking the exam?
    No. All students taking this exam are expected to adhere to the Saint Mary's Student Honor Code. It is very important that you do your best on this exam without help or the use of reference materials, including dictionaries, textbooks, or software applications. In order to make good judgments about your placement, we need accurate information about your language knowledge and proficiency. When you decide to take the exam, please be sure to find a quiet, distraction-free environment.
  8. Can I take the online placement exam in any language? 

    The online exam is available in French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish. 

  9. What if I am proficient in a language that is not offered at Saint Mary’s?
    We try our best  to provide students a proficiency exam in other languages not offered at Saint Mary's. Contact Dr. Maria Luisa Ruiz at for further information.

  10. Am I required to enroll in the course as suggested by my score?
    The placement exam is a diagnostic tool. We highly recommend that you enroll in the course indicated by your placement score, but you may choose to enroll in a course above or below your suggested level. You should not, however, enroll in a level 101 course unless you have had little or no contact with the target language.

  11. What happens if I score very high on the placement exam?
    If you achieve a high score on the placement exam, our Placement and Proficiency Coordinator will help to determine your appropriate placement. Please note: a placement of 300 or higher does not indicate that you have satisfied the language requirement. It does, however, qualify you to take an oral and written proficiency exam to verify your ability level. If the proficiency exam confirms ability beyond level 200, you will have met the College's language requirement. If it does not, the Placement and Proficiency Coordinator will place you in the appropriate level.

  12. What do I do if my computer crashes while I am taking the online placement exam? 
    It is important that you double check the readiness of the computer you will be using for the test.  Please read the Avant Technology Guide and complete all preparation steps.  Go to and click Technology Check. Be sure to remember to enter your complete name – if you lose connection or stop the test, you will have to reenter your name exactly as you did the first time to resume where you left off.

  13. Do I need to keep track of my own score?
    No. The Placement and Proficiency Coordinator will have access to all scores and placement information.
  14. After taking the placement exam, whom should I contact if I have any further questions? 
    Contact Dr. Maria Luisa Ruiz at
  15. What if I need special accommodations to take the Second Language Placement Diagnostic Exam? 
    Please contact the Office of Student Disability Services at (925) 631-4358

  16. What if I experience technical difficulties? 
    If you are taking the exam on campus, please contact the Service Desk at (925) 631-4266. Please make sure to review the Avant Technology Guide for additional information before starting the test.