Placement Exams


To ensure that all students at Saint Mary's are prepared for the courses they are taking, all classes at Saint Mary's have prerequisites. These prerequisites vary by course and can be found in the Catalog. All incoming students will have an academic advisor who will ensure they are placed into appropriate courses their first term and will support them in making proper choices of classes in future terms. 

For incoming students, English, Foreign Language, and Mathematics are often the areas with the most questions. Please read the below

English Composition Placement

The Composition Program uses Directed Self-Placement (DSP) for placing students in their first-year writing classes. The DSP process uses a survey and description of the courses to guide students in choosing a writing course path that best matches the academic writing for which they are ready. In the DSP process, students assume agency in the decision of which writing course path to take: WRIT 100 and WRIT 200 course sequence, or WRIT 101 and WRIT 200-230 course sequence. International and exchange students will be registered in a supplemental 1 credit unit independent study course.

Students seeking accommodations under the American Disabilities Act should contact Student Disability Services (, 925-631-4358) to make appropriate arrangements for testing. 

Completion of WRIT 100 and 200 or WRIT 101 and WRIT 201 - 230 is required for graduation and is typically completed during the first two years of college.

For more information about the courses and English Composition program, please visit

If you have concerns about your placement or questions about the Online Writing Placement Questionnaire, please contact Professor Meghan Sweeney, Ph.D., Director of Composition, at

Second Language Proficiency Requirement

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 intermediate proficiency in a second language. There are various means for you to demonstrate proficiency; please refer to the webpage of World Languages and Cultures for more information.

If you did not complete three years of the same language (modern or classical) in high school with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher in each term, you have not met the requirement. If you want to continue the same language, we encourage you to take the online Foreign Language Placement Diagnostic Exam prior to entrance. Taking the exam in the language you want to study allows us to place you accurately according to your current abilities. 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 30-40 minutes to complete, and it is accessed via a unique user name and password that will be provided to each student via email. 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.

We offer the exam in the following languages: French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.

Please send an email to Dr. Lori Spicher at indicating the language exam you wish to take. Please include the following information in your request if you have:

1) recently received your AP language or literature exam scores;

2) received your final grade in your most recent language class; or

3) lived immersed in a language other than English, whether at home or abroad.

This additional information will help us to place you in the language course that best serves your needs.

Please remember: You may only take the placement exam once during each academic year. We strongly encourage that all students complete the language requirement by the end of their sophomore year. Make sure you take into account the language requirement as you plan a course of study to ensure that you graduate on time.

If you have additional questions, please visit the Frequently Asked Questions page on the World Languages and Cultures website.