Language Competency Exams

Dr. Santiago Rubio-Fernaz administers competency exams. If, after reading the information below, you have questions, please email him at

Students may satisfy the core curriculum language requirement by passing a competency exam proctored by the department. We encourage students who successfully pass this exam to continue their language studies by enrolling in the next course (202 or upper division, if you have adequate proficiency) in order to develop advanced proficiency.

Students should be aware that, in general, it is more difficult to pass the competency exam than to take and pass a course at the equivalent level given that in a course there are multiple grade components (homework, presentations, quizzes, participation, etc.), and one’s strengths in some areas may compensate for weaknesses in others. Therefore, we recommend that only students confident in their level of proficiency in the target language consider taking the competency exam. Accordingly, study guides and orientation for these exams are not provided. Please consult with the director of placement, Dr. Rubio-Fernaz, if you would like to discuss your background and preparation in the language.

Exam Dates and Registration Deadlines  |  What to Bring to the Exam  |  Registration Procedures  | Languages Offered  |  Notification of Exam Results

General Information

  • Only USD students may take this exam. It is not offered during the summer or intersession.
  • International students who completed high school in their home countries are eligible for a Waiver of Proficiency (and do not take this exam) IF all classes other than foreign language were taught in their first language. International students who attended British, American or bilingual high schools do not qualify for the waiver and must take this exam.
  • No units are awarded upon successful completion of the competency exam. The academic record will reflect "waived by exam" in the language section to indicate that the requirement has been fulfilled.
  • The exam measures grammar, reading and writing skills.
  • Late arrivals will not be admitted to the examination room and the fee will not be refunded.
  • The exam is the equivalent of a 2-hour, 3rd semester (201) final.
  • No practice tests or study guides are provided.
  • Students who fail the exam will be advised as to what class they may enroll in for the following semester. Naturally, this applies only in the case of the languages we teach.
  • This exam cannot be taken more than twice in a given semester and there needs to be at least a month between the two exam dates.

Exam Dates and Registration Deadlines

Schedule set by the university

$25 exams
Dean's Fee* Deadline to Register for Languages    Exam Date / Time / Room  
$25 we do not teach:
we teach:


  Friday, 08/14/20 TBA TBA
$25 we do not teach:
we teach:
  Friday, 01/22/21 TBA TBA
*Non-refundable unless you notify us prior to the exam day that you will not sit for it.  If you do not show up to take the exam, you will not receive a refund.

Additional dates set by the department

$35 exams
Dean's Fee* Deadline to Register for Languages   Exam Date / Time / Room
$35 we do not teach:
we teach:
  Friday, 03/13/20 5 p.m. Camino 108
$35 we do not teach:
we teach:
  Friday, 05/08/20 Canceled because of risk presented by the COVID-19 virus.
*Non-refundable unless you notify us prior to the exam day that you will not sit for it.  If you do not show up to take the exam, you will not receive a refund.

What to Bring to the Exam

  • A photo ID
  • Your own No. 2 sharpened pencils and erasers

Registration Procedures

It is very important that students closely follow the registration procedure, as this is the only way to guarantee that a seat in the examination room and a copy of the test.

  • Option 1. Pay the fee in person at the Cashier's Office in the Hughes Administration Center (campus map). Then submit your fee receipt in person at Founders 121 no later than the published registration deadline. Students who are dropping off the receipt must write their email address on it.
  • Option 2. Mail a check made payable to USD with this Registration Form. The Cashier's Office will forward the receipt to Dr. Rubio-Fernaz.

Dr. Rubio-Fernaz will send an e-mail reminder confirming registration shortly before the scheduled date of the exam.

Languages Offered

Naturally, we have exams for the languages taught here: Arabic, Chinese, Classical Greek, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin and Spanish

The department is also able to offer exams in the languages listed below. We retain outside evaluators to correct them; we do not allow the student to choose the evaluator. The student will be notified prior to the exam of the cost of evaluation (usually $100-250) and will present Dr. Rubio-Fernaz with a check for the evaluator on the day of the exam.


$25 exams
  • Afrikaans
  • Arabic (Lebanese dialect)
  • Armenian
  • Croatian
  • Dutch
  • Farsi/Persian
  • Filipino/Tagalog
  • Finnish
  • Greek (modern)
  • Hawaiian
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Hmong
  • Hungarian
  • Korean
  • Lithuanian
  • Norwegian
  • Persian/Farsi
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Serbian
  • Swedish
  • Tagalog/Filipino
  • Vietnamese


Students may be tested in additional languages only if we can find an appropriate source to write an exam to our specifications. We will inform the student of the cost and collect the fee for writing the exam (which may be as high as $250) before entering into a contract with the provider. No refund will be given if the student decides not to take the exam. The fee for evaluation will be collected at the time the exam is given, but will not be paid until the evaluator has returned the corrected exam to us. Please note that the total fee for writing and evaluating the exam does not include the dean's fee.

Notification of Exam Results

Students receive notice of their exam score via e-mail as follows:

  • Classical Greek, French, German, Italian, Latin and Spanish: Within one week of exam completion. The competency exam will be used to determine placement in the case of failure.
  • Arabic, Chinese and Japanese: Within 10 business days of exam completion. The competency exam will be used to determine placement in the case of failure.
  • All other languages: Upon receipt of grade report by outside evaluator (allow up to three weeks).

Grade reports are submitted to the Dean's Office in the College of Arts and Sciences, which then approves and forwards them to the Office of the Registrar. Please allow three weeks for notation of passing to appear on your academic record. Thereafter, contact the One-Stop Center to find out why it has not yet posted.