Requirements and Placement Guide

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Core Curriculum Language Requirement

As part of the Core Curriculum, undergraduate students must have completed a third-semester course (201 or the equivalent) in a language other than English. Students are encouraged to fulfill this requirement during their first and second years at USD by taking courses in any of the nine languages offered by the Department of Languages, Cultures and Literatures: Arabic, Chinese, Classical Greek, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Spanish. 

Placement in a Language Program

Students who have never studied or been exposed to the language(s) they wish to study may request a Waiver for 101 in order to enroll directly in 101.

All other students must take the Placement Exam before taking any language courses at USD (or at another college or university if they intend to transfer it). This is a diagnostic tool, and students should not study for it nor receive any outside assistance. 

As of September 1, 2018, Seniors must take the Placement Exam with a proctor. To make an appointment, e-mail Dr. Santiago Rubio-Fernaz (

Placement results are valid only for the academic year in which they were obtained. The Placement Exam may only be taken once without the express consent of the Director of Placement or the Department Chair. The academic year is Fall-Intersession-Spring Summer, not the calendar year.

Students who place into 202 or upper division must take 202 or an upper-division course, selected in consultation with the Director of that language program. Alternatively, they can take the Competency Exam

Majors and Minors

Students who wish to continue their language studies and earn a major or a minor should consult with the appropriate Program Directors for more information. Majors are offered in French, Italian Studies, and Spanish; Minors in Chinese, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. In addition, there are a number of interdisciplinary programs that include language courses as part of their curriculum.

Many students at USD have a double major and/or minor in more than one field of study. We encourage you to consider the opportunity to major and/or minor in multiple languages.

Alternate Forms of Credit

  • Students with sufficiently high scores on the AP or IB tests for the languages they wish to study can receive credit for 201 (or higher depending on the test and the score).
  • Students who have advanced knowledge of a language may take the Competency Exam. They should, however, be aware that it is more difficult to pass the competency exam than to take and pass a course at the equivalent level (i.e. 201) given that in a course there are multiple grade components (homework, presentations, quizzes, participation, etc.).
  • Students can transfer credit from another college or university. In order for a course to be transferred, it must be taught in the classroom - we do not accept hybrid or on line courses - and must have an equal or superior amount of contact hours with respect to ones taught on campus, distributed over a minimum of 15 class days. Students must take USD's Placement Exam and submit a Transfer Class Articulation form prior to taking a language course elsewhere. Students who violate this policy risk not receiving credit for the course taken. The form is available only through the student portal.
    • For complete information on departmental transfer policies and procedures, see Transferring Credit.
    • For complete information on transferring courses taken internationally, read the policy on Non-Affiliated Programs on the website of the International Center.
  • International students may meet the language requirement in one of four ways:
    • Take an upper-division class in your native language.
    • Study another language, completing the 201 level in that language.
    • Take the Competency Exam to clear the 201 requirement.
    • Apply for a Waiver of the Language Requirement. To qualify for the waiver, all high school coursework must have been completed in the native language. Only when this is the case, you must first meet in person with Dr. Ingram, the chair, during office hours (Founders 136) and then take a proctored placement exam. To schedule the exam, contact Dr. Rubio-Fernaz, the Director of Placement and Competency (