The Language Placement Policy

Overview of the Placement System

Before enrolling for the first time in a language class, students must go through an evaluation of their current skills. This is the case whether the course is to be taken at USD or elsewhere. Based on the results of this evaluation, the Department of Languages, Cultures and Literatures will place students in the course that is most appropriate for their level. Only then will students be able to enroll in that course.

Placement Criteria for All Languages

Students who have never studied or been exposed to the language(s) they wish to study must request a Waiver for 101 in order to enroll directly in 101.  We will verify that student claims are accurate before granting the waiver.

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 the course). 

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

The Placement Exam is a diagnostic tool; for this reason, we do not provide sample tests, study guides, or any orientation for taking it. Each student is expected to perform at the best of his or her ability without using dictionaries, grammar aids, friends and relatives, or any other sort of assistance. Upon submitting the exam, each student is asked to give either an electronic or handwritten signature declaring that he or she has observed these rules. 

The Placement Exam is free and available in the following formats:

  • Ancient Greek: written exam only. Students must make an appointment with the Director of Placement, to take exam.
  • Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, and Spanish: online only. Students may take the exam at any time.

Administration and evaluation of the placement exam are the responsibility of the Director of Placement.

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

The Placement Process

The Department of Languages, Cultures and Literatures will make a placement decision based on the evaluation of data derived from the following sources:

  • The student's academic background in the language(s) s/he wants to study.
  • Placement exam administered by the Department of Languages, Cultures and Literatures.
  • Language survey completed by the student when taking the placement exam.
  • In exceptional cases, an interview with the corresponding Language Area Director or Coordinator may be necessary to determine a student's placement.
  • Waiver for 101 submitted by students who cannot take the placement exam because they have never studied the language before.

All information provided by students is subject to verification.

Placement Results

Students receive their placement status via e-mail on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (except on holidays). Please allow up to a week for the system to update so that you can add the class via the MySanDiego Portal. If you find that you are unable to enroll after that, notify Dr. Rubio-Fernaz by (

Advisors, preceptors, and summer schedulers can access placements on Banner.

The placement result of students who are not absolute beginners consists of two parts:

  1. The primary or recommended placement. This is the course level the Department of Languages, Cultures and Literatures considers most appropriate for the student to start his or her study of the language at USD.
  2. The secondary or optional placement. This is an alternative course level offered to the student as an optional entry point for her or his study of the language. If you wish to exercise your optional placement, you must notify Dr. Rubio-Fernaz by ( immediately.

Students who are already enrolled in a language course and find out that this course is neither their recommended nor their optional placement must drop the class immediately and enroll in one of the courses in which they have placed.

Students who, after the beginning of the semester, are found in violation of the placement policy will be dropped from their courses by the Department of Languages, Cultures and Literatures.

Incoming First-Year Students

If you have taken the placement exam, you must advise the summer schedulers ( whether you wish to be enrolled into your primary or optional class. If you are placed into Upper Division, consult with the program director of that language to choose an appropriate class and inform the summer schedulers of your decision.

If you have never studied or been exposed to the language(s) you wish to study, you must file for a Waiver for 101 before the summer schedulers can enroll you in a class at the 101 level.  For more information and links to the form, see the waiver section above.

Grievances and Exceptions

Grievances or exceptional requests by students regarding the placement system or its results should be addressed to the Director of Placement, who will then refer the matter to the Department Chair for a final decision. As part of the process, students may request an interview with the Chair to argue their case. Students will get an answer to their petitions through a written response signed by the Department Chair, including a detailed enumeration of the reasons for the approval or dismissal of the petition.