Bookmark and Share

Department of

Languages and Literatures

The Language Placement Policy

Revised by Department of Languages and Literatures on 2/15/06.
Approved by Core Curriculum Committee on 2/24/06.
Effective for language courses as of Fall 2006.

Overview | Process | Exam | Results | Waiver | Grievances

Overview of the Placement System

Before enrolling for the first time in one of the languages offered by the Department of Languages and Literatures at USD, every student must go through an evaluation of his or her current skills in the language he or she wants to study. 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 and Literatures will place the student in the course level most appropriate for his or her progress in the study of the language. Students will be able then to enroll in one of the class sections available for the course they have been placed into.

Placement criteria for Arabic, Chinese , Greek , Japanese , and Latin :

  • As a rule, students with no college credit in these languages will be required to enroll in 101.
  • Students wishing to enroll at a level higher than 101 will be required to take the placement exam and enroll in the course level assigned to them afterwards.
  • Instructors teaching 101-level classes may require students who they feel are overqualified for a beginner's course to take the placement exam.

Placement criteria for French, German, Italian, and Spanish:

  • Students wishing to study these languages must take the placement exam and enroll in the course level in which they place. The placement exam is available online for all these languages.
  • Students with no academic experience in the language who wish to enroll in a higher level course (presumably because they have been exposed to the language in non-academic environments) must take the placement exam.
  • Some students may obtain a waiver of placement from the Department of Languages and Literatures and skip the placement process altogether.

The Placement Process

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

  • Student's academic background in the language he or she wants to study.
  • Placement exam administered by the Department of Languages and Literatures.
  • Language survey completed by the student when taking the placement exam.
  • In exceptional cases, an interview with the corresponding Language Area Coordinator may be necessary to determine a student's placement.

All information provided by students is subject to verification by the Department of Languages and Literatures.

The Placement Exam

The placement exam is a diagnostic tool designed to obtain a measure of what a student has retained from previous study in the language. It is not an achievement exam and thus students need not prepare for it. For the same reason, the Department of Languages and Literatures does not provide sample tests, study guides, or any orientation for taking this test. 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. On submitting the exam, each student will be asked to give either an electronic or handwritten signature declaring that he or she has observed these rules.

The placement exam is free and is available in the following formats:

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

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

The Placement Results

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

Advisors, preceptors, and summer schedulers can access placements in 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 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 by the Department of Languages and Literatures as an optional entry point for his or her study of the language. If you wish to exercise your optional placement, you must notify Dr. Rubio-Fernaz by (santiago@sandiego.edu) immediately.

The placement result of students who are absolute beginners will invariably be 101.

Placement results are valid ONLY for the academic year in which they were obtained.

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 and Literatures.

Incoming Freshmen

You must advise the summer schedulers whether you wish to be enrolled into your primary or optional class.

Students who are taking a language class only to satisfy the Core Curriculum Requirement:

If you are placed into 202 and/or Upper Division, you may either take that class or the Comptency Exam.

Waiver of Placement

Students can request an exemption from the placement process or waiver of placement. If the waiver is granted, students will have the option of enrolling in the class they choose.

A waiver of placement may be granted to students who have never been exposed to the language they want to study, students who have been somewhat exposed to the language they want to study, but only in non-academic environments, students who have not had contact with the language they want to study for an exceedingly long period of time (as determined by the Director of Placement), students with insurmountable schedule conflicts, etc. In all these cases, the Department of Languages and Literatures will verify first that students' claims are accurate and will act accordingly.

Likewise, a waiver of placement may be granted to students with special needs or facing extraordinary circumstances.

A "request of waiver of placement" form is available through the Department of Languages and Literatures both in paper form and online. The form must be addressed to the Director of Placement and can be submitted by mail, fax, e-mail, or online at the Placement website.

Grievances and Exceptions

The placement policy may be superseded in exceptional situations by a decision of the Department Chair in consultation with the Director of Placement.

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.

Typical exceptions would be for special circumstances in the language background of students, learning impediments, or other unusual circumstances.