SFS/MSFS Spanish Proficiency Exam Spring 2023 Registration & Exam Dates

Last Updated 9/6/23

SFS Spanish Oral Proficiency Exam:

Before Registering: 

Visit the Undergraduate Spanish Program page and Undergraduate General Information page for more information about the exam. Read these sites thoroughly before registering.


The Spanish Proficiency Exam is offered every Spring and Fall semester – Three weeks before the last week of classes.

The exam is administered online – Please see previous dates for reference:

Registration deadlines – (dates are subject to change):

  • Round 1: February 10 – February 28
  • Round 2: March 20 – March 31

Administration – (dates are subject to change):

  • Round 1: March 20 – April 28 (general)
  • Round 2: May 5 – May 12 (SPAN 2161 students only)

NOTE: You must arrive early – 15 minutes earlier than your scheduled exam time. Your exam will begin on time and any lateness on your part will result in you having less time to complete the

(See the “How?” section below for instructions on how to register.  Registration for the exam is done online). **No requests will be accepted after the Registration Deadline. **

Please write one email addressed to BOTH Dr. Anne Thinglum and Dr. Tatevik Gevorgyan with any questions regarding the exam.


Click here to complete the Registration Form for Round 1.

Click here to complete the Registration Form for Round 2.

Expect a message from the program administrators with instructions and relevant information once the registration period has ended.

Students who fail the exam must complete SPAN 161 or another advanced course before retaking it. Two cancelations within seven days of the start of exams will count as one failed exam attempt. No-shows are treated in the same manner.


The Spanish proficiency exams are administered ONLY to graduate and undergraduate students in the School of Foreign Service.

***This is relevant information regarding who can sign up to take the exams:

  1. Students who plan to go abroad in one of the two summer programs for which the Spanish & Portuguese Department is responsible will take the exam at the end of the abroad program. The two programs that offer exams are Quito and Barcelona; they offer exams to SFS students the evening prior to the last day of classes for the program.
  2. Students who spend at least one semester abroad in a direct matriculation program do not need to take the exam.
  3. Students who are currently registered in any of the four sections of Oral Review (SPAN 161) will take the exam on the day assigned by the registrar’s office for the final exam. Two faculty members will administer the exam.
  4. Students may first attempt to take the Proficiency Exam after completion of SPAN-102 or SPAN-110 with a grade of B+ or higher in BOTH SPAN-101 and SPAN-102, or in SPAN-110. Students in currently enrolled in SPAN-102 or SPAN-110 need their instructor’s written permission confirming that on average, at time of exam registration, the students’ grade in that course is at least a B+ and that the student’s oral performance in class is above the minimum standards set forth by the SFS Proficiency Exam. IMPORTANT: Oral Review prepares the students for the Proficiency Exam which will complete their language requirement for graduation. We encourage students who did not receive a grade of A- or higher to complete another course or participate in a study abroad program before taking the exam.
  5. Students who take the Department of Spanish and Portuguese’s Spanish Language Placement Exam and place into SPAN-200 or above may take the oral proficiency exam at any point. Students who place into SPAN-161 and who do not meet any of the abovementioned criteria are advised to matriculate into SPAN-161 before taking the proficiency exam. 
  6. Students who fail the exam must complete SPAN 161 or another advanced course before retaking it. Two cancelations within seven days of the start of exams will count as one failed exam attempt. No-shows are treated in the same manner.
  7. Students are allowed to take the exam only twice. See School of Foreign Service policies for more details.
  8. Students who wish to consolidate their knowledge of Spanish may take SPAN 200- Gateway before taking the exam.


The exam consists of a 20-minute interview with two exam administrators.
It is divided into three parts:

  1. Warm-up. During this short period, the examiners try their best to make the examinee comfortable by asking him/her questions on the here and now.
  2. Nucleus (15 minutes). The examinee summarizes the content of the article that s/he has read just before the exam, thus demonstrating reading comprehension skills. The examinee should demonstrate ability to situate the news within a historical perspective, and draw parallels with similar issues in other countries, including, but not exclusively, the US. At the end of this section, the examinee should be able to state his/her position on the issue and state the reasons behind that position. Please note dictionaries are not allowed at any time. Also, the text and any notes will be turned in before the interview.
  3. Close. The examiners may use this brief period to prompt, prod, and push examiners to perform some of the required performance in 2 above. The examiner should, throughout the exam but especially at this point, show command of pragmatics (politeness, turn-taking).

Newspaper articles are taken from major Spanish & Latin American newspapers and deal with current issues in the Spanish-speaking areas which have, oftentimes, been discussed in the Advanced courses (SPAN 101, SPAN 102, SPAN 110) and in SPAN 161 (Oral Review).

1. Reading Comprehension/Comprehension: The examinee understands the content of a newspaper or magazine article on current events and shows ability to 1) summarize a given text in a cohesive and coherent manner without prompting, 2) produce a statement summarizing his/her own view of the event, and 3) answer follow up questions showing both ability to comprehend and prior knowledge on general encyclopedic points related to the content of the article.

  1. Grammar: The examinee shows ability to both narrate and describe events producing paragraph-length discourse in all major time frames (past, present, and future). S/he may have problems regarding the use of ser/estar, subjunctive and preterit/imperfect contrasts but they should not interfere with comprehension. The reference point for ‘comprehension’ is the native speaker monolingual not used to exchanges with non-native speakers.
  2. Vocabulary/ Professional Vocabulary: Vocabulary may be primarily generic in nature when dealing with personal topics, but the examinee shows command of professional, specialized lexicon when dealing with topics of interest (such as US and international economy, politics, and/or societal issues). Circumlocution and rephrasing are to be expected.
  3. Speech: Speech has to be clear and not lead to confusion. Pronunciation, lexicon, grammar and paragraph structure should not be so faulty as to prevent comprehension by native speakers unaccustomed to interacting with non-native speakers. Discourse may still reflect the oral paragraph structure of the examinee’s own language rather than that of the target language.
  4. Knowledge of Subject Matter: The examinee has to show knowledge of the geography, customs, socioeconomic and sociopolitical structures as well as the history of Latin America and Spain. S/he also has to be aware of and knowledgeable about the past and present status of the relationship between those countries and the United States as well as current issues of importance in the Spanish-speaking world.

How to prepare for the Exam?

To prepare for the expected level of linguistic accuracy and fluency as well as to accumulate the necessary encyclopedic and current knowledge on socio-economic matters related to Latin American and Spain, we strongly encourage enrolling in an SFS language course: 2001, 2002, 2161, according to your placement and following the guidelines outlined above. For students who meet those guidelines, please click Spanish Major and Minor and SFS Proficiency Exam Preparation Packet for more information about the exam.

Spanish SFS OPE Info Session

Wednesday, March 1 at 6:30 pm on Zoom

Click here to complete the Google Form to receive the Zoom link. For current Georgetown University students only. Must have a current GU Net ID.