Testing: SFS Oral Proficiency, Placement, Native Speaker

  • The Placement Test and the Validation Tests differ in substantial ways. The Placement test has been designed for students who have never taken Spanish at Georgetown. It is administered online and it can only be taken once. The Spanish Validation Exam (also known as the Confirmation Exam, NSO placement exam, or proctored exam) is a proctored test, administered twice a year, the Monday before Fall semester classes begin and the day before classes begin in the Spring. The Validation Exam can not be used as a placement exam, it is primarily for those students who need to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency in Spanish for reasons other than placement in a language course, for example, to fulfill the language requirement, or to advance in the sequence after taking courses at other institutions during the summer. Both tests evaluate vocabulary and grammar in context as well as reading skills, but not oral skills. This point is important for students in the SFS who must pass the Oral Proficiency Test to graduate. Please write one email addressed to BOTH Dr. Anne Thinglum and Dr. Tatevik Gevorgyan with any questions regarding the exam.

  • Please visit the Undergraduate Bulletin for a full listing of advanced credit policies.
  • (AP) Spanish (either exam)    For a score of 4 or 5, students are eligible to receive up to six credits for Advanced Spanish I and II (SPAN-103 and 104 in the COL, MSB and NHS; SPAN-101 and 102 in the SFS).  In order to receive three credits for SPAN-103 (for COL, MSB, NHS) or SPAN-101 (for SFS), a student must place into and successfully complete SPAN-104 or SPAN-102 respectively.  In order to receive six credits for SPAN-103 and SPAN-104 (for COL, MSB, NHS) or SPAN-101 and SPAN-102 (for SFS), a student must place into and successfully complete a 200-level Spanish course. Placement is determined by SAT II score or departmental placement exam administered during New Student Orientation. Students who place into SPAN-101, SPAN-103, SPAN-110 or below, as well as students who opt not to continue Spanish coursework at Georgetown, will not receive credit.
  • (International Baccalaureate) Language A    Students with a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Level exams in languages other than English are eligible for credit.  In order to receive credit, students must place into and successfully complete an appropriate language course at Georgetown (see AP policies for specific languages above for more details).  Placement is determined by departmental language placement exams or SAT II scores for Spanish, French or Italian.

SFS Oral Proficiency Exam

The Spanish Proficiency Exam is offered every Spring and Fall semester, about 3 weeks before the last week of classes.

The Portuguese Proficiency Exam for SFS, CLAS, MSFS, Business students, and program directors is TBD for the Fall 2019 Semester. Students must sign-up in advance to secure a time slot, the sign-up sheet can be found on the Georgetown Spanish & Portuguese Department’s front desk (ICC 403). Undergraduate students must have taken at least ADVANCED PORTUGUESE II in order to take the exam, with the exception of students who has lived abroad in a Portuguese-speaking country, or are native speakers. Undergraduate and Graduate students must also prove that the proficiency exam is a requirement for their program, not just to add to their Curriculum Vitae.

Students may sign up in the Spanish and Portuguese Department (ICC 403)

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. Oral Review prepares the students for the Proficiency Exam which will complete their language requirement for graduation. Students may first attempt to take the Proficiency Exam after completion of SPAN 102 (Advanced Spanish: Transatlantic II) or SPAN 110 (Intensive Advanced Spanish: Transatlantic) with a grade of B+ or higher in BOTH Advanced I (SPAN 101) and Advanced II (SPAN 102), or in Intensive Advanced (SPAN 110). Students in Advanced II need their instructor’s WRITTEN permission confirming that on average, at time of exam registration, the students’ grade in Advanced II or Intensive Advanced is at least a B+. Students who fail the exam must complete SPAN 161 or another advanced course before retaking it. Any student who cancels their exam within seven days from the first day of that semester’s exams (or does not show for the exam) will need to pay the Department of Spanish and Portuguese $30 to cover expenses

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 are allowed to take the exam only twice. See School of Foreign Service policies for more details..

The Oral Proficiency 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

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: 101, 102 or 161, according to your placement and following the guidelines outlined above. For students who meet those guidelines, please click here for more information about the exam.

For additional information about the Spanish Oral Proficiency Exam, please contact Professor Anne Thinglum, the Department’s School of Foreign Service Oral Proficiency Coordinator, by email here.

For additional information about the Portuguese Oral Proficiency Exam, please contact the Director of Portuguese Studies, Professor Vivaldo Santos, by email here or (202) 687-5694.

Online Placement Exam

All non-beginner students who plan to take fall semester Spanish courses MUST take the online summer placement exam to determine the appropriate level for course enrollment unless they have taken the SAT II in Spanish (language or literature).

Students who wish to earn AP credit must take the online placement exam (unless they have a qualifying SAT II score) and take the appropriate course. For additional information about advanced credit, please consult the AP/IB Policies (new window).

In order to take the language placement exam, you must enroll in the “course” on Canvas.

  1. Go to https://georgetown.instructure.com/enroll/T47NYL (new window)
  2. Follow prompts to enroll.
  3. Read carefully all the information on the homepage.
  4. Once you have read the instructions, you will find the link for the test at the bottom of the page.
  5. After you submit the last page of the test you will get a point grade. You can always see this result by clicking on “Grades” in the left menu. When done with the test MAKE SURE you go back to the home page and click on the link at the bottom of the page: find out here where to register (Links to an external site) (new window).
  • Make sure that you have a reliable Internet connection. Set aside ample quiet time before you begin the exam so that you can complete it in one sitting; you will not be able to stop and restart once the exam has launched.
  • Close other programs running on the computer. Avoid distractions; focus only on the exam until it is completed.
  • To begin the exam, click the link only once. It may take some time for the exam to load; give it at least one full minute. If, after clicking once, nothing happens for over a minute, contact the UIS Service Center as soon as possible. Do not click the link multiple times: if you do, you will see a message stating that you have already taken the exam and you will not be able to access it again.
  • Do not use the Back and Forward buttons in your browser to move around within the exam. Use the links and buttons in the exam pages to proceed.
  • Do not click the final Save and “submit” button until you are completely finished with the exam.
  • If you encounter a problem or a technical difficulty that prevents you from finishing the exam, contact the UIS Service Center as soon as possible.

Contact information:
UIS Service Center: 202-687-4949 or help@georgetown.edu (new window).
Spanish Department: Email Professor Alfonso Morales-Front (new window).

Proctored Validation Exam

Students who believe they will place out of the College’s foreign language requirement in Spanish, and who do not intend to continue their study of Spanish at Georgetown, should sit for the on-campus proctored confirmation exam during New Student Orientation unless they have a qualifying SAT II score. Students taking this test should bring their Georgetown ID (GUID) to the exam; students will obtain this ID upon their arrival on campus for New Student Orientation.

Please contact Professor Annie Thinglum (new window) in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese for more information.

Students who have taken the SAT II in Spanish should determine their level as follows:

  • 200-360 SPAN-003 Introductory Spanish I or SPAN-011 Intensive Basic Spanish
  • 370-480 SPAN-004 Introductory Spanish II or SPAN-011 Intensive Basic Spanish
  • 490-550 SPAN-021 Intermediate Spanish I or SPAN-032 Intensive Intermediate Spanish
  • 560-630 SPAN-022 Intermediate Spanish II or SPAN-032 Intensive Intermediate Spanish
  • 640-700 SPAN-103 Advanced Spanish I or SPAN-110 Intensive Advanced Transatlantic Visions
  • 710-740 SPAN-104 Advanced Spanish II or SPAN-110 Intensive Advanced Transatlantic Visions
  • 750-800 SPAN-2** (Any 200 level course)

Students who believe they will place out of the College’s foreign language requirement in Portuguese, and who do not intend to continue their study of Portuguese at Georgetown, should sit for the proctored placement exam during New Student Orientation.

Please contact Professor Vivaldo Santos (new window) in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese for more information.

Native Speaker Exam

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese (henceforth The Department) is the only unit at Georgetown that can certify the native Spanish speaker status of a Georgetown student. Through The Department, Georgetown students who are native Spanish speakers have 3 options to certify their native speaker status. 

Option 1: Presenting an original document proving completion of a high school degree (or equivalent) from an institution located in a Spanish speaking country. The predominant language of instruction in that institution must be Spanish. Since these documents are normally in Spanish The Department usually reviews the documents. Nonetheless, check first with your dean’s office because different schools or programs may have different arrangements with The Department.

Option 2: Complete first the Spanish Validation Exam. Students getting a score above 80% in the Spanish Validation Exam will need to schedule an oral interview with The Department for final confirmation. 

Option 3: SFS/MSFS students can complete the Oral Proficiency Exam. If the panel of two evaluators administering the exam determines that during the oral interview the student has performed as a native speaker, they will mark the appropriate option in the results ballot.

The appropriate member of The Department (Professor Annie Thinglum) will communicate by email, or exam ballot, to the appropriate dean the results of the assessment. It is up to the different Georgetown schools to determine the administrative weight, meaning, or consequences of the native Spanish speaker status. In some cases it entails the inclusion of this status on the student transcript. For most programs, with this status, students can skip all lower division Spanish classes (Span 001-161) and register in upper level courses. We highly recommend that native speakers who have not been educated in a Spanish-speaking school complete at least one level of Spanish for Native Speakers (1 course is offered each semester).