General Information

Frequently Asked Questions

 Q: Whom should I contact for general questions about the Department of Spanish and Portuguese?
A: You should contact the Department at (202) 687-6134 or via e-mail

Q: Whom should I contact to declare a Spanish major or minor?
A: You should speak with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Prof. Tania Gentic, by email here or (202)687-6134.

Q: Whom should I contact to declare a Portuguese major or minor?
A: You should contact the Director of Portuguese Studies, Prof. Vivaldo Santos, by email here or (202) 687-5694.

Q: Whom should I contact about placement in the appropriate Spanish course?
A: You should contact Prof. Alfonso Morales by email here or (202) 687-8598.

Q: Whom should I contact about the Spanish Oral Proficiency Examination?
A: Before contacting Timothy McCormick, the Department’s School of Foreign Service Oral Proficiency Coordinator, by email here, Please see the Spanish Proficiency and Placement Exam menu for information on who takes the test, when it is administered, format, and evaluation criteria.

Q: Whom should I contact about the Portuguese Oral Proficiency Examination?
A: You should contact the Director of Portuguese Studies, Prof. Vivaldo Santos, by email here or (202) 687-5694.

Q: Whom should I contact about getting a native-speaker certificate?
A: You can make an appointment for the native-speaker interview, which will be conducted by one of the Spanish and Portuguese Department’s faculty members, by e-mailing a request to Prof. Anne Thinglum here.

Q: Whom should I contact about transferring credits from courses taken abroad?
A: Spanish majors should speak with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Prof. Tania Gentic. Spanish minors should also contact Dr. Gentic here or at (202) 687-6134.

Q: Whom should I contact about approval for my study abroad proposal?
A: Spanish majors should speak with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Prof. Tania Gentic. Spanish minors should contact Dr. Gentic here or (202)687-6134.

Q: Whom should I contact if I’m interested in doing the Senior Honors Thesis?
A: You should contact Prof. Veronica Salles-Reese, the Department’s Honors Thesis Coordinator, by email here or (202) 687-5884.

Q: Whom should I contact if I'm interested in the Master's or PhD programs?
A: You should contact Prof. Ronald Leow here for students interested in the Linguistics Program and Prof. Alejandro Yarza here for students interested in the Literature & Culture Program.

Q: Whom should I contact if I feel that I am not enrolled in the appropriate Spanish course?
A: You should discuss your concerns with your instructor, who will consult the coordinator of your current course. If the concern remains unresolved, you can contact the coordinator directly. Please consult the table below for contact information of the appropriate language program coordinators.

Courses Coordinator Email / Office Location
 Intro. and Beginning Spanish Christine Bistline-Bonilla / ICC 442 
 Intensive Basic & Intermediate  Lucia Donatelli / ICC 458 
 Intermediate I & II  Annie Ornelles ICC 442 
 Advanced I & II Ross Karlan ICC 442
 Intensive Adv. I & II  Meagan Driver / ICC 458
 SFS courses Timothy McCormick / ICC 472

***If the coordinator is unable to resolve the problem, they consult the language program director. Please consult the table below for contact information of the appropriate director.

Courses Director Email / Office Location/ Phone #
 SPAN 011, 032, 111, 112, 101, 102, 161 Timothy McCormick /  ICC 472 / 202-687-7170
 SPAN 001, 003, 004, 021, 022, 103, 104 Prof. Ronald Leow ICC 411 / 202-687-5840 

In the unlikely case that the language program directors are unable to resolve your concerns, you can contact the Department Chair, Prof. Cristina Sanz via e-mail at

Q: How can I practice my Spanish outside of the classroom?
A: You can come by the the Spanish Coffee hour held on Wednesdays in the Department during the semester if you would like to practice speaking with other students, graduate students and professors in a relaxed atmosphere with cookies and coffee.

Q: How and when can I sign up to take the Spanish Proficientcy exam?
A: See the Spanish Proficiency and Placement Exam menu.

Q: Who are important people in the Spanish & Portuguese Department?
A: Cristina Sanz- Department Chair
Alejandro Yarza- Director of Graduate Studies Literature & Culture
Ronald Leow- Director of Graduate Studies Linguistics
Tania Gentic - Director of Undergraduate Studies
Vivaldo Santos- Director of Portuguese Studies

Q: Whom should I contact if I am in need of a tutor?
A: Please contact the Georgetown University Academic Resource Center for information on Foreign Language tutoring for students.

Spanish ORal Proficiency Exam for sfs & msfs students

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


Spring 2019 Dates


Thursday, March 28: 11:00 am – 3:40 pm

Monday, April 1: 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Tuesday, April 2: 11:00 am – 12:00 pm; 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Thursday, April 4: 11:00 am – 4:00 pm


NOTE: You must arrive 20 minutes before your scheduled exam time. If you sign up for the 2:00 pm slot, you must arrive at 1:40 pm.


Registration Deadline

March 16, 2019

(see "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 contact Timothy McCormick ( with any questions regarding the exam. 


2. How?  When the dates are posted, you will be able to fill out a Google Calendar Appointment form to reserve a slot for your exam.

  • Step 1. Click HERE to complete the Registration Form. GU log-in is required.  
  • Step 2. CLICK HERE (unless instructed not to by the Registration Form). You can access the Spring 2019 Proficiency Calendar by going to March/April. Reserve ONLY ONE SLOT.  

*If you reserve more than one slot, your appointment will be cancelled. To change the time and day of your slot, cancel your original appointment and select a new appointment from the slots still available.

Expect a message from the program administrators with instructions and relevant information once the registration period has ended. **Students who do not arrive 20 minutes before their scheduled exam time, or who do not show up at all, will have to pay a $25 fee when when they register for the second time. If you wish to cancel an exam time, please do so at least 10 days in advance.

Visit for more information about the exam.

3. Who? 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 pay the $25 fee and complete SPAN 161 or another advanced course before retaking it. This means that students must plan well ahead and attempt to pass the exam two semesters before graduation at the latest.

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.

4. What? 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.

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.

5. 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: 101, 102 or 161, according to your placement and following the guidelines outlined above. For students who meet those guidelines, please click here and here for more information about the exam.



The online placement test is accessed by using Blackboard. In order to take the language placement test, you must enroll in its Blackboard site. 

  1. Go to Georgetown University's Blackboard login page at
  2. Log in using your NetID and NetID password. Note: If you need help with your netID, contact the Student Help Desk at 202-687-4577.
  3. After logging in, click the Courses link (in the top blue graphic)
  4. In the Course Search box, type: placement and click Go
  5. Place your mouse over the name of language placement exam you need to take, click the arrow, and click Enroll.
  6. Confirm your enrollment by clicking the Submit button.
  7. Click the OK button to enter the placement test site.
  8. Follow the instructions on the placement test site to take the test.
  • Make sure that you have a reliable Internet connection. Set aside ample quiet time before you begin the test so that you can complete the test in one sitting; you will not be able to stop and restart the test once launched.
  • Close other programs running on the computer. Avoid distraction; focus only on the test until it is completed.
  • To begin the test, click the link only once. It may take some time to load the test: give it at least one minute. If, after clicking once, nothing happens for over a minute, contact The Student Help Desk 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 test and you will not be able to access it again.
  • Do not use the Back and Forward buttons on the browser to move around in the test. Use the links and buttons in the test pages to proceed.
  • Click the Save button next to each question after answering. Answers are not registered until you click Save. Unsaved answers will be lost if the Internet connection is interrupted or if the browser ceases to respond.
  • 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 test, contact the Student Help Desk as soon as possible.
  • Technical Support contact information: Student Help Desk: 202-687-4577 or
  • Spanish Department contact information: Email Professor Alfonso Morales-Front at or call 202-687-6134.
Spanish Validation Exam

The Spanish Validation Exam is administered the Monday before Fall semester classes begin. Although the Validation Exam may also serve as a placement exam (see Spanish Placement), 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.

Portuguese Placement Exam

The Portuguese placement test is conducted at the beginning of the Fall semester, usually 2 days before classes start. It consists of 3 parts: grammar, reading comprehension and a short interview. Questions about the exam can be directed to Prof. Vivaldo Santos, Director of the Portuguese Language Program, here.


Fall 2018 Exam Date

The Portuguese Proficiency Exam for SFS, CLAS, MSFS, Business students, and program directors is TBD for the Fall 2018 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 reqquirement for their program, not just to add to their Curriculum Vitae. 

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