Proficiency Testing


The Language Resource Center coordinates language proficiency testing for Bengali, Indonesian, Punjabi, Romanian and for the languages offered as part of the NYU partnership. Columbia University students who seek an exemption from the foreign language requirement as defined by their school or program based on proficiency in one of these languages should contact Stéphane Charitos by phone at +1-212-854-6341 or by email at For languages offered by another language department at Columbia, please contact the department directly.

Frequently Asked Questions
How else can I satisfy the foreign language requirement?
You should check with your particular school or program for specific information, but In general, the foreign language requirement can be satisfied in one of three ways:

1. Satisfactory completion of the second term of an intermediate language sequence.
2. Successful completion of an advanced level language course that requires a 1202 course or the equivalent as a prerequisite.
3. Demonstration of an equivalent competence by examination.

Additionally, students whose native language is not English can fulfill the language requirement by providing evidence that they have completed their secondary schooling in that native language.

Do I need a proficiency or a placement exam?
To satisfy the language requirement, you must take a proficiency exam.
A proficiency exam measures one’s command of a target language regardless of one’s background in that language. Proficiency exams are independent of a particular class content or of course materials, and as such they should not be used to determine what level language course one should be taking at a specific institution.
A placement exam on the other hand is used to determine which language class is appropriate for one’s background and ability in a given language. As such, placement exams are dependent on and are a function of a specific language curriculum.

How often can I take a proficiency exam?
A proficiency exam should only be taken once.
What must I score on a proficiency exam to satisfy the language requirement?

You must score at the Intermediate High level or higher, as measured on the ACTFL proficiency scale, or its equivalent on another scale, in all four basic language skills (speaking, listening, reading, writing) to satisfy or waive the language requirement..

For more information on the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, visit

What does it cost to take a proficiency exam?
Proficiency exams for all languages taught at Columbia or through the NYU-Columbia Language Agreement are free of charge.

As a matter of policy, the Language Resource Center will to strive to get examiners at other institutions to offer proficiency exam for Columbia students for free as a professional courtesy. However, some institutions as well as individual tester insist on getting paid for their services. If and when a third party charges the Center for the cost of administering a proficiency exam, these costs will be passed to the student seeking to be tested.
Please note that some programs, most noticeably Columbia College, will pick up all costs associated with proficiency testing for enrolled students. Contact Stéphane Charitos at (212) 854-6341 or at for more information.

What if the language I want to be tested in is not listed above?
The Language Resource Center can try to arrange for proficiency testing in any language. Please note however, that the Center cannot guarantee that it will be able to find an experienced tester for all languages. If this is the case, then a proficiency exam cannot be administered for that particular language and you will have to meet the language requirement in another way.

What is the usual format of a proficiency exam?
There is no set format for a proficiency exam. In general, a proficiency test consists of a written part to determine reading and writing proficiency followed by an oral interview to determine oral and aural competence in a given language. The written part is taken at the Language Resource Center under the supervision of the Center. It usually takes a maximum of two hours. The oral part takes the form of a telephone or a Skype interview and last from fifteen to twenty minutes.

Who gets the results of my exam?
When you register for a proficiency test through the Language Resource Center, you should tell the LRC who should be notified of the result of your exam. Normally, this is the Office of the Dean of Academic Affairs in your particular school. However you should ask to make sure in your particular case. The examiner will then send the results directly to that person with a copy to the LRC for archiving purposes.

Can the LRC grant me the language exemption I seek?
No. The role of the Language Resource Center is simply to arrange for testing and certify that the proficiency test given is valid and meets criteria of professional standards. Only the appropriate Dean or Advisor in your program of study can grant you the exemption.

What if I still have questions about proficiency testing at Columbia?
Please contact Stéphane Charitos at (212) 854-6341 or at if you have more questions or if you would like additional information about proficiency testing.