The English Department requires graduate students to demonstrate foreign language proficiency as part of the degree requirements for each program. This may be satisfied by successfully passing a language proficiency exam administered by the department. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about the exam.

Why take the language exam?

Unless you have fulfilled the language requirement through coursework, successfully passing the foreign language proficiency exam is a required component of your graduate degree. 

When is the language exam offered?

The English Department administers a language proficiency exam at least once during the fall and spring semesters. Exams are usually offered during the month of October in the fall semesters, and during the month of February in the spring semesters.

Exams are typically scheduled in the early morning in order to minimize the impact on students’ class and teaching schedules. 

When should you take the language exam?

The best advice is to take the language exam early within your program. It’s strongly recommended that the exam be taken within the first year for MA students, before the start of the third year for MFA students, and within the first two years for PhD students.

**MA & MFA: The exam must be passed before your final semester within the program.**

If you wait until your last semester to register for the language exam, you will miss the deadline to submit the Candidacy Application for an Advanced Degree to the Graduate School, and will not be able to graduate on time -- even if all other coursework is completed. With this in mind, please plan accordingly and take your exam early!

**PhD: The exam must be passed before you submit a Candidacy Application for an Advanced Degree (i.e. the semester in which you take the comprehensive exam.) **

How do you sign up for the exam?

At the start of each semester, the Graduate Program Assistant, will send information about how to register for an upcoming exam. This information will be sent via email, and you should read all instructions and deadlines carefully.

What languages are tested?

You may be tested in the foreign language of your choice. While the English department does work to accommodate many different languages, for languages not already taught on campus, you may be asked to make independent arrangements for the grader of the exam.

What is the format of the exam?

The language exam consists of translating a text written in a foreign language into the English language utilizing English language sentence structure. The exam is on par with the translation abilities of a fourth-semester college student in the chosen language.

The translation text will be two pages, double-spaced in length. Students will have two hours to complete the exam, which is open-book, open-computer. Language dictionary apps on cell phones and computers are also allowed, however students may not use these tools to translate the bulk of the text. No texting or phone calls are permitted during the exam.

The exam is given on a pass/fail basis. 

How can you prepare for the exam?

To prepare for the language exam, it’s important to gain practice with reading, writing, and developing a strong vocabulary in your chosen language. There are a number of resources available on campus that may help you do this. These include:

  • ALTEC’s Non-credit language courses:
    Classes run for 10 weeks and meet 2 hours per week. Summer classes run for 5 weeks and meet for 3 hours per week. 
  • ALTEC’s Language Refresher Courses:
    The refreshers are non-credit online language review courses (French, Spanish and German) that students can complete at their own pace and on their own time. The courses are Open Educational Resources (OERs) and are completely free of charge.
  • ALTEC Media Library:
    Contains a large collection of foreign language films, textbooks, magazines, CDs, books, news and other language learning materials from around the world.
  • Language courses for credit:
    ​CU Boulder offers classes in many foreign languages including Spanish, German, French, Italian, Latin, Greek, and many more.

Language Department Tutors: