Language Placement Exam - FAQs for Admitted Students
Who takes language placement exams at Gettysburg College?+
Any incoming student who has taken more than one year of ancient Greek, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and/or Spanish at the high school level is required to take a placement exam in that language. This is true whether you plan to continue your study of these languages at Gettysburg or not. Language departments use data from these placement exams to help decide how many, and what levels of each language to offer. Each cohort of students, including the class of 2017, will bring varied levels of interest in different languages, and you will have the opportunity to shape your degree based on these interests. While you are required to take placement exams in languages you have studied for more than a year, you are also welcome to take a placement exam in other languages that you have studied for less time to see how well you can do!
If you have taken one year or less of these foreign languages you are not obliged to take a placement exam. In this case, if you choose to register for one of these languages, you will automatically be placed at the 100 (beginning) level.
Students of Latin who have completed three or more years of Latin at the high school level — and wish to continue language study in Latin — are required to take the Latin placement exam. Students of Latin who have taken less than three years of Latin at the high school level, and wish to take Latin, are not obliged to take the placement exam; instead, such students should contact the Chair of the Classics Department to inquire about placement.
Students who grew up bilingual in a language that Gettysburg College offers, and completed high school studies taught in English, will need to take the language placement exam for that foreign language if they plan to study their heritage language here.
Students who have earned a 4 or 5 on an AP language test will still need to take the language placement exam for that language.
Who does not have to take language placement exams at Gettysburg College?+
Students who have never studied a foreign language do not need to take a placement exam. These students will automatically be placed in a true-beginner’s level when they start language study at Gettysburg.
Students who have studied a particular language for one year or less do not have to take a placement exam for that language; however, they may wish to take the exam to see how well they do.
Students who have had any number of years of Latin at the high school level and who do not wish to study Latin at Gettysburg College, do not have to take the placement exam.
Students who have studied languages in high school that Gettysburg College does not offer for credit (e.g., Urdu, Polish, and Swahili), cannot take a placement exam in these languages because we do not offer one.
Some students have had extensive experience with a non-English language outside of the classroom. These students are known as native-heritage speakers. Native-heritage speakers typically have had one or more of the following experiences:
As children, a non-English language was spoken in their home
Have lived in a country for two or more years where a language other than English is the majority language
Have a first spoken language other than English
Speak a non-English language, or English and another language, with family and friends
Their parents and/or grandparents speak to them in another language
Native-heritage speakers do not need to take the language placement exam for that foreign language if they do not plan to study their native-heritage language here.
In what form is the placement exam given?+
Students who have studied French, German, Italian, Latin, and Spanish will take their exam online.
Students who have studied ancient Greek, Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese will take the placement test during the on-campus orientation period in August.
When may I take the online language placement exam?+
Online placement exams will be available during a three-week period between the end of May and early June.
How long will the online placement exam take?+
Depending on the language, students will have a period of either forty-five minutes (French) or an hour (German, Italian, Latin, and Spanish) to complete the online language placement exams. When the designated time expires, the computer-generated exam process automatically stops.
For placement exams taken on campus (Arabic, Chinese, or Japanese), students will have a period of an hour followed by a short oral interview.
Students who have previously studied ancient Greek will have an assessment interview with a member of the Classics Department to determine placement.
When will I hear about language placement? How will this process have an effect on course registration?+
Once the online exam time has passed, students may find online placement results through the Student Center website. For those students who take the placement exam on campus in August, results will be made available within twenty-four hours.
If you do not take the required placement exam during your examination time frame, you will be unable to continue with your registration. Furthermore, you will severely limit your chance to enroll in language study since the availability of particular language courses and sections that the college offers is based on the number of eligible students as determined by these placement exams. If students do not follow the time frame guidelines, they will hinder what the College offers and jeopardize what they might need to take.
If students do not take a particular language their first year, they may unfortunately curtail their chances of taking that language in following years.
I know I want to start a new language at Gettysburg. What should I do?+
You should take a required placement exam for any of the languages that you studied for more than one year in high school that the College offers, and then enroll in a first-level course for the new language that you desire to study. For some languages, such as Italian Studies, if you do not enroll in a section of a beginning level your first semester, your chances to enroll as a sophomore are drastically reduced. If you only studied Latin in high school, and you do not wish to continue to study it here, enroll in another first-year language course.
I haven’t been doing well in foreign language study. What should I do?+
Several factors may contribute to language learning difficulties:
Some students struggle because they have never learned how to study a foreign language. Foreign-language study requires a distinct set of skills, some of which students may not have previously cultivated. There are several resources on campus to help you cultivate these skills, such as your instructor, language tutors, Peer Learning Associates (PLAs), and the Language Resource Center (a technologically based gathering place that all language students on campus may utilize).
Some students simply are not interested in foreign language study. These students should invest time in discovering for themselves how learning a language can be beneficial. Until students find some positive meaning linked to the study of language, most of them simply flounder. Once they commit to learning, for whatever payoff, these students usually do better in language courses.
Finally, some students struggle with foreign language study because they simply do not have an aptitude for language, even though these same students may be brilliant in other disciplines, such as Math, History, or Chemistry. If you feel that this might be you, and because language difficulties are so particular to each person, the College invites students who have worries about their potential performance to contact the individual language department for the language that interests them in order to discuss their situation. We also urge you to contact Academic Advising. Issues to discuss will be whether to start a new language or continue in a previously studied one. Additionally, once enrolled in a language class, and if students have utilized all the various resources available to them and perform poorly, they may seek testing for learning disability related to language. These test results coupled with their language professor's assessment may result in these students being exempted from one or two semesters of the same-language requirement.
Below is list of contact information for the administrative assistants of each language; they will forward student questions to faculty members who will answer them.