Foreign Language Placement Testing

Site updated 1/6/2020

Placement Testing 

Language Placement tests have been cancelled temporarily effective immediately.  They will start back up as soon as courses resume in classrooms on campus.Check this website at that time.


The Department of Modern and Classical Languages offers language placement tests in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Persian, Russian, and Spanish.  If a student has little to no knowledge of a language, the 110 (101 in Latin) course is likely the best course choice.  The department administers these tests mostly for students with some language knowledge to determine suggested course placement and (for students who excel on the placement test), to give three language credits for course 202 of their language (see note below about these credits).  After taking the placement test, course placement suggestions that are given besides 110 are 115, 201, 202, or courses above 300.  Students can only take the test once for each language.

Students who have prior experience with a foreign language in their high school and plan to register for courses in that language at George Mason should take the placement test before enrolling in language courses.  

It is best to avoid having to drop and or add courses as the semester begins.  Therefore, it is advisable that you take a language placement test prior to the first day of classes in a new semester.  It takes around 1 hour to complete, and then from the beginning, you and the instructors will know that your course fits your abilities. 

Most of the tests are multiple-choice and cover listening comprehension and reading ability. Our Arabic and Persian tests also include writing ability.  Tests take from 60 – 90 minutes to complete. 

The tests are administered on the Fairfax campus in the Modern and Classical Languages Lab--Aquia Building, room 346.  There is no advance registration, and there is no charge for the test.

For Arabic, Italian, Japanese, and Persian tests, after testing, you will get an email in 7-10 days with your results; for all the others you will know your results right after you finish the test.

For the Italian Placement Test only, please contact Professor Kristina Olson before taking the test

Please note: If from a placement test, a student is placed in the suggested 300 level for a language, we will award to that student three credits for the 202 course of their language.  This may satisfy foreign language course requirements if any—confirmation of this with student’s program advisor is suggested.  It takes up to seven weeks after testing for this course to appear on a degree audit. 

Using SAT, AP, or IB Scores to Determine Placement

Students who submit scores on the College Board Achievement (SAT II), Advanced Placement (AP), or International Baccalaureate (IB) with their application to George Mason may use those scores to determine placement. See Academic Credit by Exam (below) for details. At Mason students may not take tests and use them for placement or credit after matriculation.


Students may be eligible for a waiver of the foreign language requirement if they can demonstrate language proficiency through documentation of previous language experience, including a qualifying TOEFL score with their application to George Mason. See Waiver of the Foreign Language Requirement (below) for more information. Students who are granted a waiver do not receive credit. Students should address questions about waivers of the foreign language requirement to the Office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.

Course Waivers

Foreign Language Waivers for students pursuing a B.A. degree

 Waivers are completely separate from language placement tests, are usually used for languages that are not taught at Mason, and no credit is given like is possible with a placement test.

Students who are native speakers of a language other than English may be eligible to waive their GMU foreign language requirement. Being granted a foreign language waiver simply means the student has fulfilled this particular requirement and, as such, need not take any additional coursework in foreign languages. The waiver DOES NOT grant credit and it DOES NOT exempt the student from completing the necessary 120 credit hours for graduation. If a waiver is granted, the student may replace the designated hours of foreign language coursework with elective courses to complete the total minimum requirement for graduation. 

What does one need to produce in order to request a waiver?

Students requesting a Foreign Language Waiver may be asked to come to our office in person. The Foreign Language Waiver request forms must be submitted, along with the following documentation:

Test Results--Students may present language test results as evidence of foreign language ability. With some of the more common foreign languages, the student should be able to locate an already established placement exam at one of the area universities. Students can also use testing services provided by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and similar institutions. For languages that are less common, it is the student’s responsibility to locate an acceptable authority in the language that is willing to administer an exam. An authority is someone who is affiliated with an accredited institution or embassy, and who is familiar with language-level designations at U.S. universities. This may include:

a. an instructor of another institution (college-level) who is currently teaching this language;

b. a George Mason University Modern and Classical Languages instructor who is fluent in this language;

c. a George Mason University instructor of English and/or ESOL/ESL who is fluent in this language;

d. an authority at the local embassy or consulate;

The Department of Modern and Classical Languages will not accept language exams administered by someone with whom they have a personal relationship, such as a family member.

If the student opts to take a foreign language exam, he or she must provide the Department of Modern and Classical Languages with test results. The authority who administered and graded the exam should attach a letter on their institutional letterhead describing the exam. In order to qualify for a waiver, the student must provide evidence that they read, write and speak the language at or above the intermediate level.

All Foreign Language Waiver requests must be provided to the Department of Modern and Classical Languages at least one semester prior to the student’s intended semester of graduation.

This policy ensures that there will be adequate time to process requests and submit them to the relevant office(s) on campus. It also gives students time to plan accordingly if their waiver is not approved. After a four-week period, the student should check their degree evaluation in Patriot Web to see if the waiver has been approved and applied.


Students who wish to submit transcripts as evidence that they attended four or more years in an institution (High school and above) located outside of the United States where the primary language of instruction was other than English may do so through the office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs (Buchanan Hall D217, phone 703-993-8725).