Benefit of Testing into Language in College

Hi! I am a rising college freshman and I was starting to thinking about picking classes, specifically language classes. I know that I could more than likely test into a German class above beginners (or 101), but is there any benefit to that? Would I receive credit for the class that I skipped? Would it just make getting the language requirement out of the way? Or would it be an easy A just to take the beginners class? Any information would be helpful.

The first question is why you are taking FL.

If you are trying to complete your FL requirement (if your school has one) and are otherwise not that interested in German, testing in at a higher level allows you to complete it more quickly. Remember that every German class you take is one other class you don’t take.

If your German is really rusty or has significant gaps, testing in at too high a level may be really frustrating. But if you have had exposure to the language, German 101 is unlikely to be a good fit. An A in that class isn’t going to impress anyone or do much for you.

Ime, the placement tests are pretty accurate. My kid’s test put him right in between 2 levels (after not taking the language senior year.) He chose the lower level and an extra semester of language study. In retrospect, he said he could have handled the higher level and was sorry he “wasted” a semester. Yes, he got an A, but there were so many other courses he would rather have taken.

I would advise that you take the placement test with a minimum of prep. That way, you won’t end up in over your head but you are unlikely to start at the very beginning. At any level except 101, it’s possible that you will have gaps, whither in vocabulary or verb tenses. Make sure you quickly address those as you uncover them and you will do fine.


ahahaha no. Why would you? you have skipped it, not taken it (as with an AP)

This is real, and worth thinking about right from the beginning. At this point, 4 years of college looks like a lot of time and classes, but many students come to realize that there are classes they wish they could take, but won’t have time to take. Your schedule is finite real estate- use it wisely. In that vein:

You may be able to take a class that you would actually enjoy, rather than just tick a box. One of the collegekids went to a college where you couldn’t test out of FL altogether- you had to take at least a year of FL. She tested out of 101, and into a level that had a film class. She spent the year of FL watching some really good FL movies, which were a nice balance to her otherwise stem-heavy classes. It also improved her overall fluency, which she appreciated when she was able to get an internship for the following summer in that country.



For most colleges, no.

Invariably, if you want to continue a language you previously studies, you have to take a placement test. Generally, you cannot take a class lower than you placed. I suppose you could deliberately bomb the placement test, but what’s the point? You only have so many courses than you can take in college that it’s a waste to use one or more of those spots unnecessarily.


This depends on the school. My D’s university gives credit for AP and DE classes. The grades don’t count towards her GPA but the credit can be used to fulfill gen ed requirements and they count towards graduation credits.

While a valid point, OP enters college in the fall; the AP ship has sailed, and it sounds like they are nowhere near AP level anyway. Also, few colleges give AP credit for the whole sequence. Most common is to get one or two semesters worth of credit.

Regardless, the OP seems to be speaking about the college’s placement exam, which invariably conveys no credit, although I am sure there are some colleges that do.

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Yes - for taking an actual class. OP seemed to think that they might be able to test into 201, but still get credit for 101 (presumably b/c taking 201 implies having taken the 101 pre-req).

I misread the post. Yes, I don’t know any schools that gives credit for a class that is skipped because of just a placement test.

One daughter had an experience that sort of resembled this, but with Spanish. She had done very well in Spanish in elementary and middle school, and had studied a semester of high school in South America. Her high school however did not offer any AP classes at all. With considerable difficulty we were able to find somewhere that would allow her to take the AP Spanish test. She self-studied for it and got a 5.

On arriving at university, they gave her credit for a full year of Spanish, including academic credit for two classes which showed up on her university transcript with a grade of Pass. However, she needed the AP test score to get credit. She started in a second year class. She showed up for the first class ten minutes early, and just sat there chatting with the professor in Spanish. By the end of the day they had dropped her from the second year Spanish class and signed her up for a third year Spanish class. However, she only got credit for one year of Spanish. She just skipped the second year without any academic credit for it.

She quite liked the third year class. It was much more interesting for her compared to sitting through the second year class.

If your German is not to the level of taking the AP class, then you most likely will not get credit on your university transcript. However, it would be more interesting to start at an appropriate level, such as possibly a second year class. You probably will want to contact the German or language department at your university and ask them about this. It might be as simple as walking into a German professor’s office the first week at university and talking to them in German for a few minutes.

I agree with this. You want them to test how strong your German really is, not how strong you can make it with some additional studying which might or might not stick with you for more than a few days.

One benefit is that you will be taking a class that is more interesting. Another benefit is that your German will improve. If you get to visit Germany in the future this will likely be helpful.


Some schools do this (pretty sure all of the state schools where we are do–I know our state flagship does this). At the school where I used to work, upon successful completion of the course you placed into, the school awarded course credit for all of the courses below that level. This meant you could earn up to 12 hours of free language credit, and it could apply towards a major or minor in that language (or be used as elective degree credits). I always advised students who placed into a 3000 level language to consider adding on a minor in that language for that reason, because the 12 credits they earned through placement could be applied towards the minor and they could complete the minor in just three courses.


One of the things I love about CC is how many knowledgeable people there are on here- and how many things I still don’t know after all these years! The two states whose systems I know best don’t do this, but it is interesting that there are systems that do. Thanks for the update, @cam2932 - interesting info to me, and potentially helpful info for the OP>

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I actually had assumed most schools have policies similar to the ones I’m used to working with, so this thread has been useful for me, too! I looked up some other schools’ policies to compare and realized it is not as common as I thought! It definitely helps me reframe my way of thinking on this when considering out of state/private schools that don’t award the credit hours in the same way.


I disagree with the “minimum prep” advice if that means no reviewing before hand. I think it is a waste of time, for example, to complete 1-4 in high school but then only be placed in level 3 in college, which is what happened to someone I know who didn’t do any reviewing for the placement test at our local university. You want to review enough to be placed at the proper level. I don’t see how you could be placed too high.

I do.

While it varies by college, many allow you to move up/down after being exposed to the actual class, sometimes at the instigation of the instructor.

“Minimum” does not mean “no.” Certainly spend a couple of hours reviewing notes before the test, especially if you have not spoken the language all summer. But a few hours, not a week or more. The ones that over-prepped, IME, as the ones that struggled in the college course and/or were bounced down a level.

Both high schools and colleges may have significant variation in how much material is covered at each level of foreign language course, so fourth year in high school may result in proper placement anywhere from second to fifth semester in college, depending on the high school and college.


And language. Taking out heritage speakers, 4 years of HS Spanish will typically result in a higher placement than 4 years of HS Mandarin.


A well - written placement test wouldn’t result in someone placed too high. That’s the whole point of the test. If your high school program wasn’t rigorous, then the test results would make that clear.

I took the French placement test back in the Stone Age. I never took French after 10th grade, and let’s just say my HS French classes didn’t teach me much French.

Well…I placed out of the full two years required by my small LAC. The catch was was that even IF you placed out of two years, you still had to take one semester of “conversational French”. Class met weekly in a private dining room and ONLY French was allowed to be spoken. There was NO WAY I would have been able to converse in French…I got placed where I definitely would not have had any success. I opted to take the second full year of regular class French instead.

My daughter could have taken a placement test at U of Wyoming and would have received credit for any classes she tested out of. At orientation, they called it the ‘cheapest 12 credits you could buy’ at the school, as you could get up to 12 credits for taking the $25 test.

So some schools do do it. Now she’s a grad student and has to have at least third year level of a language to meet the requirements. She said almost everyone just studies and takes the test as it is not hard and actually taking the language would require her to repeat most of what she already learned. Another option might be for her to do a summer study abroad immersion program next summer. Oh, how she must suffer for her education - a summer in France!

I may be mis-remembering, but I think my University of Wisconsin student got credit for the two semesters of foreign language he tested out of – once he got credit for the next semester of that language sequence. Maybe that’s something large flagships do? Or maybe it’s just a Wisconsin thing.

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