SFS and MSFS Proficiency Exams

School of Foreign Service Bachelor’s and Master’s Oral Proficiency Exams

A student may request an oral proficiency examination with the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures after she has taken the appropriate preparatory coursework.  A final examination schedule and sign-up form will be posted online and students are expected to present themselves for the examination at the appointed time and location.  

(See link for BSFS & MSFS Proficiency Exam Forms)

Exam Format

The exam entails a reading comprehension component in which the student is given time alone to read an article on a topic in international affairs or contemporary society, followed by a 20 minute oral conversation in which the student is asked to summarize the article and to answer questions relating to it.  A two-member board conducts the exam. 

For students studying Chinese, see updated policy.


The undergraduate proficiency exam is evaluated on a “Pass” or “Fail” basis. Students who pass the proficiency exam are able to sustain a discussion dealing with current events and demonstrate familiarity with relevant historical, cultural, political, and economic information.  Students are also able to satisfy routine social needs and to discuss themselves, their studies, and their plans for the future.

A pass on the proficiency exam is comparable to achieving an Advanced Low to Advanced High per the Teaching of Foreign Languages Proficiency Guidelines (ACTFL) rating.

The graduate proficiency exam is graded on a five-point scale from “Poor” to “Excellent.”  A score of “Good,” “Very Good,” or “Excellent” is required in order to be rated as proficient in the tested language.

Retesting and Rescheduling Policies

Students who do not pass the examination may retake it.  The department will be assess a $25.00 fee for each retest.

The first examination, scheduled within the departmental deadline, will be administered without charge. Tardiness in scheduling an examination or rescheduling may result in a charge of $25.00.