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World Languages and Cultural Studies

Language Placement & Placement Exam: Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions


Who needs to take the exam? 

All students who wish to continue their high school study of French, Italian, or Spanish. If, for example, you have 3 years of Spanish in your high school transcripts, and you wish to register for a Spanish class at Merrimack, then you need to take the Spanish placement exam first. That way you can be placed at the level that is appropriate for you. And remember: the sooner you take the Placement Exam, the easier it will be for you to find a course that fits your schedule and your interests!

If you never took any Foreign Language classes in high school, then you don’t need to take any placement exam. If you’re interested in starting a new language from scratch, you also do not need to take a placement exam – but: we do not recommend that you quit your high school Spanish, French, or Italian to start a new language. The smart thing to do is always to improve on what you’ve already learnt. Get a chance to really learn a language better, and start a new language only if you really mean it and if you’re truly willing and able to add a second or third foreign language!

What is the structure of the exam?  

The exam is a 40-question, multiple choice test that doesn’t require much of your time. Be careful, though: you can only take it once!

What does the college do with the results? 

The results will go to the Registrar’s Office, where they will determine which level of French, Spanish, or Italian is appropriate for you.  (If after you take the exam you want to be absolutely certain you’re at the right level, please go to the World Languages table during June Orientation and ask for advice!)

Is there a Foreign Language requirement? What is required?

Yes: 4 credits of a foreign language taken at the introductory level or above.

How do I satisfy this requirement?

There are 4 ways you can satisfy the foreign language requirement:

  1.  take 1 semester of the language you already studied in high school (placed at the appropriate level);
  2. take 1 semester of a new language at the introductory level;
  3. test out (i.e., pass either the FLATS test or the CLEP test ~ see below);
  4. transfer in credits for languages taken at other qualifying institutions (see below for AP info).

When and where can I take the CLEP Test?

You can take the CLEP test at Northern Essex Community College. Information regarding CLEP testing dates and testing facilities is available to students and advisers by contacting the Merrimack College World Languages & Cultures office at 978-837-3468 or on the NECC website.

I studied a language other than French, German, or Spanish, so I cannot take the CLEP exam. Is there a CLEP-like test for me?

Yes. Students who are fluent in Italian or in other modern languages currently not taught at Merrimack may still transfer in up to 12 semester credit hours by taking the Brigham Young University Foreign Language Achievement Test (FLATS). Please visit the Center for Academic Enrichment on the 3rd floor of McQuade Library for further information, or contact the Academic Counselor for International Studies, Maura Shaffer (McQuade Library 301, ext. 5261). Please contact the Registrar’s Office (ext. 5320, Austin Hall 112) for further questions regarding transfer credits for languages currently not taught at Merrimack.

I took a foreign language in high school. Do I still have to satisfy this requirement?

Yes, you still need to satisfy the language requirement. The foreign language requirement can be satisfied only by completing one of the 4 steps described above. For further information regarding AP and CLEP transfer credits and course equivalencies, please refer to the chart attached.

I took a foreign language in high school. Can I satisfy the requirement by taking the first semester of Intro in that same language?

No. First semester Introductory language classes (Intro I) are open only to absolute beginners who never took that language in high school. If you wish to continue studying the language you took in high school, you’ll have to be placed in a course at the appropriate level. Further information on placement exams can be found on the WLC department website or by contacting the WLC department main office (Sullivan Hall 202, 978-837-3468).

I took AP foreign language in high school. Does it satisfy the Foreign Language requirement?

If you took the AP exam and achieved a score of 3 or above, yes. Please refer to the chart attached for further information regarding AP transfer credits and course equivalencies.

See this helpful chart for information on transfer credits.