Foreign Language placement test spells fast track for students

Many majors require foreign language credit to graduate and students, in an attempt to lighten their workload, change majors to avoid the foreign language requirements.  

Unknown to many students there is a way to place into a higher language course in-turn, receiving credit for the lower courses.  

The Foreign Language department offers placement tests for students so that they can take one class for three credit hours or receive more hours depending on how many prerequisite courses were passed during testing. 

Students are required to earn a C or higher to receive prerequisite credit. This is a contrast to other programs where students can surpass the prerequisite courses and have the credit requirements waived instead. 

Photo courtesy of WCU Photo Services.

As an example, if a student were to place into a higher math class the student would only get credit for the one class they were placed in. Contrarily, a student placed in a higher-level Spanish course could receive credit for the higher and lower-level Spanish course, following a C or higher. 

The placement tests gauge where a student ranks in relation to the expected knowledge of the courses offered for that language. 

Will Lehmen, department head of World Languages, believes the placement tests are beneficial to students looking to get ahead in their schooling.  

“It is a way for students to get credit for classes they are capable of doing and actually being able to enjoy their college years,” Lehman said. 

Some students feel as though they are not prepared for the classes they are placed in based on the placement test.  

Sophomore Gracie Weaver took a placement test and was placed in SPAN 231 after taking four years of Spanish classes in high school. 

“I was somewhat comfortable originally going into the class just due to how many Spanish classes I took in high school,” Weaver said. “After a couple weeks I felt like I found myself somewhat behind because there wasn’t really any introduction or review of previous material.” 

Lehman, along with WCU Spanish instructor David Jons recommend students who feel they are not prepared for the classes, reach out to them. 

“As a professor teaching Spanish, I can tell when a student isn’t comfortable with the material and can use some extra help or be moved to a different class,” Jons said. 

The testing is not absolute. There may be discrepancies in the effectiveness of the placement, therefore adjustments can be made manually. This change can go in two ways. 

Students who may speak the language at the level of a native speaker or a heritage speaker might test lower on the placement test but can be moved to a higher course once they contact the department head and other leaders. 

Advanced Placement (AP) and college transfer credits are treated differently. 

AP and college transfer credits are processed at the administration level before the foreign language department begins considering placements.