Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Language competency requirements and proficency exam

 Test Dates for Hindi and Urdu

Language Exams are held once a year, in the first few weeks of classes in the Fall ONLY. If you are looking to take an exam in another South Asian language please contact the SAST department administrator or the Penn Language Program.

WHAT: HINDI Proficiency & Placement Exam

DATE: Friday, August 31, 2018

TIME: 1-4 pm

WHERE: ANNS, Room 111

RSVP: You MUST email no later than Aug 28th to take this exam

NOTE: This exam is held once per year ONLY


WHAT: URDU Proficiency & Placement Exam

DATE: Thursday, August 30, 2018

TIME: 12 - 1:30 pm

WHERE: 820 WIlliams Hall, South Asia Studies Conference Room

RSVP: You must let email  

Note: You may contact Professor Menai if you need to schedule an alternate time for your exam

Any questions about the Hindi Exam should be sent to Professor Josh Pien at Any questions about the Urdu Exam should be sent to Professor Mustafa Menai at 

A student must show a B+ level in order to gain admission to the next higher level at the time of the admission.


Language Policy, Department of South Asia Studies (updated August 2011)

In order to fulfill the SAS or Wharton School language requirement, students must demonstrate that they have a minimum required level of competency in a foreign language other than English.  Students can fulfill this requirement of their degree by meeting the required competency level of Intermediate-Mid in any language offered in the university. This competency can be achieved by taking courses in a language from the beginning level for those studying a new language, by taking additional courses in a language in which the student already has some competency, or by demonstrating proficiency at the Intermediate-Mid level or higher in all four skill areas (speaking, listening, reading, writing) on a placement test administered during the fall of a student’s first year at Penn.  If a student already has some competency in a South Asian language, he or she is required to take the placement test prior to registering for that language in order to determine the appropriate level.  

The placement test may be taken only once during a student’s time at Penn.  Students who fail to demonstrate Intermediate-Mid level proficiency in one or more skill areas will be placed in the level judged most appropriate based on the availability of instructors.  In the event that a student demonstrates high-level speaking and/or listening ability, but reading and/or writing ability below the Intermediate-Mid level, students may be placed in an upper level class that focuses on reading and writing.

Competency levels are measured by the standard ACTFL Scale developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. The scale has four major levels: Novice, Intermediate, Advanced and Superior, and sublevels within these major levels (Low, Mid & High). Please click here for the descriptions of the hallmarks of Intermediate, Advanced & Superior Levels.


Students who wish to take the placement exam should register for the exam before or during the first week of the Fall semester of their Freshman year. To register please contact the following:



Because introductory and intermediate level courses are year-long courses, the placement exams for all South Asian Languages will be held only in the beginning of each Fall semester.  This will allow students to enter the appropriate course for the coming year. 


Frequently Asked Questions about the Placement Exam and Fulfilling the Language Requirement

Q: Who needs to take the Placement Exam?

(1) All new students who wish to be exempt from the foreign language requirement.  No other exams such as the A or O levels will be accepted, nor will previous transcripts be reviewed unless the student has graduated from a high school in which the medium of instruction was in a language other than English.

(2) All new students who have taken a South Asian language formally or who speak it in the home who wish to continue to study that language at Penn.  The exam should be taken prior to registering for the language in order to ensure correct placement.


Q: Who does NOT need to take the exam?

If you have never studied a South Asian language, you may sign up for any language.


Q: What is the format of the exam?

The exam typically takes 60-90 minutes and includes four components:

  •             Reading
  •             Writing
  •             Speaking (a 20-minute oral interview is conducted with an instructor)
  •             Listening


Q: Is the exam given in Romanized script?

No.  Knowledge of the script (ex. Nastaliq for Urdu, Devnagri for Hindi) is necessary to take the exam.


Q: When and where is the exam?

The exam is scheduled in the first week of classes in the Fall semester of each academic year.  To register for the exam, please contact the following individuals:  for Hindi, contact Shaheen Parveen; for Urdu, contact Rubab Qureshi; for Gujarati, contact Babu Suthar.  For all other languages, students must register to take the exam through the Penn Language Center (  Once your formal request has been registered, you will be contacted regarding the time and place for the exam.   Please be aware that because language courses are year-long courses, the placement exam will not be administered mid-year.  It will only be administered at the beginning of each Fall semester.


Q. Can the exam be taken multiple times?

No. The exam will only be given once during your academic career at Penn. If you place into a level and then choose not to take the appropriate courses you will not be tested again.


Q: Do I need to sign up for the exam?

Yes.  See the above instructions to sign up.


Q: Is there any sample test available? How should I prepare for the exam?No. A language competency test measures your command of the language regardless of your language learning background. Students don’t need to study before the exam. 


Q: I am a transfer student. Do I need to take the Placement exam?

Yes.   It should be taken at the beginning of the first Fall semester you are at Penn.