Arabic Language Placement and Proficiency Exams

Arabic Language Placement Test Guidelines

Placement test

All students – including incoming transfers – are required to take an Arabic placement test before enrolling in courses. The placement test is designed to determine if a student should follow the Non-native or the Heritage track. It will also determine at what level of instruction a student will begin his/her studies.*

*Students with no previous experience in Arabic should simply preregister for an introductory course after a short meeting with an Arabic instructor. After the meeting, they may register for ARAB-1011 Intensive First Level Modern Standard Arabic I.

How to take the placement test

  • The proctored Arabic placement exam is administered on campus during New Student Orientation.
  • In order to take the language placement exam, you must enroll on Moodle.
    • Go to Georgetown University’s Canvas login page at
    • Log in using your NetID and NetID password.Note: If you need help with your NetID, contact the GU-Q IT Help Desk.
    • Click on the exam called “Arabic Language Placement Exam”.
    • Follow the instructions on the placement exam site to take the exam.

Exam Instructions:

  • Please read all the questions’ instructions carefully.
  • Press “Next Page” or “Previous Page” to navigate through the Exam sections.
  • In speaking questions, press “RECORD” to start recording your answers and after you finish press “STOP”. Then Press “UPLOAD” and wait for the message “Upload Successful” before making another recording.
  • Always pay attention to the TIMER on the left side of the screen.
  • You have 2 hours to finish this test.
  • If you encounter a problem or a technical difficulty that prevents you from finishing the exam, ask one of the proctors to help you as soon as possible.

Arabic Language Proficiency Exam

Language Tracks and Proficiency

Non-Native Track
  • Proficiency Target Level: Advanced Low (according to ACTFL scale)
    • Proficiency Exam Requirement: Arabic Advanced Two (ARAB 2217).
    • Proficiency Exam Format: The exam consists of two parts: speaking and reading comprehension.
      • Speaking: Students should be able to sustain formal conversations on topics related to school, home, friends, vacation, and leisure activities. They can also speak about some topics related to employment, current events, and matters of public and community interest. Advanced Low speakers should demonstrate the ability to narrate and describe events in the past, present, and future in short oral discourses and paragraph-length discourse.
      • Reading: Includes short informative and narrative texts only. Students taking Arabic as a second language will be given a short article to read on any of the conversation topics mentioned above. The examiners will ask them questions related to this particular article only. Non-native students are advised to read short informative articles in preparation for the exam. In addition, they should practice conversation in MSA with their peers, their teachers, and their friends. Find an example of these articles on the following link: عيد الأم: لماذا يحتفل العالم بعيد الأم في تواريخ مختلفة؟
Heritage Track
  • Proficiency Target Level: Advanced High (according to ACTFL scale)
  • Proficiency Exam Requirement: At least one Arabic Post-Advanced course taught in Arabic
  • Proficiency Exam Format: The exam consists of two parts: speaking and reading comprehension.
    • Reading: Reading comprehension includes newspaper editorials and op-ed pieces.
    • Speaking: Heritage students taking the proficiency exam should be able to use precise vocabulary and intonation to express meaning and demonstrate fluency and ease of speech. They should be consistently able to explain in detail and narrate fully and accurately in all time frames. They should demonstrate a well-developed ability to compensate for an imperfect grasp of some forms or for limitations in vocabulary by the confident use of communicative strategies, such as paraphrasing, circumlocution, and illustration. In addition, they should be able to express themselves using a broad range of vocabulary. Contrary to the non-heritage students, the heritage students might be asked to link the article to current events. They are required to summarize the main ideas of the text, analyze a certain issue that the text raises, and give their own opinions about the argumentative quality of the text. They should be ready to express their opinions on the topic and demonstrate knowledge of the subject matter. Students are advised to review Arabic articles and editorials on topics related to politics, economy, and culture, and others using authentic online Arabic sources and newspapers. See example article here.

Exam Registration and Schedule

  • Non-native students can take the exam at any time during their undergraduate degree upon completion of the required courses.
  • Heritage students can take the exam in their junior and senior years only upon completion of the required courses.
  • Students cannot take the exam twice in the same semester.  Accordingly, seniors should ensure that they do not wait until their last semester to take the exam.
  • At the beginning of each semester, juniors and seniors who have completed or currently enrolled in their Post Advance language course will automatically receive a scheduled proficiency examination invitation via their Georgetown calendar noting the date and time of their proficiency examination. Please note, the designated date and time of the examination is FINAL and can NOT be changed, altered, or postponed. The proficiency exam should be treated as a course final examination.

How to Prepare for the Exam

Students are advised to review Arabic articles and editorials on topics related to politics, economy, and culture, using authentic online Arabic sources and newspapers.

  • Heritage students are advised to read op-eds and editorials from newspapers such as Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Al-Raya, and Al-Ittihad
  • Arabic as a Foreign Language students are advised to read informative articles

Exam Format and Procedure

Exam Length

The duration of the exam is 45 minutes. Students must arrive at the location of the exam at least 10 minutes before start time.

Exam Structure & Process
  • The exam starts with a 10-15 minute conversation that will include a few questions about students’ Arabic language profile, general information about family, daily life, friends, school, etc.
  • Following the introduction, the examiner gives students an article on a cultural, economic, political or current affairs topic related to the Arab World.  Students have 15 minutes to read the text on their own and they can take notes.
  • During the exam, the examiner may prompt or advise students by doing one of the following:
    • Repeat the question twice if needed.
    • Remind students of exam length and the time that is left for them to complete the exam.
    • Keep students on track if they are digressing too much from the topic under discussion.
    • Remind students to avoid using English or Arabic dialects in the exam.

The proficiency exam is pass-fail. Within 15 days, exam results will be sent to the Assistant Dean, who will then share it with students. Students should NOT contact the examiner directly to inquire about their results.

  • *Heritage students who spend a semester on the main campus are not allowed to take the proficiency exam there. They must take it ONLY at GUQ.
  • *Heritage students in the senior year who did not pass the Arabic proficiency exam in the Spring semester can retake the exam by the end of the summer semester.
Pass scale

A PASS on the proficiency exam is comparable to achieving the following American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages Proficiency Guidelines (ACTFL) ratings:

  • For heritage students: Advanced high (ACTFL scale)
  • For Arabic non-native students: Advanced low (ACTFL scale)