German Placement & Proficiency Exams

German Language Placement Exam: is offered every semester to students who already speak the language in order to determine their language level (Elementary, Intermediate, Advanced) and the right level language course. 

German Proficiency Exam: The proficiency exam is a translation exam intended for graduate students. You will have 2 hours to translate one of a choice of two 300-word German texts into coherent English. You may use a dictionary/ies, either paper and/or electronic. You may not use any online translation program such as Google translate.

General Information

If you have had any prior instruction in German prior to coming to Columbia/Barnard, you are
required to take our placement exam. The placement exam will help us in placing you at the level
of German that best reflects your ability and your comfort level. Only the complete picture of
test and personal interview can help us determine which class will work best for you. Please also
note that changes are still possible during the shopping period.
To provide a safe testing environment and more flexibility in taking the exam, we have moved
our exam online onto a designated Canvas site.

For more information on the foreign language requirements, please visit:




Next scheduled Online Placement Exam dates for Fall 2024:

Fall registration: Registration for the Fall is ongoing. The same goes for First Year Orientation in the last week of August. All placement exams will be administered by individual appointment.

For appointments, please contact:

Columbia: Jutta Schmiers-Heller ([email protected])

Barnard: Irene Motyl-Mudretzkyj ([email protected])


Registration Information:

  1. You register for the exam via email. Please email Jutta Schmiers-Heller ([email protected]) for Columbia and Irene Motyl-Mudretzkyj ([email protected]) for Barnard to indicate that you want to take the placement exam.
  2. You will then be added to the Canvas site and receive an invitation to the site that will allow you to take the test.
  3. Please accept the invitation to the site, so you can read the instructions. Contact us immediately if you cannot access the site.


Information on the Online German Placement Exam

  1. The test will be available as a Quiz on the Canvas site at a time and date that will work for you or that we have agreed on. The information on the homepage of the site will guide you to the exam.
  2. Please make sure to sign your name to the honor pledge. The exam setup will prompt you to do so.
  3. While you have a window of a few days during which you can take the exam, once you start the exam, you will have 90 minutes to complete it. So please keep that in mind as you complete the different parts. (see below: General Test Information)
  4. Please follow the instructions provided in the test and note that the use of external resources (such as dictionaries) is not permitted, as the goal is to establish your level of German.
  5. The exam should be taken on a tablet or computer using Firefox or Chrome. (Cell phone did not work for listening portion.)
  6. Once you have completed the online portion and it has been evaluated, you will be contacted to schedule a final online Zoom interview to complete the exam. 


General Test Information

Overall the test has 5 sections, divided into two parts:
1. Listening Comprehension

2. Vocabulary (everyday words and verb forms)

3. Reading Comprehension

4. Free writing

5. Speaking


Part I: Online Exam:

Sections 1-4 will be completed in an online exam on our Canvas site and. Items 1-3 consist of 62 multiple-choice items. For the writing portion you can choose one of three prompts.


Part II: Personal Interview

Section 5 will be completed through a personal interview with one of our instructors. The interview will take about 15 minutes and will occur after the completion of part I. For the moment, all personal interviews will occur via Zoom. Once you have completed part I and it has been evaluated, you will be contacted by departmental representatives to set up the personal Zoom interview.


Fall 2024 German Proficiency Exam (Online)

Next scheduled Proficiency Exam dates:

Summer A: June 28, in-person

Summer B: August 8, in-person

Please contact Simona Vaidean, [email protected] if you would like to take the Proficiency Exam or have any related questions.

Note: You do not have to be enrolled for a course to take the exam.

General Information

•    For the time being all other proficiency exams will occur online.

•    The exam is two hours long.

•    The Reading Proficiency Exam in German consists of the successful translation of one original German text of 300-350 words. You may request a sample exam.

•    Dictionaries (including online dictionaries like may be used.

•    You may not use online translators for whole phrases.

•    You will be able to choose one of two texts.

•    Translations should remain close to the original text, but should be in reasonably fluent English.


Two ways to complete the exam

•    Passing the Proficiency Exam after being enrolled in the second course of the German for Reading Knowledge I and II sequence or its intensive summer course equivalent.

•    Registering for the Reading Proficiency Exam without taking a Reading Knowledge course. You should register with Simona Vaidean, [email protected] via email. In that case, you will take the exam on a predetermined date; at the moment these exams are administered online. See below for procedure. Please register at least 2 business days before the test date.


Taking the exam online:

You will be sent an invitation to a Canvas course site that allows you to take the test.

•    Please accept the invitation and make sure you can access the site at least 24 hours before the test date. Contact Simona Vaidean, [email protected] immediately if you cannot access the site.

•    The test will be available as a Quiz on that site at the time and date of the test. The information on the homepage of the site will guide you to the exam. You can take the test at any time after 9 am on the day the regular proficiency exam is scheduled and it will be accessible for 24 hours.  Your two-hour time slot will start when you open the exam.

•    Please make sure to sign your name to the honor pledge and to list any advisors or administrators who need to be informed if you pass the exam. The exam setup will prompt you to do both.