The Pennsylvania State University

College of the Liberal Arts


Proficiency Certification and Credit by Examination in Foreign Languages

Information for Students and Advisors

Some students seek to satisfy language requirements by means other than taking coursework.  If their situations fall within the criteria established by Penn State’s Foreign Language Placement Policy, they may request that the relevant language and literature departments provide Credit by Examination or Non-Credit Proficiency Certification.


1.  Credit by Examination (CRX):  this process can confer credits


This is a method of graded credit acquisition.  It is officially defined by Faculty Senate Policy (52.50.1, see <> and <>):  "Penn State students may earn credits which are accepted to fulfill degree requirements through successful completion (C or better) of a comprehensive examination. This examination is a substitute for completing the usual requirements of a course. Credit by examination may not be used to earn credit for a course previously completed with a quality letter grade (including courses that were failed). Credit by examination may not be attained on the satisfactory - unsatisfactory grading system. Obtaining credit by examination may not be possible for some courses."


A fee per credit is charged for CRX.   The Fall 2013 rate is $30 per credit—for instance, $120 for a 4-credit language course.  The credits and grades are entered on the student's transcript.  Paperwork to request CRX can be obtained from advising offices and from academic departments.  Departments are not necessarily obliged to offer CRX.


In language courses, students are eligible for CRX only within the parameters of the University's Foreign Language Placement Policy <>. This policy states, for example, that students may not receive credit for elementary or intermediate courses in their native language.


2.  Non-Credit Proficiency Certification:  this process does not confer credits


Sometimes the situations of students do not fall within the CRX opportunity.  Examples include the following:


a.  Graduate students who need certification of proficiency (but not necessarily credits) in order to meet doctoral requirements, apply for grants, etc.


b.  Undergraduates seeking documentation of their proficiency in a language acquired through means such as education abroad or other such programs, often to satisfy the 12th-credit-level B.A. proficiency requirement . 


c.  Undergraduates who are native speakers of languages other than English.  Such students are not eligible for credit in the elementary or intermediate courses in their native language, as noted above, but they may be seeking certification that they have met the 12th-credit-level proficiency requirement for B.A. (and some other) degrees.


d.  Students seeking proficiency certification in languages not taught at their Penn State location.


Procedure:  Students seeking credits through the CRX option should obtain the CRX paperwork from an advising office or a department office and follow the instructions it provides.  The fee ($30/credit as of Fall 2013) must be paid before the examination is administered.


Students seeking Non-Credit Proficiency Certification in Foreign Languages should use the Non-Credit form available here.  Requests are to be submitted to the department that offers the language curriculum (as specified on the form) at least three weeks prior to the time when the certification will be needed.  It is not guaranteed that all requests will be fulfilled.  If the language department cannot fulfill the request, the student will be notified and can seek alternative means of documenting proficiency (such as taking an external standardized exam in the language).  If the language department can fulfill the request, the fee ($60 as of Fall 2013) must be paid before the examination is administered.  For questions about this policy, contact the relevant language department, or the School of Languages and Literatures (215 Ritenour, 865-1168).

Request for Non-Credit Proficiency Certification in Foreign Languages


Name of Student (please print) _______________________________________________________


Student Number ________________________________Email ____________________________


Local Address and Phone ___________________________________________________________




Permanent Address and Phone ______________________________________________________



Major (if pre-major, state College or DUS) ____________________________________________


Academic Advisor’s Name (please print) ______________________________________________


Advisor’s Office Address and Email __________________________________________________


To the student:  This form does not lead to your receiving credits.  It only certifies that you have been found proficient at the level specified.  The receptionist in the appropriate language department office (see list below) will tell you which instructors or other examiners are authorized to provide certification for your language. 


For examination and certification in (language) 

Go to (department office) Location
French French and Francophone Studies 215 Ritenour
Spanish, Italian, Portuguese Spanish, Italian, & Portuguese 215 Ritenour
German, Russian, other Slavic languages   Germanic & Slavic Languages & Literatures 215 Ritenour
Latin and Ancient Greek  Classics & Ancient Mediterranean Studies 108 Weaver
Hebrew      Jewish Studies Program 108 Weaver
Arabic, Swahili  Comparative Literature 215 Ritenour
Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, Korean Asian Studies 102 Old Botany
Other languages School of Languages and Literatures 215 Ritenour


After the School of Languages and Literatures staff member tells you the name of an authorized instructor or other examiner, it is your responsibility to contact this person, arrange a time to be examined in the language, pay the fee (prior to taking the exam), give the form to the examiner at the time of the exam, and obtain the first two approval signatures in the order shown below. The language examiner -not the student- should return the form to the receptionist in the language department.  (In some cases, at the option of the department, official credentials showing your prior knowledge of the language may be used as an alternative or supplement to an exam.) The language department will then send the completed form to your advisor and give you a copy of the form for your records.  Your advisor can have your language proficiency entered into your official “degree audit” record.


To the advisor or College representative:  The student identified above has been found proficient in the language indicated, at the level indicated.  This form is valid only when all approval signatures are provided.


LANGUAGE ____________________


PROFICIENCY equivalent to completion of the highest Penn State course level that is checked below:


___Language 001 (4th-credit level)

___Language 002 (8th-credit level)

___Language 003 (12th-credit level, which completes the B.A. requirement)

___Language ___ (or 15th-credit level)

___Language ___ (or 18th-credit level)

___Beyond 18th-credit level (may include native speakers)

___Other pattern of equivalency (for example:  3 credits, 6 credits ) _________________________________________________ 


Additional descriptors may also be used (optional).  For example, if only a reading knowledge, or only a conversational knowledge, has been tested, this can be indicated below.


Listening skills 

___not tested

___very minimal or no practical ability to comprehend the spoken language

___able to understand short, basic utterances on everyday topics and immediate situations

___able to understand ideas and details of conversations beyond the immediate situation

___able to understand main ideas and essentials of most or all speech in a standard dialect, when

     listening for personal, social, and professional purposes

___native or native-like ability

Speaking skills

___not tested

___very minimal or no practical speaking ability

___able to handle a range of uncomplicated, basic tasks and simple practical and social situations

___able to satisfy the needs of many everyday situations, including routine school and work

___able to participate effectively in most or all situations and to speak appropriately on practical,

      social, academic/professional, and abstract topics

___native or native-like ability

Reading skills

                ___not tested

___very minimal or no practical ability to understand written material

                ___able to read short, simple texts dealing with basic practical and social needs

                ___able to read prose several paragraphs long, and to understand main ideas if not all details

___able to read with complete or almost complete comprehension, including

 academic/professional material and material on unfamiliar subjects

                ___reading ability of a well educated native or native-like speaker of the language

Writing skills

                ___not tested

                ___very minimal or no practical ability to communicate in writing

                ___able to meet limited practical needs such as writing a short letter

                ___able to write items such as routine correspondence though there may be some errors

                ___able to use written expression successfully in most or all formal and informal writing situations,

 including writing on academic/professional topics

                ___writing ability of a well educated native or native-like speaker of the language


Signatures (obtain in the order indicated):


1. Student.  I have requested Non-Credit Proficiency Certification as indicated on this form.  I have read and understand the policy and procedure statements on this form.


_________________________(signature) _______________(date)


2. School of Languages and Literatures staff member.  With reference to the student indicated on this form, the fee for the language examination and/or evaluation of his/her credentials ($60) has been paid.


__________________________________(signature)  _______________(date)


3. Examiner (do not administer the exam or evaluate credentials unless both signatures #1 and #2 have been supplied).  I am an instructor or examiner whom the language department, as indicated above, has authorized to verify proficiency in the language shown.  Having examined the student identified above, or having evaluated his/her credentials, I certify that he/she is proficient in the language at the level indicated.


____________________________ (printed name)____________________________(signature)  ________________ (date)


4.  Head of the department offering the language as indicated above


_________________________________ (signature) _________________ (date)                                                           2/19/14