Language Placement Exams

Students who have not previously studied an East Asian Language at Harvard, but who wish to study that language in a course higher than Ba (the first semester of an "Elementary" or introductory-level course) must first have their level of proficiency assessed by taking a placement exam. This includes heritage speakers; students who have previously studied the language in a non-Harvard setting; and those who have taken non-Harvard summer and/or Study Abroad courses during their time at Harvard in order to advance their language level more quickly. Students who have completed language courses in the Harvard Summer School taught by EALP faculty are not required to take the placement exam. Students placing into the third-year level or higher on the exam may also use their results to demonstrate that they have satisfied Harvard College’s undergraduate language requirement.

For students returning from study abroad: please note that in order to earn language citation credit, you must place out of courses at the second-year level or higher. First-year language study (including Bx courses) is not citation-eligible. 

Below is information about current placement exams, which are offered prior to the start of classes each semester.

Japanese Placement Exam

Test Period: Monday, January 10th noon-Tuesday, January 18th noon (Eastern Time) 

Exam Link: 

  • The asynchronous portion of the exam (the written sections which can be completed on your own time) will go online from 12:00 noon, Monday, January 10th (EST), and will be open for students to take up through 12:00 noon on Tuesday, January 18th. Please see  section 5, "Exam Format,"  for details. 

  • There are no make-up dates for the exam. Those who miss taking the Japanese Placement Exam during the period above, please contact the instructor of your desired level. 

  • Listening exam date: 10:00 am Tuesday, January 18th  

The listening portion of the exam will be administered synchronously, during only one time slot: 10:00 am on Tuesday, January 18th (EST). Students who are not able to be online at that time will need to arrange a separate time with the instructor of your desired level.  

  • Oral interview dates: Tuesday, January 18th & Wednesday, January 19th  

Oral interviews for the exam will be conducted over two days: Tuesday, January 18th, and Wednesday, January 19th. Students will be asked to sign up for a time slot to complete the oral interview during one of these days on a sign-up form to be posted on the exam site.  

  • If you are unsure of your language level, please contact the Language Program Coordinator at <>. One of our instructors will contact you for consultation. 

1. By four days before the exam: 



  • The Japanese Placement Exam is administered in Canvas. In order to access Canvas, you will need a HarvardKey account. If you are an outside applicant, please go to this URL to get your account: If you need help creating your HarvardKey, please call the HUIT Service Desk at 617- 495 - 7777 or email

2. By the exam day:  

  • Activate Japanese language fonts on your device before the day of the test and familiarize yourself with their use, including hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Installation instructions for both Mac and PC can be found here. If you have any questions about installing the Japanese input software, please contact Harvard IT as soon as possible so you can have your computer ready in advance of the exam. 
  • Please make sure your laptop is 100% charged. During the exam, please check your device battery regularly to make sure that you do not lose any work due to your computer suddenly losing power. 

3. On the day of the exam: 

  • Set yourself up in a quiet, well-lit room with a reliable internet connection. 
  • Make sure you have a headset for the listening comprehension section of the exam. 

4. When you take the exam: 

  • Honor Code: 

When you start the exam, go first to the Japanese Language Placement Test Honor Code section and fill out the necessary information. Keep in mind the Harvard honor code while taking the test. Opening tabs or windows to any site outside of the quiz and its questions may constitute a violation of the honor code. Additionally, sharing the link or any of the test’s contents with others is a violation of the honor code. 

  • Listening Comprehension: 

The Listening Comprehension section of the exam will be administered only once, on January 18th 10:00AM (EST) via Zoom. The Zoom link is available on the Canvas site.  

  • Oral Interview: 

When it is time for your scheduled oral interview, please go to the zoom link to meet with an instructor for the level you wish to place into. You will also be contacted to confirm the link and time of your interview a day before the meeting.   

  • Accommodations: 

If you will need any special accommodations for the exam (e.g. assistance for a visual/hearing impairment or extra time), please contact <>. 

5. Exam Format: 

The exam consists of the following five sections with the time limit for each shown in ( ):  

  1. Grammar (40 minutes) 

  2. Reading Comprehension (40 minutes) [Choose one option.] 
    (III-A) for those wishing to place into 2nd year Japanese. 
    (III-B) for those wishing to place into 3rd year Japanese. 
    (III-C) for those wishing to place into 4th year Japanese. 
    (III-D) for those wishing to place into 5th year Japanese. 

  3. Listening Comprehension (20 minutes) [administered once to all students taking the exam on January 18th 10:00AM ET via Zoom]. The Zoom link is available on the Canvas site. 

  4. Essay Writing (30 minutes) 

  5. Oral Interview (10 minutes) [administered individually via Zoom] The Zoom link will be sent to you by an instructor of the level you wish to place into.  

Please Note:

  • You may complete the sections in I, II, and IV in any order you wish as long as you complete all the sections during the exam period.  

  • In II. Reading Comprehension, choose only one option to complete from II-A, II-B, II-C, or II-D, depending on the level that you wish to place into. 

  • Each of the sections I, II, and IV has a time limit, so please be careful to pace yourself to answer the questions in each section within the time allotted. 

  • If you finish the answers in a section before the time limit is up, you may submit the answers early and move on to another section. 

  • Please note that each section closes automatically when the time limit is up, and you cannot take any section more than once. 


  • switch to any other browser window during exam.  
  • make use of any tools other than the Japanese input system on your computer. 
  • seek the help of any other person during the exam. 

6. After the exam: 

You will be notified of the results of your test on the next business day after the end of the exam period. 


Korean Placement Exam

Exam Dates:

Exam: Friday, January 14, 2022
(*Make-up Exam: Tuesday, January 18, 2022)


1:00 pm - 3:00 pm (EST) Writing /Reading/Grammar & 10-min Oral Exam between 3:00 pm-5:00 pm (EST)
(You will be assigned a time for the Oral exam upon registration)

To Register:

  • Once we receive your completed online form, we will send you a confirmation email with instructions and a zoom link for the written portion of the exam (Composition/Reading/Grammar) and your assigned time slot & zoom link for the 10- minute Oral Exam.

On the Day of the Exam:

  • Please come into the Zoom session 5 minutes early to check in. You MUST be registered prior to taking the exam.

  • After checking in, you will be given detailed instructions to access the placement exam through a canvas site.

Literary (Classical) Chinese Placement Exam

For information about Literary Chinese at Harvard and the placement exams for first- and second-year courses, please visit the Literary and Classical Chinese Language Program website.

To make arrangements for a placement exam in Literary/Classical Chinese, e-mail David Sena, Preceptor in Literary Chinese ( Please provide your name and year of study, and describe your prior study of Literary or Classical Chinese. Indicate whether you intend to take the first- or the second-year exam (see program website for details about this). Please also specify what time zone you will be located in when you take the exam.

Vietnamese Placement Exam

By appointment only: please e-mail Program Director Binh Ngo at

Chinese Placement Exam

Exam Date: Friday, January 7

  • 1:30 pm - 3:30 pm ET Written Test (Composition; Grammar & Reading)
  • 3:30 pm - 5:30 pm ET Oral Test (Students will be assigned a 5-minute test slot between 3:30 pm and 5:30 pm.)

Makeup Exam Date: Monday, January 10

  • 8:30 am - 10:30 am ET Written Test (Composition; Grammar & Reading)
  • 10:30 am - 12:30 pm ET Oral Test (Students will be assigned a 5-minute test slot between 10:30 am and 12:30 pm.)

NOTICE: Although we have a makeup exam, it is intended for people in the other time zones than the US, or extreme situations. If you live in the US, you are expected to attend the first exam date. This helps us prepare the test for you. Thank you.

How to take the exam:

1. To register for the Chinese placement exam, you MUST fill out the Chinese Placement Exam Survey prior to the exam, as we need to designate how many teachers will be operating the tests based off of which dates students will be testing. Thank you so much for your cooperation. Here is the link:

2. The placement exam includes three parts: grammar & reading, composition and oral interview. Before the exam, you will receive an email including the following information:

• The Zoom meeting address for grammar & reading and composition exam, which you need to attend first.

• The Zoom meeting address for the oral interview. You will find your name on an excel file where you can find the Zoom link.

3. On the exam day you signed up for, please attend the Zoom meeting for grammar & reading and composition exam first, where you will receive the exam links on Zoom chat. When you come to join the Zoom meeting, you will receive an exam link for composition first, you will be given half an hour to finish your composition (by typing). After that, you will receive the exam link for grammar & reading test. You will have one hour and a half to finish this part. You will have a 3–5-minute oral interview afterwards.

Test requirements

1. You must have

• One of the following: Harvard ID, driver’s license, passport, or government ID

• A quiet, well-lit room

• A reliable internet connection

• A computer

• 2 hours of free time for grammar & reading exam and composition, 5 minutes for oral interview

2. Your computer must have

• Zoom (a video conferencing app)

• A browser

• A Chinese input for typing the composition

• A front-facing camera

• A microphone

What should you know before the exam?

1. IMPORTANT: Please make sure to register by filling out the online questionnaire before you attend the exam.

2. Please prepare your valid ID (with a profile photo on it), such as a Harvard ID, driver’s license, passport, or government ID. You will be asked to show your ID card to the teachers both on the grammar & reading exam Zoom meeting and the oral interview Zoom meeting.

3. Please prepare your laptop and make sure it is 100% charged. During the exam, please check your device battery constantly to make sure that you will not lose any work due to sudden power-off of computer.

4. Please notice that you will finish the composition by typing instead of writing the Chinese characters. Make sure Chinese input is already installed in your laptop. If you have any questions of installing Chinese input, please contact Harvard IT as soon as possible so you can have your laptop prepared for the exam.

5. Please be on time for the exam. The online exam will only be open in our exam time (0.5 hour for composition, 1.5 hours for grammar & reading), and once it is closed, you will not be able to access the exam.

6. General Instruction for the Online Placement Test:

· No switching to any other browser windows during exam.

· No use of any other tools other than the Chinese input system on the computer.

· No asking for help.

· Any suspicious actions on computer will lead to immediate termination of your exam.

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