Revised CLA language test might be courses’ final exam

Jenna Ross

College of Liberal Arts administrators have called the newly implemented language proficiency exam “optional,” but students might find that the test is a required portion of their 1004-level second-language classes.

Students in many second-language classes will take the writing, reading and listening portions of the proficiency exam as their final exam for the courses. Although a passing grade on the exam is not required to graduate, the score could count toward a student’s final grade.

“Many departments are deciding to use the (language proficiency exam) in their 1004-level courses,” said Charlotte Melin, director of language instruction for the department of German, Scandinavian and Dutch, which uses half the language proficiency exam as the final for its 1004 courses.

Each department independently decides how many sections of the test it will use, if any, and how much those sections will count toward the course grade. As part of a course, instructors grade the proficiency exam on an “A” through “F” scale.

According to the language testing program’s Web site, “If you don’t pass the (language proficiency exam) during your fourth-semester course, there is no impact on your course grade.”

However, Melin said this information is wrong and needs to be updated.

“This is not always the case,” Melin said. “If a student does well on the exam, it will better his or her grade. If a student does not perform well, it could have a negative impact on the grade. I would not, however, be apprehensive about the test.”

Spanish 1004 instructor Adrian Bradford said the Spanish department decided to use the proficiency exam in its coursework, making the writing, reading and listening portions of the exam worth a total of 16 percent of the course grade.

“It’s very unlikely that someone’s score on the (language proficiency exam) would cause them to fail the entire class, but it could happen,” Bradford said. “It would be the same with a final exam.”

Bradford said the writing portion of the proficiency exam is voluntary and will not be used in the course. Students who choose to take this part of the exam will do so outside of class.

In a letter to the officials of the language departments, Associate Dean for Academic Programs Arlene Carney said the proficiency exam “is the same examination as the (Graduation Proficiency Test).”

Carney said the difference between the GPT and the language proficiency exam, and the reason for the name change, is that the proficiency exam is optional.

Departments’ use of the proficiency exam in their second-language courses does not change the exam’s status as optional, Carney said.

“The (language proficiency exam) is a good test of language proficiency, and language proficiency has always been graded in a 1004 course,” Carney said.

Lane Trisko, a sophomore taking Portuguese 1004, said he is unsure what changed when CLA dropped the GPT.

“It doesn’t seem all that different,” Trisko said. “But it’s nice that I don’t have to pass the (language proficiency exam) separate to taking the course. I would have stressed over that.”

The Spanish and Portuguese, and German, Scandinavian and Dutch and departments said they are using the proficiency exam in their 1004 coursework, while the French and Italian department is still deciding.

The Asian languages and literatures department could not confirm whether it will use the exam. The department was in the process of developing GPTs for its languages when the college moved to the language proficiency exam.