Language Requirement and Placement Exam Eligibility

Complete information on fulfilling the language requirement is available in the Handbook for Students

All undergraduates are required to demonstrate proficiency in the study of a foreign language. Students must complete the foreign language requirement by the beginning of junior year. This can be achieved by:

• Language Study – Students may take a year-long (eight credit) or two semester-long (four credits each) courses in a single language at Harvard. Courses taken abroad may also be considered with prior approval. Students who study language at Harvard will have their record updated upon successful completion of the coursework. A list of the foreign languages offered at Harvard can be found on the Arts and Humanities website

• Test Score - Students who received a minimum score of 700 on a College Board SAT II test with a reading component, a 5 on an AP exam, or a 7 on an IB (higher level) exam in an approved language have fulfilled the requirement. These exams must have been completed prior to arriving at Harvard and scores must be reported to the Registrar’s Office.   

• Placement Exam - Exams are offered online and on campus in a range of languages offered at Harvard. Scores will be reported to the Registrar's office and will be reflected on the Placement and Test Scores Report in my.harvard. 

• High School Transcript - Students who have completed the majority of their secondary school education in a language other than English may submit an official transcript for review to the Office of Undergraduate Education. All subjects (i.e. History, Literature, Science, Math) must be conducted in a language other than English. Secondary school study of a foreign language is not sufficient to fulfill the requirement. Please email placement-help@fas.harvard.edu for more information.

The Harvard faculty offer instruction, from beginning to advanced levels, in over 45 languages, ranging from Arabic and Spanish to Russian and Vietnamese to Igbo. Most students find that the emphasis on oral and aural skills in language courses taught here is far greater than that in their high school classes.

Placement Exam Eligibility 

An undergraduate may not take a placement exam for the purpose of fulfilling the language requirement in a language which he or she is studying (or has studied) while matriculated at Harvard. A student is eligible to take an online language placement exam for the purpose of fulfilling the language requirement only if he or she has not studied the language while matriculated at Harvard. An eligible student may only take each online language placement exam and proctored verification exam (or in-person evaluation) once for the purpose of fulfilling the language requirement.  The verification exam must be taken when offered. It can not be postponed to a later point in time and is the component that  fulfills the language requirement.  

Graduate Students and Non-FAS Students

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) and non-FAS graduate students may also take a language placement exam to receive a placement recommendation.

GSAS students may register to take the French, German, Italian, or Spanish online exams in the summer or January using the Online Placement Exams Registration (OPER) application. Once they have registered to take the exam, the exam may be accessed at https://onlineplacement.fas.harvard.edu.

Non-FAS graduate students should email placement-help@fas.harvard.edu to be registered to take the online exams. Please include which language exam you would like to take, your HUID #, and your Harvard email address in your email.

Students who plan to take a placement exam in another language may consult the language contacts and placement exam information at the bottom of the Exam Schedule page when it becomes available in advance of the upcoming summer or winter exams.  

Receiving Results

Harvard College Students:  results will appear on the Test and Score Report in my.harvard beginning on July 15.  An email will be sent later confirming results and if eligible a link to sign-up for the verification exam (French and Spanish) or contact information to schedule a verification (German and Italian).  Students who wish to fullfill the language requirement must take the verification exam when it is offered.  There will not be another chance to take it. 

Graduate Students: In order to receive the results of these exams students will need to contact placementexams@fas.harvard.edu with the subject line Graduate student DPT results no earlier than one day following completion of the exam.