Foreign Language Proficiency Requirement

Most Elliott School M.A. programs require proficiency in one foreign language. The methods to meet this requirement vary depending on the program. These reflect the requirements for current students only. Prospective students should refer to their intended program page for foreign language prerequsites needed for their application.


Online self-administered diagnostic examination must be taken by the end of the first semester and before registering for the language proficiency test or the 1-credit professional skills language courses.

Late August: English for Academic Purposes (EAP) Placement Examination 

Early September: Pre-registration for the Fall semester foreign language proficiency exams 

Late October - early November: Fall semester foreign language proficiency tests 

Early February: Pre-registration for the Spring semester foreign language proficiency tests 

Late March - early April: Spring semester foreign language proficiency tests 

NOTE: Currently enrolled students will receive via email the pre-registration announcement for the foreign language proficiency tests from the Office of Graduate Student Services.

Cancellation Policy: Students looking to cancel their exam must do so no less than 24 hours before their scheduled exam time. Students who do not show or cancel less than 24 hours before the exam will be charged a cancellation fee. By signing up for an exam, you consent to the Elliott School charging you a $50 fee should you fail to either show up or cancel your exam with at least 24 hours’ notice.


Required Levels for Foreign Language Proficiency





Advanced (MES students)

Intermediate High

Advanced (MES students)

Intermediate High


Intermediate High

Intermediate High



Intermediate High



Intermediate High


Intermediate High

Intermediate High



Intermediate High


Intermediate High

Intermediate High


Intermediate High

Intermediate High


Advanced (MES Students)

Intermediate High

Advanced (MES Students)

Intermediate High



Intermediate High


Advanced (EES Students)

Intermediate High

Intermediate High



Intermediate High

Turkish Intermediate High Intermediate High


Reading — Intermediate Low

The student can understand some facts and main ideas in simple connected texts dealing with basic personal and social needs. These texts would have a clear and simple structure and provide information with which the student is familiar or is required to make only minimal suppositions. The student may make occasional errors in understanding.

Reading — Intermediate High

The student can fully understand simple connected texts dealing with basic personal and social needs; comprehend main ideas and information in texts at the next higher level featuring description and narration. Structural complexity may interfere with comprehension; e.g., basic grammatical relations may be misinterpreted and temporal references may rely primarily on lexical items. Some difficulty with the cohesive factors in discourse may be evident, such as matching pronouns with referents. While texts do not differ significantly from those at the advanced level, comprehension is less consistent. The student at this level may have to read material several times for full understanding.

Reading — Advanced

The student can easily read and understand several paragraphs if the text has a clear underlying structure and familiar sentence patterns. The student comprehends the main ideas and facts but misses some details. Comprehension arises from situational and subject matter knowledge as well as increasing control of the language. Texts at this level include descriptions and narrations such as short stories, news items, bibliographical information, social notices, personal correspondence, business letters and simple technical material written for the general reader.

Speaking — Intermediate Low

The student can handle a limited number of communicative tasks and social situations successfully, ask and answer questions, initiate and respond to simple statements, and engage in face-to-face conversation. The conversation, however, will contain frequent linguistic errors and will be very restricted in manner and scope. Vocabulary will be sufficient to discuss the most elementary needs, but there will be frequent misunderstandings. The intermediate-low speaker is generally understood by sympathetic interlocutors.

Speaking — Intermediate High

The student can handle most communicative tasks and social situations successfully and can initiate and sustain a general conversation with strategies appropriate to diverse circumstances and topics but errors are evident. Limited vocabulary causes some hesitation and may produce unexpected circumlocution. However, there is emerging evidence of connected discourse (i.e., the ability to speak in whole paragraphs), particularly for simple narration and/or description. The intermediate-high speaker is generally understood by interlocutors, who are unaccustomed to dealing with speakers at this level, but repetition may still be required.

Speaking — Advanced

The student at the advanced level participates in informal conversations related to school, leisure and home life, and at times in formal situations in these environments. Advanced speakers can carry on a lengthy conversation in all tense forms though aspect may be occasionally lacking. During narrations or extended speech they are able link sentences together with smooth conjunctions. Some literal translations and false cognates still appear, showing the speakers' reliance on native structure. The conversation flow of an advanced speaker remains substantive with only occasional hesitation, grammatical errors, self-correction and sometimes generic vocabulary. They are understood by native speakers who do not have the habit of understanding non-natives, or are able to make themselves understood with repetition or rephrasing. 

Disclaimer: Language proficiency levels listed above are based solely on internal George Washington University grading standards. Students with questions regarding the foreign language proficiency exam are strongly encouraged to speak with their academic advisor.


Online Self-Administered Diagnostic Examinations

Students who are in M.A. degree programs with a foreign-language proficiency requirement and who did not meet this requirement with university-level course work prior to enrollment must take an online self-administered diagnostic examination in the foreign language that they would like to use to demonstrate the required proficiency. This diagnostic examination must be taken before the end of the first semester after enrollment; and students will not be able to register to take the Elliott School foreign language proficiency examination without first taking the online diagnostic examination. Students who wish to enroll in an Elliott School one-credit professional skills language course must also take the relevant diagnostic examination before registration and receive a score in at least the “intermediate-level” range.

Students are exempt from the diagnostic examination requirement if they intend to fulfill the language requirement in a language that the Elliott School does not offer a diagnostic test for.

Students may take the online diagnostic examination in more than one language. If a student would like to retake the diagnostic examination in the same language, one should not do so unless an interval of at least two months has passed. These diagnostic examinations provide only a rough estimate of one’s language proficiency. Therefore, a certain score is no guarantee that one will pass the proctored language proficiency test at the required level. Please note that students must send a screenshot of their diagnostic exam score to [email protected]. Failure to do so by the end of the exam registration period will result in the students exam request being cancelled for that semester. No exceptions will be allowed.

Diagnostic Examinations

Arabic Diagnostic Exam

Chinese Diagnostic Exam

French Diagnostic Exam

German Diagnostic Exam

 Hebrew Diagnostic Exam

Italian Diagnostic Exam  

 Japanese Diagnostic Exam

Korean Diagnostic Exam

Persian Diagnostic Exam

Portuguese Diagnostic Exam 

Portuguese Oral Exam

Russian Diagnostic Exam

Spanish Diagnostic Exam

Turkish Diagnostic Exam



One-Credit Professional Skills Courses

The Elliott School currently offers one-credit professional skills language courses (IAFF 6504) in these languages:

  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • French
  • Russian
  • Spanish

Students with intermediate-level proficiency may take these courses to improve their language ability and to prepare for the language proficiency examination. In order to enroll in these courses, students must first take the online diagnostic test in the corresponding language and achieve a score in at least the intermediate-level range. For non-regional studies M.A. programs, students may fulfill their language requirement by demonstrating the required level of language proficiency in the context of this one-credit course through an evaluation administered by the instructor. Students in the M.A. regional studies program may use this one-credit course to improve their language skills, but they must still take the Elliott School language proficiency test.

Other Options to Satisfy the Foreign Language Proficiency Requirement

Elliott School graduate students in non-regional studies programs may also satisfy the foreign language proficiency requirement through prior coursework. Students will need to work with their academic adviser to show that they have completed six semesters worth of foreign language study at an accredited institution, with a grade of "B" or higher in the sixth course. In addition, this final course must have been taken within three years of the semester and year that the student began courses at the Elliott School. 

Students in non-regional studies programs may also show proficiency through formal language testing through a language testing institute. Students are pre-approved to take tests through:

- Language Testing International (LTI)

- International Center for Language Studies (ICLS)

ICA Languages

- The International Language Institute (ILI)

Students who wish to show proficiency in a language not offered through the Elliott School Foreign Language Proficiency Exams should schedule an appointment with their academic advisor to discuss potential cost assistance from the Elliott School. Students who wish to use an external test in a language offered through the Elliott School Foreign Language Proficiency Exams are allowed to do so, but are not eligible for cost assistance from the Elliott School. Any cost assistance is only available for the first attempt at taking an external language exam and is not available for subsequent attempts. Any additional attempts would be at the students' expense. The Elliott School reserves the right to pick the testing organization a student tests through if a student accepts language exam cost assistance. Language exam cost assistance will cover up to the full cost of the exam. The Elliott School will assist students with finding an external testing organization, when possible. Students are responsible for finding and receiving prior approval for any external test if a local language testing organization cannot be found by The Elliott School. Students who opt for an external language exam must take both a reading and speaking exam in order to show proficiency. Official results must be sent directly to [email protected] or mailed to 1957 E Street NW, Suite 603, Washington, DC 20052.

Language Resources

Language Lunch flyerStudents looking to improve their language proficiency are encouraged to attend the Language Lunches during the academic year. These will be held on Fridays from 12:00-1:00 pm. The Language Lunches are not only a great opportunity to practice your language skills, but also to meet new people and learn about new cultures. Students can practice the following languages during these lunches: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish.  Please see the Spring 2020 Language Lunch schedule here