Placement Exam

The Spanish Placement Exam is a tool that is used to determine which level Spanish class would be the best fit for a student. This exam is different from the Spanish Proficiency Exam which is used to determine if students can complete their foreign language requirement (FOL) through testing.


The Spanish placement exam has been designed in the Spanish Section of the Department of Romance Languages, St. Olaf College, to help place students into the appropriate level of language study.

The exam must NOT be completed from a phone or tablet device.  Instead, it needs to be accessed from a regular computer (desktop or laptop.)

Click here to see our list of FAQ to help you get ready for Spanish.  It includes information such as where to find placement results.

Components of the exam

The Spanish placement exam is a multiple choice exam made up of the following sections:

    a. Grammar and Sentence / Dialogue Completion
This section of the exam focuses on structures such as present, preterite, imperfect, present subjunctive, future and conditional verb tenses, noun-adjective agreement, adverbs, and the use of ser and estar, saber and conocer. It also tests students’ familiarity with high-frequency vocabulary and their ability to choose the appropriate word to complete a sentence or dialogue.

    b. Reading Comprehension
The items in this section are drawn from authentic readings, including magazine articles and short stories.

    c. Essay Questions
Based on your performance on the two sections mentioned above, you may be prompted by the computer to respond in writing to some additional essay questions.

Taking the Exam

The Spanish Placement Exam may be easily completed in a ninety-minute period. Students must use a computer to take the exam. To access the exam, you will need to enter your St. Olaf user and password. The deadline for taking the online Spanish placement exam off-campus is August 1. Students unable to access the placement exam online during the summer will be able to take it on campus. Computers will be available to students in different public areas of the college.

How to proceed if you have any questions

General questions related to the Spanish placement exam may be directed to the following e-mail address:

Only after students arrive on campus, specific questions regarding individual placement results should be directed to Professor Gwen Barnes-Karol (

A special note for transfer students

Transfer students planning to major in Spanish should bring materials (syllabi, papers, exams, etc.) from previous college-level Spanish classes to campus, and should arrange to meet with the the Spanish faculty member in charge of major degree audits (Gwen Barnes-Karol) before registering for classes.

The Honor Code for St. Olaf College is as follows:

“The Honor Code at St. Olaf College is an agreement between the faculty and the students. The faculty agrees to leave the responsibility for proper and honest conduct during written examinations in the hands of the students. The students in turn agree to accept this responsibility. As an indication of such proper and honest conduct the students shall sign the following pledge:

I pledge my honor that during this examination I have neither given nor received assistance not explicitly approved by the professor and that I have seen no dishonest work. (signature) 

I have intentionally not signed this pledge. (Check only if appropriate)

Failure to sign this pledge shall indicate that in the student’s opinion the system was violated during the examination.” (St. Olaf Honor System Constitution)

Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find a series of frequently asked questions about the Spanish placement exam and answers.

Q. I have placed in Spanish 231. Once I complete Spanish 231, do I have to take Spanish 232 on campus or can I take it somewhere else?

A. If you placed in Spanish 231, you should normally plan to register for Spanish 231 in fall semester. As far as fourth-semester Spanish is concerned, you have two options: (1) you can take Spanish 232 on campus either during the Interim or in the Spring; or (2) you can enroll for one of our off-campus Interim programs: Spanish 233 in Ecuador, or Spanish 234 in Costa Rica. (See the front page of the Spanish website for more information). If you are interested in either Spanish 233 or Spanish 234 for Spanish Interim courses, you will need to submit an application to the Office of International Studies during the first week of fall semester.

Q. I would like to continue practicing Spanish during the summer. What do you suggest?

A. The Spanish Placement webpage provides you with information about and links to books, magazines, radio programs, grammar exercises, dictionaries and other resources.

Q. I have placed in a particular course but I think I can do much better in a different level. What can I do?

A. If you have concerns about your level, please register for the recommended course. Inform your instructor of your concerns, but attend the class for which you have registered for an entire week. After a week of class, you will consult with the Chair or in consultation with the Coordinator in Spanish and the faculty member in Spanish in charge of regisration changes for Spanish will make a final decision about the appropriate level for you.

Q. I have studied Spanish before but now I am interested in learning another language. Do I have to take the Spanish Placement exam anyway?

A. Yes. Any incoming student with formal previous experience in, or formally developed knowledge of the Spanish language, must take the Spanish Placement Exam during the summer, independent of his/her intentions to study Spanish at St. Olaf.

Q. I am interested in taking the Spanish Proficiency exam. What should I do?

A. Any student who has taken the Spanish Placement Exam and has placed into Spanish 250 can take the proficiency exam. It is generally offered the first Saturday of the fall and spring semesters. Students interested in taking the proficiency exam should contact the AAA of Romance Languages, Liza Davis ( by the Wednesday preceding the Saturday exam.

Q. I love Spanish! I want to be able to practice it outside of class once I arrive at St. Olaf. What do you suggest?

A. You’re invited to participate in the Spanish Conversation Table that meets every Tuesday, 5:00-6:30 p.m. in the Trollhaugen dining room, Buntrock Commons. You can also watch the news, videotapes, or Univisión live in the World Languages Center in Tomson Hall, level 1. Additionally, students are invited to attend cultural events organized by the Spanish House, Latin American Studies, or some of our St. Olaf student organizations (e.g., Presenté).

Q. I am interested in study abroad programs to immerse myself in the culture of the Spanish-speaking world. What programs does St. Olaf offer?

A. The Spanish Section of the Department of Romance Languages regularly offers two interim programs, one in Ecuador and another one in Costa Rica. See the front page of our Spanish website for more information. In addition, there are semester and year-long programs in each of these countries. Information about all programs overseas is available at the International Studies and Off-Campus Programs Office, Tomson Hall 380.

Continue on to the placement exam.