Chinese Placement/Proficiency Exam

2024 Fall Chinese Placement/Proficiency Exam Information

The 2024 Chinese placement exam will take place on August 23rd from 8 am to 10 am at DRL Building Room A4, A6 & A8. No pre-registration is required, and you will be instructed to register on-site on the exam day.

The Chinese placement/proficiency exam serves to assess your proficiency in reading, writing, listening, and speaking Chinese, and to use the results to determine the appropriate Chinese course for you or exempt you from the foreign language requirement in Chinese. To complete the exam, students must follow three steps:

1. Take the written exam in person.

1.1 A paper–and–pencil test (with 3 English–to–Chinese translation questions)

1.2 A computerized self–adaptive examination (two essay questions and multiple–choice questions). 

2. Screenshot the result of the computerized self-adaptive written test and send it to via email.

​3. Fill out the oral test Information sheet and Take the one–on–one oral exam.

Please remember to bring pens/pencils, a fully charged laptop, and a pair of earphones with you.

*You cannot use your cellphone to take the placement test. If you don’t have access to a laptop, please let us know, and we will provide you with a paper-pencil test later.

The maximum duration for the written section is 120 minutes, while the oral exam typically takes about 5 to 10 minutes. The time required to complete the written section varies depending on each student’s reading and writing proficiency, ranging from 20 to 120 minutes.


Q1:I have taken Chinese in the past (e.g. four years in high school in the US). Before the placement exam, which Chinese course should I sign up for?

Here is a Quick Self-Assessment you can use to help you know your current proficiency level and the potential Chinese courses that suit you.

Students who have studied Chinese in high school for four years may sign up for CHIN 0210 or CHIN 0300. We will look at your placement exam results to suggest the most suitable Chinese course. If the recommended course is not CHIN 0210 or 0300, you need to switch to the placement suggested course. Please feel free to show the course instructor your high school Chinese portfolio to further evaluate your proficiency.

Q2: Who needs to take the Placement/Proficiency Exam?

All students who have prior exposure to Chinese (e.g., taking Chinese in middle schools,  US high schools, overseas international schools, or Chinese heritage schools) and who haven’t taken a Chinese class at Penn need to take this test if they wish to continue studying Chinese at Penn.

All students who wish to be exempt from the foreign language requirement in Chinese must take a placement/proficiency exam.  Neither the Chinese SAT II, AP scores nor the HSK certificates can be used for this purpose.

Q3: Who does NOT need to take the exam?

If you have never studied Chinese before, you may sign up for CHIN 0100 and you do not need to take the exam.

If you speak Mandarin fluently but cannot read and write in Chinese at all, you may sign up for CHIN 0320, and you do not need to take the exam.

If you are fluent in Cantonese or other Chinese dialects and/or want to finish the FL requirement in one year, you may sign up for CHIN 0210, and you do not need to take the exam.

Q4: Where and when is the exam? 

The 2023 Chinese placement exam is scheduled to take place on August 25th from 8am to 10am at DRL Building Room A4, A6 & A8.

Q5: Does the exam require handwriting?

Students are required to handwrite their responses using Chinese characters for the translation portion.

Q6: Is the exam in simplified or traditional characters? How do I register for the exam?

Both simplified and traditional character versions will be provided for the computerized, self-adaptive examination. It is important to select the appropriate version of the exam on site. The instructions for the translation questions and essay question will be given in English.

Q7: I attended a senior high school in China and Mandarin Chinese is my native language. Do I need to take the placement exam?

For students who have attended a Chinese senior high school in which the instruction language is Chinese, there are three means by which you can satisfy the School of Arts and Sciences FL requirement in Chinese.

  •   Satisfactory result on the Chinese placement/proficiency exam
  •   Take and complete an advanced-level Chinese course (see Q10)
  •   Bring your senior high school transcript to the Chinese language program during the first month of Fall semester or Spring semester
Q8: I have an AP Chinese 5 score. Do I need to take the placement exam?  

Test scores from AP Chinese, IB, and HSK do not correlate with competencies needed for success in specific courses in Penn’s Chinese Language Program. To students who have an AP Chinese 5 score and wish to be exempted from the Foreign Language Requirement in Chinese, taking the Chinese placement exam is the most straightforward way to demonstrate your Chinese proficiency to Penn standards. If both the oral and written exam results indicate proficiency at intermediate-mid, a student’s FL requirement is satisfied. The Department of East Asian Languages and Civilization does not grant exemptions for the Foreign Language Requirement based solely on scores from AP Chinese, IB, or HSK.

Q9: Is there any sample test available? How should I prepare for the exam?

The Chinese Language Program does not offer old exams or sample questions. To prepare for the exam, students may review their Chinese by hand-copying each lesson text in your textbook three times.  This way is helpful to remember the characters and grammar forms in a meaningful context. We do not suggest hand-writing single characters ten times as an effective way to prepare for the exam.

If you are a heritage language learner who is able to speak and read Chinese yet forget or are unable to handwrite Chinese, the same as the learners of Chinese as a foreign language, practice handwriting by copying meaningful paragraphs or dialogues from any Beginning Chinese textbook.

Q10: I am a native speaker and have fulfilled the FL requirement, are there any interesting Chinese courses suitable for me?

As you continue your Penn education, you will be inspired to develop interests in broad liberal education as well as education for a career. If you like to explore modern Chinese literature, to critically understand Chinese cultural perspectives or business development, you can take several advanced-level courses.  In the past, students from Penn Schools of Nursing, Engineering, Wharton, Law, and Communication have tended to take the following Chinese courses to fulfill the SAS general education requirements.

CHIN 0878 Advanced Medical Chinese

CHIN 1040, 1045 Modern Chinese Literature

CHIN 1060, 1065 Advanced Business Chinese

CHIN 1140 Topics in Chinese Culture

CHIN 1147 Topics in Chinese Literature

CHIN 1148 Legal Chinese

Q11: I missed the placement exam at the beginning of the semester, is there a make-up exam?

One make-up exam will be offered from 8:30 am to 10:15 am on Friday, August 30 at Williams Hall (Room 304, 306 & 307).

Q12: I am a transfer student. Do I need to take the Placement exam? 

Transferring students need to submit their requests via XCAT ( Transferring students who want to place in a Chinese course or place out of the FL requirement but have not taken any college-level Chinese course need to take the Placement exam at the beginning of the Fall semester.

Q13: What do I need to do after I pass the placement test?

If you pass the exam, you have automatically fulfilled the foreign language requirement. You don’t need to fill out any other forms to be placed out, nor do you need to take the Chinese course that we recommended.