Skip to Navigation | Skip to Content

Academics: Testing

Competency examinations

To take the competency examination in the fall, students must register with Prof. J. Vos-Camy, in October. The exam date for fall 2014 will be announced soon. To take the competency examination in the spring semester, students must register with Prof. J. Vos-Camy, in February. Date of the spring exam 2015 will be announced in the fall.

The oral proficiency interviews required of education majors can be booked by contacting Renée De Vries.
Click here for a document containing advice on how to prepare for the OPI.

For French Majors

All French majors are required to take the competency exam administered by the French Department.

For Teacher Certification Candidates

In addition to the skills test administered by the State of Michigan (MTTC), all French education majors and minors (both secondary and elementary) are required to take the French Department written competency exam and an oral proficiency interview at least one semester prior to student teaching.

The Calvin College French Department requires a passing score of 80% for the competency examination for education majors and minors.

According to the standards of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), the proficiency requirements are as follows:

  • Proof by written examination of a minimum proficiency level in writing, listening, and reading skills of ADVANCED LOW (ACTFL scale). Education minors who expect to student teach in another subject field must also complete this requirement prior to certification
  • Proof by oral examination (Oral Proficiency Interview, OPI) of a minimum oral proficiency level of ADVANCED LOW (ACTFL scale) for students enrolled 2007-2008 and after
  • INTERMEDIATE HIGH (ACTFL scale) for students enrolled before 2007-2008

Education minors who expect to student teach in another subject field must also complete this requirement prior to certification. Once students pass the written part of the exam, they must contact the department assistant to book an OPI with the external testing agency, Language Testing International. The OPI needs to be booked at least a month in advance and should take place by mid-October. The interview is conducted over the phone in a Calvin College office with a French professor acting as a proctor. Currently, the OPI costs $134. The French Department pays.

In the event that a student does not achieve the required ACTFL proficiency levels, s/he will not be recommended for a teaching internship. The department will give suggestions for improvement and a schedule for retaking the exams.

Students are reminded that achieving oral competence is not simply a matter of sitting in class. Students are expected to be proactive in finding meaningful ways to improve their skills in proficiency. To obtain the Advanced Low level of proficiency in particular, the majority of students will need to spend an extended period of time in a francophone country. Students contemplating a French Education degree should know that during the teaching internship they will be required not only to teach French but also to conduct a major part of the class in French. Consequently, students aspiring to student teach in French would do well to do all they can to acquire the linguistic competence necessary to manage a classroom in the target language.

Placement test

Where will I be placed? What if I wind up in the wrong class? The French Department recognizes that such questions can be very unsettling. If you find yourself in too difficult a course, you will experience unnecessary frustration; if you find yourself in too easy a course, you will waste a lot of time (and money!) going over material which you already know. We use the placement test — along with other information you provide — to place you at the level for which you are best prepared.

At the "Passport" session you attend, you will have the opportunity to discuss your placement with your advisor or a member of the French Department. Too, if you should find after a day or two of class that you are incorrectly placed, you can switch to a course better suited to your level.

Online placement exam

If you wish to take the French placement exam, please see the department administrative assistant for an appointment.

Take the test here.

(Note: you must have permission from the French Department to take this test)

Exemption exam

Credit and/or exemption exams in the department will be given on the same dates as the proficiency exams for education students, but may be taken only once. The procedures and fee structure for taking such exams are explained in the Calvin Catalog under General Information, Admission and Standards, Policies for Course Credits and Exemption Examinations.

Tips to succeed

Follow these tips to succeed in the French written examination, which includes listening comprehension, grammar, English to French short-sentence translation, reading comprehension, and short free-writing assignments:

  1. Review. Begin early a systematic review of grammar. For review, the French 302 text is recommended: Contrastes.
  2. Read. One of the best ways to review is to read a variety of materials: magazines, newspapers, plays, novels, etc. This will improve vocabulary, as well as reinforce grammatical skills.
  3. Write. A useful way to maintain writing skills is to keep a journal. One should begin practicing writing short paragraphs and essays several weeks prior to the exam.
  4. Speak and listen. Find and utilize opportunities afforded on campus for conversation and listening comprehension. Activities such as French Chapel, French Table, and the French Film series offer the opportunity to refresh and maintain listening and speaking skills. French language programming is also available through TV5 on Calvin's cable channel 15.