Placement tests are for students of French, German, and Spanish.

Tests are available with an appointment only; tests are free of charge.

This is a computerized multiple-choice test. Plan on 45 minutes to complete the test.

The results of the placement test expire one year after taking the test.

Location, dates and times
  • Location: Burnett 302.
  • During the Academic Year, Placement Exams are given via appointment, appointments can be scheduled via email ( or phone (402-472-1786)
  • You will need to bring your N-Card to the exam, and please be punctual.


NOTE: Our placement exam is used only for the purpose of determining the optimal entry point in our curriculum for students who have prior formal study and/or experience in French, German, or Spanish. It is an advising tool, not a proficiency exam, and it cannot be used to waive coursework or grant credit.

Who is eligible to take the test?
  • High School seniors
  • Transfer students
  • Students currently enrolled at UNL with previous study elsewhere of one of the languages listed above and who have neither taken nor are currently enrolled in a course of that language at UNL.

Who must take the test?

Students who have studied the language in question for two or more years in high school or those who have studied it at another college or university must take the test unless they want to begin the study of a different language.

Computer Adaptive Placement Exam (CAPE)


Computer adaptive: First the test taker is tested over the entire range of difficulty for an initial estimate of ability . After that the computer adjusts the difficulty level of the subsequent question according the student's answer of the previous one. If the answer is correct, the level moves up; if not, the level moves down. The test ends when the computer program evaluates that the test taker has reached her/his ability level.

Placement exam: A placement exam consists of questions on various levels ranging from easy to difficult. Examinees of all ability levels take the same test. Its results help determine a student's placement. Before an institution implements a placement test, it must norm the test by testing its own students and establish a range of levels for each course into which students will most likely be placed as a result of the test. Generally these courses are those of the first four semesters of a language department's course offerings. The score of the placement test does not reflect a percentage of correct answers in relation to the total number. Rather the score reflects a student's general ability with the language. A placement test is not the same thing as an achievement test.

The CAPE Tests

The CAPE tests in French, German and Spanish were developed at Brigham Young University. They test grammar, vocabulary and reading comprehension in the format of multiple choice questions. As the name indicates, the tests are computer adaptive. Since the computer needs to adjust the level for each question according to the previous answer, the test taker must respond to each question as it appears. A question cannot be skipped for later nor can one return to a question or omit a question altogether. If a student does not know the answer, she/he needs to guess, but perhaps the student can eliminate one or two of the choices outright and then guess among the rest. This being a placement test, there is no penalty for guessing. Generally a student completes a test in 20 to 30 minutes. The tests are most accurate on the beginning and intermediate levels. Immediate results make it possible for students to be advised right away by the Lab Manager.


Norming of the Tests: We normed the tests in the Fall of 1993 and the Spring of 1994. At the end of the Fall semester, we tested students in 101 and 201, and at the end of the following semester, we tested students in 102 and 202. We correlated the results of the CAPE tests with the students' grades in the respective courses and thereby established the cutoff points for each course. We periodically test our students to see if we need to adjust the cutoff points.

Advantages of a Computer Adaptive Exam: Since the computer continually adjusts the level of the questions according to the answers given by the test taker, excessively easy and difficult questions are kept to a minimum. A student does not have to answer a host of very easy and ultimately very difficult questions before an appropriate level of competence can be established. Consequently computer adaptive exams not only reduce frustration levels but also save a great deal of time. In addition, the results are computed immediately upon completion of the test which permits immediate advising.

Advising: When students take CAPE, they first fill out a survey in which they give information about their language background. During the advising session, we take the placement score, previous experience and a student's confidence level and motivation into consideration when determining appropriate courses for a student.

Proper placement is extremely important. Too high or too low a placement can lead to failure. If a student is placed too high, the student will not have enough of a foundation for material covered in the course. If a student is placed too low, the material will be so easy that the student will not have to study for the course. This can develop poor study habits that will carry over into the next course when the student will be confronted with new material. By that time the student may not realize how much work and time are necessary for success.

If a student places close to the end of a range for a particular course, we encourage that person to try the next higher course, especially if she/he seems to be well motivated. In borderline cases we generally recommend several courses, providing students with a choice that ultimately is theirs to make.

At present our recommendations for placement are not binding. Students can register for lower or higher courses; however we do not think that is a good idea. A student may place, let's say, into 101 but wishes to try 102. If the placement score is too far from 102, we will not recommend 102. The student may, however, express the wish to try 102. In such a case we note the student's wish in our data base although we do not recommend 102. Such a student may well succeed in 102 because of high motivation and a willingness to review on her/his own before entering the class.

Optimal placement is in the best interest of our students. The placement exam takes out much of the guesswork in determining what courses students should take. Students should by no means self-select their first course at UNL since they may either underestimate or overestimate their level of competence.

Manager of Placement Testing and the Language Laboratory

Joseba Moreno

Department of Modern Languages & Literatures
P. O. Box 880315
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lincoln NE 68588-0315

phone: 402-472-1786