FAQ Foreign Language Courses / Placement Tests


Is it necessary to register for a placement test?

No, you may take a placement test anytime you want, so long as it falls within the specified timeframe . The current dates and times can be found here.


Is it necessary to take a placement test if I am learning a language as a beginner?
If you are going to be learning a new language for the very first time and have no proficiency whatsoever, it is not necessary to take a placement test. You may thus proceed to take the course at the primary level (Basic Level 1). Should you, however, be proficient even to the slightest extent, you will only be permitted to attend a course once you have taken a placement test.


Is it possible to attain a certificate from the placement test?
No, the results from the placement test shall only be visible on FlexNow and serves the sole purpose of placing you in the appropriate course, as corresponding to your actual skill level. Credits can only be attained when you have fulfilled the assessment criteria of your course. At ZESS, it is possible to complete various certificate programmes which conclude with a certifcate of acknowledgement of your skill level. These, however, comprise a specific set of courses. Alternatively, it may be possible to receive a certificate upon taking an additional test. In this case, get in touch with your course supervisor.


Where and when can I take a placement test?
The placement test can be taken within a set timeframe, albeit only at the media centre at ZESS. Do approach the staff at the information counter. The times and dates for the various placement tests currently being held can be found here.


What is a placement test and what importance does it serve?
The purpose of the placement test is to determine your proficiency in a certain language, such that you are put in a course level that is right for you. In that sense, the placement test is not an assessment per se that serves to acknowledge language skills, but, rather, is solely significant in the context described above.


How is the placement test structured?
There are multiple kinds of placement tests, each structured in a specific way based on the language it is being used for. The English, French, Italian, Swedish and Spanish placement tests are taken on the computer in the C-test format, namely, a special form of close passage. The placement tests in Arabic, Norwegian, Portuguese and Russian are also taken on the computer and involve assessments on listening, reading and grammatical skills. The placement tests for Chinese and Japanese comprise a mix of computer work and paper-based assessments.


What is a C-test?
The C-test, which is utilized for some of the chief languages in Europe, is a writing test that integrates the four language skill components in order to assess language proficiency. It does NOT test vocabulary, as its format does not enable optimal assessment of such, neither does it ascertain one's language skill in the individual assessment components, as that is rather the job of the actual language course itself. The goal, therefore, is to determine one's language proficiency on a standard, global level that is independent of one's previous exposure to the language, such that no biases occur and every participant is placed in a course suitable for him/her.
More information on the C-test can be found here: http://www.c-test.de


Is it necessary to study in advance for the placement test in order to receive better results?
No, as the placement tests are structured in such a way that vocabulary and language skills specific to that particular language are not assessed, thus rendering it impossible to revise or acquire the necessary skills within a short span of time. The placement test strives to assess language proficiency in the most authentic way possible, in order to place you in a course that corresponds to your actual skill level. Should you, however, still manage to temporarily achieve the required skills, you risk eliciting an inaccurate result that does not indicate your actual skill level. This will not do you justice in the long-term. Having said that, do come for the placement test in a healthy and fit state of mind, as you are only permitted to take the placement test once per semester.


Where can I find mock tests?
Should you want to familiarize yourself with the format of the placement test, you may do so by making use of the test system at the media centre. Mock C-tests in English, French, Italian, Swedish and Spanish can also be found on our website.


I have already taken a placement test at another academic institution. Can that be taken into consideration?
No, in order to attend a foreign language course at ZESS, it is necessary to take a new placement test, as the course levels may not be equivalent to each other. However, a placement test is not necessary in the case of a UNIcert® Certificate, even if from another academic institution. It is, however, imperative that the certificate is shown to the relevant language supervisor prior to registration.


I have taken the placement test and do not feel like I have been placed in the appropriate course. Can I take the placement test again?
The results of the placement test may not necessarily cohere to your opinion of where you stand. Language skills can diminish, particularly if they have been under-used for long periods of time. In addition, the purpose of the test is to allocate you to the appropriate course at ZESS, ergo, a college-specific language course with particular focus on language use in academic and intercultural contexts. Based on past experience, the majority of students are placed appropriately.
ZESS strives to build relatively homogenous study groups. While this is partly due to didactics, in so doing, a certain amount of fairness is allowed for in the courses since every student starts on the same footing.


I honestly feel like I have been placed in a level that is above my comfort level - can I register for one course level lower?
Stepping down to a course level that is lower is not possible without prior permission from the relevant language supervisor. All too often, learners of a language underestimate their actual language proficiency after a while of not using the language actively. Only the remaining receptive abilities, i.e. reading and language comprehension, are able to be revived easily once language training is once again assumed. For this reason, it is of little purpose for learners whose language skills are merely 'broken' to find themselves in the same group as learners who have no skills whatsoever. Thus, once again, should you have even the slightest proficiency in a certain language, it is imperative to take a placement test. Attendance of a course shall not be permitted otherwise.


I failed to pass the previous course but would like to attend the course at the next level. Can I take a placement test in order to ascertain if I qualify?
No. Exceptions can be made if, for example, you attended an intensive language course in the country where this language is spoken locally. In this case, get in touch with the language supervisor. The placement test cannot be utilized as a repeat test if you failed to pass the previous course, particularly as it neither issues credits nor acknowledges language proficiency.


What do the letters and digits in the course titles stand for?
ZESS offers foreign language training to complement students' university education. This is sub-divided in three overarching levels - primary, intermediate and advanced - in coherence with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). These three levels are each further divided into two proficiency levels: A1, A2 (elementary skills); B1, B2 (intermediary skills) and C1, C2 (advanced usage of a language).