French Placement Test

What Is The Test & Who Must Take It?

The goal of the Williams French Placement Test is to place you in a course where you will thrive! We do not want students to be in courses that are too easy (where you are bored and unchallenged) or too hard (where you are lost and overwhelmed). With students coming from many different secondary schools from all over the country and world, the French Placement Test helps us determine which is the best course for each student, here at Williams.

If you’ve ever studied French before (in a formal class, at any level, for any length of time, in primary or middle school, high school, college, or summer programs), you must take the French Placement Test, so we can determine which is the best level for you here at Williams. You will not be admitted to a French course unless you have taken the French Placement Test.

If you’ve never studied French before, do not take the French Placement Test. In this case, you should simply fill out the French Placement Form (see below) and then register for French 101: Introduction to French. However, students who have studied any level of French before will not be admitted to French 101 unless they have taken the French Placement Test and were placed into French 101 by the French Faculty.

Native speakers of French are also required to take the Williams French Placement Test. While some native speakers have completed part or all of their primary and secondary education in French, many heritage speakers have excellent spoken French but may need coursework to help them improve their French grammar, reading, and writing.

If you missed the French Placement Test (at the end of the summer, when the test is normally administered to incoming first-year students), you should email one of the French Professors, so they can help you take a make-up test.

How to Sign-Up for the French Placement Test (Summer 2023)

To sign up for the test, you must first fill out the French Placement Form, which will help us start assessing your level of written French. Once we receive your completed form, we will register you for the Williams Online French Placement Test (which tests your listening and reading skills). After we register you, you will then receive an email from the testing site with instructions on taking the test.

• The deadline to complete the French Placement Form and thus sign up for the French Placement Test is August 1 (2023.) If you missed this deadline, email the French Faculty.

• The window for taking the French Placement Test online is August 4-14 (2023).  It only takes 1 hour to take the test, and you must complete the test online during this window. For more on how to the test, read below. 

How to Take the French Placement Test 

This test is entirely online, takes approximately 1 hour, and contains 2 sections (on listening comprehension and reading comprehension). 

When you’ve sent us your completed French Placement Form we will register you for the French Placement Test. You will then receive an email from the testing site with instructions and 2 codes for taking the 2 different parts of the test: 1 for reading and 1 for listening. You will then be able to take the test online. The reading and listening sections are independent of each other, but you should complete both at the same time. 

You will need a computer and internet connection to take the test. Headphones are recommended but not necessary. If you encounter technical difficulty, you can contact LTI (Language Testing International) at 914-963-7110, ext. 310 or [email protected].

French Placement Test Results

After you’ve taken the French Placement Test, the French faculty will review your results and you will get your placement by email from the Registrar, First-Year Advisor, PeopleSoft, or the French Program. You should then register for the appropriate class on PeopleSoft. For more on your placement results, what to do next, and where to get more information, read on below.

How French Placement Works at Williams

The French Placement Test is graded by the entire French faculty, who collectively discuss students’ past experience in French studies, test scores, and writing skills, in order to find the best course for each student. All of our French Faculty have bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees in French from prestigious universities in France and the US; speak fluent French and have studied and lived abroad in Francophone countries; have many years of experience teaching French language and Francophone literature, film, and culture at every level; and are nationally recognized as teachers, scholars, and leaders in their fields.

Again: The goal of the Williams French Placement Test is to place you in a course where you will thrive! We do not want students to be in courses that are too easy (where you are bored and unchallenged) or too hard (where you are lost and overwhelmed). With students coming from many different secondary schools from all over the country and world, the French Placement Test helps us determine which is the best course for each student, here at Williams.

Some students overestimate their level, initially registering for Advanced French, when they’re best suited for Intermediate French. Other students underestimate their level, initially registering for Beginning French, when they’re actually ready for Intermediate French. This is quite common and understandable (for placement tests in all kinds of departments and fields), as both students and faculty work to find the best level for each individual student, here at Williams. Placement is not a judgement value about your past studies, language skills, or passion for French. You are not good or bad at French based on your placement. We are simply matching you with the best possible French course in our particular program. Again, we want you to thrive and continue your French Studies here!

French Courses and Levels at Williams

We have a wonderful program of French Courses, for every level of study.

These courses are divided into 2 major categories…

  1. French Language
  • French 101 (Fall) & French 102 (Spring): Beginning French
  • French 103 (Fall) & French 104 (Spring): Intermediate French
  • French 105 (Fall) & French 106 (Spring): Advanced French

All of these French Language courses focus on improving your speaking, comprehension, reading, and writing of French, through dynamic interactive activities, grammar review, discussion, writing, and active engagement with texts, poems, songs, films, art, and other media from France and the Francophone world.

  1. Francophone Literature, Cinema, Culture
  • French 200 & 300 level courses: These are advanced courses focused primarily on reading, viewing, writing, and discussion of literature, cinema, and culture (politics, history, media, etc.). Unlike the 100-level courses, these advanced-level courses focus less on grammar, and more on discussion, reading, writing, and analysis of novels, films, poetry, media, art, politics, and culture.
  • Important Note: Unlike some other Williams departments, French 200 & 300 level courses are quite similar, but 300-level courses may have longer reading and writing assignments. If you placed into 200+ level courses, check the prerequisites and pick the topic that looks the most interesting to you!
  • French 400-level courses: These courses (known as “Senior Seminars”) are for typically for Senior French Majors and Certificate Students.

Split Placements

If your placement is split between 2 courses (such as RLFR 103/104 or RLFR 105/106), this means you scored on the borderline between these 2 courses or levels. It’s clear from your placement test that you have a lot of previous French study, but that you would benefit from a course that will give you a revision of material you know, while helping you to learn new material. If you have a split placement, you will get a strong revision and improvement of your current skills in the lower course, or you might thrive from the revision and new material in the higher course. The choice is up to you, but you may want to email the professors who teach those 2 levels or courses, and ask for further advice.

Note: A placement of 200+ is a placement into any 200 or 300 level course that interests you the most.

Placement into Fall vs. Spring Courses

The advantage of the French Program at our liberal arts college is that classes are small and you will have frequent contact and individual attention from your professors. The disadvantage is that, because of our smaller size, we cannot offer every level of French in every semester (like at large universities). This means that you may place into a course that meets in the Spring semester, instead of the Fall. We do not want you to lose your enthusiasm for French! If you placed into a Spring course, we’d love for you to return to French in January or February! In the meantime, we invite you to take part in our many French events on campus, including the weekly French Table, French Film Festival, Francophone lectures, and other events (karaoke, film discussions, cooking lessons, game nights, political debates) organized by the French Club and our French Teaching Associates from France.

What to do Next

When you know your placement results, you should go onto PeopleSoft and register for the appropriate course. At the same time, you should unregister from any other French course you may have registered for earlier, so that other students can register for that course.


For questions about your placement and courses, you can email the professor whose course you placed into. For the fastest and best advice, email the appropriate professor below, for help with placement and courses questions.

For a list of French Professors, bios, and emails, see the French Faculty.

For a full list of courses in 2023-2024, see the Course Catalog.

For more on our French program, courses, faculty, majors, minor (certificate), and events:

We’re looking forward to seeing you in our French courses this year!

Welcome & Bienvenue!

NOTE: First-Year Pre-Registration for French Courses (Summer 2023)

Since you may not have the results of your French Placement Test by First-Year Pre-Registration in early August, simply register for the course that you think might be best suited to your experience and skill level, and then adjust your placement during the Fall Registration Period in late August, or the Add/Drop Period in September during the first weeks of class.