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Graduate Reading Exam

This exam, administered by the Department of French, allows graduate students in other departments to demonstrate either "proficiency" or "mastery" of French in order to satisfy their home department's foreign language requirement. For more information, see below.

2023 – 2024 Test Dates

The dates below are tentative—if they change after you have registered, you will be contacted directly.

  • Oct 13, 2023
  • Nov 17, 2023
  • Feb 23, 2024
  • Mar 22, 2024
  • Apr 19, 2024

Register Online


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The French Proficiency Exam

This exam is designed to test the MA or PhD student's proficiency in the language. It consists of a French prose passage which must be translated in 90 minutes into adequate, if not literary, English. The passage, between 250-750 words in length, will be selected from a recent social science and or humanities journal. The student must demonstrate a clear understanding of syntactical structures and some basic knowledge of cultural references. Verb charts and paper dictionaries are allowed. 

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The French Mastery Exam

The mastery examination differs from the proficiency examination in that it lasts two hours and has three parts:

  1. A short critical prose passage to be translated in 40 minutes.
  2. An analysis of a short text. Forty minutes are allowed to answer six to eight questions in English about the form and meaning of the proposed text.
  3. A short essay in French in response to a general question regarding the student's area of study. Students have forty minutes to address this question.

Click here to access the text, Methodes De Recherche Biographique , used for the Practice Mastery Exam.

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Notification of Results

The results of the examinations are sent to the graduate advisor or the secretary of the student's department (depending on the department's policy ) approximately two weeks after the exam. The student should contact their department to learn their results; the French Department does not directly inform students of their results. The French Department also sends the results, along with the graded examinations (which are the property of the University of Virginia), to the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Students will be informed by their department if they must clear administrative matters with the Graduate School before receiving credit for the examination.

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Policies Regarding Both the Mastery and Proficiency Exams

  • All candidates must register online at least one (1) week before the exam date. You will receive an email with more information about the exam and confirming your registration once registration closes. If you do not receive this email, please contact the exam proctor or check your spam folder.
  • NEW: Exams will be sent electronically to the email address provided during registration no later than 10 am on the exam date and must be returned to the French Examiner (Click here) before 5 pm on that same date. Please contact the exam proctor at least one week before the exam date if you need to receive a hard copy of the exam for any reason. 
  • Please note that you must remit payment to receive your exam. The $25 exam fee must be paid by check or money order. The check must be made out to “University of Virginia” and submitted by 3 pm on the Thursday before the date of the exam to New Cabell Hall 358. The exam fee amount has been set by the Graduate School. 
  • Students will choose a consecutive 90 minute period between those hours to complete the Proficiency Exam or a consecutive two hour period to complete the Mastery Exam.
  • If a student does not return their exam, they will receive a failing grade and they will not be eligible for a refund of the exam fee.
  • You may consult a bilingual dictionary and a verb chart. You may use an online dictionary such as, but you may only use it in the same way that you would use a paper dictionary (i.e. only single word searches; no chat rooms, discussion boards or other interactive forums).
  • Grammar books are not permitted.
  • Please type your answers.
  • Students will choose a consecutive 90 minute period between those hours to complete the Proficiency Exam or a consecutive two hour period to complete the Mastery Exam. 
  • Students should not contact the French Department for their exam results.
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Recommended Methods for Preparing for the Test

  • Sit in on basic language classes
  • Take FREN 1000, Reading French for Graduate Students.
    FREN 1000 is a non-credit course typically offered in the spring semester, though the Department may not always be able to offer it. A grammar and translation course, it is designed specifically to prepare graduate students to take a reading exam in French. Students who complete FREN 1000 should be able to read and translate French texts with the proper dictionaries and grammar resources. Students will not practice speaking, writing or listening skills in FREN 1000.
  • Attend the Summer Language Institute.
    In the summer, FREN 1000 is usually part of the Summer Language Institute (SLI); students who take 1000 in summer consequently obtain more speaking and listening practice than they would during a regular academic semester. Graduate students attend morning classes and cultural sessions with the other SLI students and then break off into a separate group in the afternoon to work on reading and translation.
    Graduate students normally sign up for the SLI "non-credit option." Contact your DGS to see if your department or the Graduate School has funds to defray tuition costs for the SLI non-credit option. Visit the SLI web page at: