Italian Language Placement Guidelines

Italian Placement Guidelines

For students with…

Begin with ITAL 101 (3) — followed by ITAL 102 (3)

  • if you have no previous background in the language
  • if you have taken less than ITAL 11 in Canada or completed it more than two years ago.
  • if you have completed less than junior-year Italian in an American school
  • if you have not completed CEFR level A1 or completed it more than two years ago.

Begin with ITAL 101 (3) — followed by ITAL 102 (3):

  • If you have completed Italian 11 in high school and are NOT confident with your present language skills due either to unpreparedness or lapse of time. Please note: When registering you may come across warnings indicating that you need to request permission from a department advisor to receive credits for these courses. This is old information and permission is no longer required. Credits will be granted for these courses upon completion.


Take ITAL 201 (3) and continue with Italian 202 to fulfill your language requirement for the Faculty of Arts:

  • If you have completed Italian 11 or 12 in high school less than two years ago and you feel confident about your level of preparation

Kindly note: Students often find the progression into Italian 201 to be difficult and prefer to take ITAL 101 instead. ITAL 101 systematically covers the basics of the language and while it may seem fairly basic at first, it quickly increases its pace.

It is absolutely not recommended that students with Italian 11 go directly to Italian 102 under the assumption that they may be too advanced for Italian 101 but unprepared for Italian 201. Essentially, Italian 201 is a review course that goes over and expands foundational notions presented in Italian 101 and 102, whereas Italian 102 is a direct continuation of 101. Students unprepared for 201 are not likely to be better prepared for 102. As mentioned, if you are not ready for 201, the recommendation is that you resume your language experience from the beginning with Italian 101.

In order to fulfill the language requirement for the Faculty of Arts you still have to continue and complete Italian 201 and 202.

International Baccalaureate (IB) offers higher-level and standard-level courses.

  • If you have completed standard-level courses you should consider following the same guidelines provided for students who have completed Grade 11 Italian (see above).
  • If you have completed higher-level Italian language courses, less than two years ago and with a grade of 5, you may be granted credits at UBC for Italian 201/202.

Many students have acquired communicative competence in Italian through study at institutions like the Dante Alighieri that do not award academic credit.

The level of training offered by many of these programs is identifiable according to the criteria of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), which is a guide created by the European Union, and used increasingly outside Europe as well, to grade individuals' language proficiency according to the range of communicative tasks that they can perform.

If you have taken a course, anywhere, to which a CEFR language-level has been attached, you can use it to place yourself in one of our eight communicative courses, because the syllabus of each of those courses has been established to teach the skills proper to one of the CEFR levels, and to do so out of a textbook published for use at that level in language schools.

The CEFR levels of our eight courses are:

  • A1: ITAL 101 & 102
  • A2: ITAL 201 & 202
  • B1: ITAL 301 & 302
  • B2: ITAL 401 & 402

Students for whom Italian is a heritage language or who have lived or studied in a Italian-speaking environment for long enough to have acquired some level of proficiency in it, cannot be placed in university courses as precisely as those with formal training. They are advised to consult a departmental advisor for placement and, possibly, take a Placement Test to ascertain the best course of action to be taken.

Alternatively, the CEFR's language levels are defined by descriptions of levels of proficiency, and students with untutored knowledge can use these descriptions to place themselves at one of the four broad levels A1, A2, B1 or B2, in preparation for a discussion, with an instructor or course coordinator, about which of the two courses at that level would be appropriate. So here are some questions to ask yourself:


A1 Listening: Can you understand familiar words and common expressions about yourself, your family and friends or your immediate environment, when they are spoken slowly and clearly?

A1 Reading: Can you understand common words, phrases and sentences in advertisements, on posters or public notices, or on websites dealing with topics familiar to you?

A1 Speaking: Can you talk understandably for a minute or so to describe yourself, your friends and acquaintances or where you live?

A1 Conversation: Can you ask and answer questions on familiar topics or immediate needs, if speaking with someone who is willing to speak slowly, to repeat things and even to help you as needed?

A1 Writing: Can you write a brief personal note or message? Can you fill out an identity form or questionnaire?

If you cannot do these things, you probably need further training at the A1 level, (ITAL 101 and/or ITAL 102).


A2 Listening: Can you also understand basic words and expression, and complete statements, concerning work, shopping, your studies and other matters that concern you directly?

A2 Reading: Can you also extract information out of advertisements, menus, timetables and simpler web sites? And can you read a simple letter or on-line social message?

A2 Speaking: Can you also talk, in simple terms, but at greater length, about your daily life, studies or work?

A2 Conversation: Can you also ask and answer necessary questions in the context of a shared practical task (though not on the scale of a full-fledged conversation)?

A2 Writing: Can you take notes on a familiar topic, or write a short message for posting to social media?

If you cannot do these things, you probably need further training at the A2 level (ITAL 201 and/or ITAL 202)


B1 Listening: Can you understand the essential points of a radio or television newscast or of other programmes on familiar topics? Can you follow a lecture, in standard Italian, about your studies or personal interests?

B1 Reading: Can you understand, in a personal letter, not only narration and description, but also expressions of attitude or feeling?Can you find information in Italian sources as part of your studies?

B1 Speaking: Can you summarize a book or a film, or recount your own experiences? Can you express your goals or hopes for the future? Can you express and justify your opinions?

B1 Conversation: Can you engage in sustained conversation on a familiar topic without preparation? Can you deal with most ordinary situations that might arise on a trip to a Italian-speaking place?

B1 Writing: Can you write a simple, but coherent letter or blog posting of modest length on a familiar topic?

If you cannot do these things, you probably need further training at the B1 level (ITAL 301 and/or ITAL 302).


B2 Listening: Can you understand a long, complex lecture on a topic related to your studies or personal interests? Can you follow most films or television programmes in standard Italian?

B2 Reading: Can you understand essays, reports and scholarly articles in your own field of studies or on issues of current interest? Can you read literary works in standard, contemporary Italian prose?

B2 Speaking: Can you communicate clearly your opinions on a wide range of topics relative to your studies and personal interests? Can you present a hypothesis and argue effectively in its defence?

B2 Conversation: Can you converse spontaneously and naturally with a native Italian speaker, and can you hold your own in a discussion or argument with a group of native speakers?

B2 Writing: Can you write a well organized and effectively argued essay in correct and idiomatic Italian? And can you write a personal letter or social-media posting that is not only informative but insightful?

If you cannot do these things, you probably need further training at the B2 level (ITAL 401 and/or ITAL 402).

Typically placement tests are only necessary when students have acquired some untutored knowledge of the language (through travel, family or non-credit courses) and want to advance, or wonder whether they should advance, to courses for which they do not have official credits or prerequisites.

Placement tests may be written on site or online. A request to write a placement test by either method needs to be sent to a departmental advisor.

If you have taken Italian courses in the past and officially have the prerequisites to advance to the next level, you normally have to do so, even if arguably you may feel unprepared. As noted above, if you have taken Grade 11 Italian you are not obliged to continue with Italian 201 and can re-start your Italian experience with Italian 101. If you have taken Grade 12 Italian, you are not obliged to continue with Italian 206 or 301 and should consider continuing with Italian 201.

Students wanting to fulfill the language requirement for the Faculty of Arts by taking Italian have to complete Italian 202. Normally this implies completing the sequence of Italian 101, 102, 201 and 202.

On this page