Spanish Language Placement Guidelines

Find out which course level to start at given your previous experience with Spanish.

For students with…

Students with no previous background in the language start their studies in Spanish with the sequence of Spanish 101 (3) and Spanish 102 (3).

Students having taken any of these courses in high school are still considered beginners and start their university language experience with Spanish 101 (3).

Grade 11 Spanish may be considered equivalent to the combination of Spanish 101 and Spanish 102. If you completed Spanish 11 in high school, you can either:

A) take Spanish 201 (if you feel confident about your level of preparation) and then continue with Spanish 202 in order to fulfil your language requirement for the Faculty of Arts; or

B) take Spanish 101 followed by 102 (if you are not confident with your present language skills due to unpreparedness or lapse of time). 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.

Our recommendation:

Since many students with Grade 11 Spanish find the progression into Spanish 201 to be difficult, we recommend that you consider option B) as probably the best way to learn and solidify the foundations of the language before you go on. Spanish 101 systematically covers the basics of the language. The first couple of weeks may feel a bit basic, but the pace will pick up and the coverage will increase fast enough for most students.

It is absolutely not recommended that students with Spanish 11 go directly to Spanish 102 under the assumption that they may be too advanced for Spanish 101 but unprepared for Spanish 201.

Essentially, Spanish 201 is a review course that goes over and expands foundational notions presented in Spanish 101 and 102, whereas Spanish 102 is a direct continuation of 101. Students unprepared for 201 are not likely to be better prepared for 102.

Again, if you are not ready for 201, the recommendation is that you resume your language experience from the beginning with Spanish 101.

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

Grade 12 Spanish may be considered equivalent to the combination of Spanish 201 and Spanish 202. Students with Grade 12 Spanish have already satisfied the language requirement for the Faculty of Arts. If you completed Spanish 12 in high school, you can either:

A) follow the subscribed (but not necessarily recommended) course of action and take Spanish 206 (which you can then follow with 207); or,

B) if you feel a bit uncertain about your language skills, you can take Spanish 201 and 202 and get credits for these courses upon completion. Please note that some older course descriptions state that students with Grade 12 Spanish must request permission to receive credits for Spanish 201/202. Permission is no longer required and credits for these courses are automatically granted upon completion.

C) technically, you could advance to Spanish 301, but normally the jump is too imposing and it is only advisable for students who feel extremely confident with their grade 12 proficiency and are highly motivated.

Our recommendation:

Spanish 12 programs vary substantially across the education system. Many students coming into our program tend to find the progression into Spanish 206 to be too difficult and prefer to ease into the continuation of learning the language by taking Spanish 201, and then following that up with 202. We recommend that you go ahead and register in Spanish 201 and follow that with 202.

We do not recommend you consider advancing to Spanish 202 without the direct experience of taking 201 first.

Please note that if you have taken Grade 12 Spanish you cannot be considered to be a beginner in the language and you are not eligible to receive credits for Spanish 101 or Spanish 102. The only exception to this being when a lapse of time has occurred since Grade 12 Spanish was taken. A lapse of time of more than one year would be deemed to be enough to merit a placement exception. The writing of a placement test is not required but you do have to request a formal exception (from a departmental advisor) if you expect to get credits for the courses upon completion.

Advanced Placement (AP) Programs (courses or examinations) tend to be as varied as the high schools that administer them. The placement of students who have been involved in these programs is not conclusive. For our purposes, the basic assumption is that students who have taken AP courses or written AP exams have a level of proficiency that is at least equivalent to Spanish 12.

The equivalent level of International Baccalaureate (IB) courses is not always easy to figure out. Courses fit into categories with terminology such as “Standard level”, “Higher level”, “Diploma” and “Certificate”, the equivalencies of which are not always easy to discern. Accordingly, different institutions tend to deal with them in different ways.

For our purposes, “Spanish Ab initio” may essentially be considered equivalent to Grade 11 Spanish. Hence, if you have taken this course you can continue your studies with Spanish 201/202.

The other IB Spanish courses are harder to pinpoint. Some institutions give 200 level credit for both Spanish A and B (with a grade of 5), other institutions seem to give only 100 level credit for these courses. The easiest recourse is to assume that they are at least equivalent to Spanish 12.

Technically, if you have taken IB Spanish B HL (with a grade of 5) you may be granted credits at UBC for Spanish 201/202. If you have taken IB Spanish A HL (with a grade of 5) you can receive credits for Span 220 (or 221/222).

Students with an untutored knowledge of the language, such as taking courses abroad or living in a Spanish-speaking environment, should consult a departmental advisor for placement. Normally they take a Placement Test to ascertain the course of action to be taken. Native speakers of Spanish are not expected to take elementary language courses and credits may be denied. These students can take courses in literature and cultural studies, normally above Spanish 302.

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

Spanish Placement Test

The Spanish Placement Test is designed to gauge a student's language proficiency and suggested course of action. It is not a challenge exam, nor does it result in credits being granted.

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.

You don’t need to take the Spanish Placement Test if you are one of the following:

  • A continuing UBC student who has successfully completed a Spanish prerequisite course
  • A transfer student from a post-secondary institution with Spanish language transfer credits
  • A new student that has studied Spanish in high school (I.e., AP, IB, or Grade 12)
  • A new student with no prior Spanish language background

If you have taken Spanish courses in the past and officially have the prerequisites (i.e., AP, IB, Grade 12 or transfer credits) to advance to the next level, you normally have to do so, even if arguably you may feel unprepared. In these cases, please see the Spanish Placement Guidelines above.

The online placement test will be delivered during these four dates for the courses taking place in 2022W:

  • May 19, 2022
  • June 7, 2022
  • June 14, 2022
  • July 19, 2022

Please complete this webform to request a Spanish Placement Test. You will receive a link on the first day of each Placement period.

Once you complete the online placement test, you can typically expect to receive the result and a course recommendation via Canvas within a week. Normally, you don’t need to attend an oral interview to accompany your results and you may register for the recommended course at any time.

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