Exam Assessment

Graduate Language Examination

The goal of the reading comprehension examination is to test your competence as a translator of literary and critical works in languages other than English. The exam consists of a two-hour session in which you are asked to translate a passage of 200-250 words. You are allowed to consult a dictionary during the exam; you are not allowed to consult grammar or language guides. While preparing for the exam, you should keep in mind the following guidelines, which will be used to evaluate the exam.

  • Meaning
  • Grammar
  • Vocabulary


The first metric used to assess your translation is meaning. Does your translation capture accurately the overall sense of the passage and convey this sense in a coherent and meaningful English? Does your translation accurately present the ideas, actions, and concepts of the original text?


The second metric used to evaluate your translation is grammar. Is your translation an accurate representation of verb conjugations both in terms of tense and person? Does your translation link pronouns with the proper antecedents? Does your translation account for demonstrative distinctions that appear in the original? Is your translation written in grammatical English?


The final metric used to judge your translation is vocabulary. Do English words chosen convey accurately the meaning of the words used in the original language?


The exam is graded on a pass/fail basis. Multiple and/or significant errors in any combination of these categories results in a failing exam.

Preparing for the Language Examination

To assist students preparing for the language exam in a number of languages, including German, Japanese, French, Russian, Spanish, Latin, Portuguese, and Arabic, the Modern Languages Department has placed a set of auto-tutorial CD ROMS entitled Transparent Language Now on Reserve at the main circulation desk of the library. As Reserve items, the CD ROMS are available for use in the library for up to 3 hours.

Graduate students have an opportunity to enroll in NU undergraduate language courses. Please contact the Graduate Office for more information.