French Proficiency Exam

The Graduate Reading Proficiency Exam in French is designed to allow graduate students to demonstrate reading proficiency in French in their area of specialization. The exam is offered once each semester and consists of the translation of a 500-word passage from a secondary source, typically a scholarly journal, in the candidate's area of study. Candidates will have two hours to complete the translation and may use a dictionary.

The reading passage is provided by the student's department (either the advisor or the Graduate Studies Chair), with guidelines for the selection of the passage detailed below. The exam is graded on a pass/non-pass basis by the exam coordinator in French.

Dates & Deadlines | Registration | Select a Reading Passage | How Exam is Graded | Additional Info

Autumn 2018 Dates and Deadlines

Deadline for registration: Wednesday, October 10
Deadline for submission of translation passages: Wednesday, October 17
Exam date: Wednesday, October 24
Deadline for notification of exam results: Friday, November 9
Exam Time & Location3:00 pm - 5:00 pm in Jennings Hall 60
 
Registering for the Exam

The application to take the proficiency examination consists of two parts:

1. The student must complete the Graduate Proficiency Exam Registration Form by the registration deadline. 

2. The advisor must submit the translation passage via the Advisor Translation Passage Submission.

Selecting a Reading Passage

Upon receiving the request form from the student, the Advisor or Graduate Chair will select and submit a reading passage from a secondary source, bearing in mind the student's research interests and emphasis of study.

Owing to the individualized nature of each exam, the perceived level of difficulty of the reading passages will vary. The following stylistic descriptions of scholarly texts are offered as a reference in assissing the appropriateness of any given passage.

Types of stylistic scholarly texts

Type 1: Conventional academic style (e.g., a typical scholarly article with conventional style, syntax and word usage)

Les documents de la "Dhabtia" encore peu exploités contiennent une massed'informations à défricher pour faire renaître les vestiges de l'histoire sociale engénéral et plus particulièrement celle des Juifs tunisiens en ce qui nous concerne. Lesmilliers d'affaires nocturnes et diurnes enregistrées par le conseil de "Dhabtia"permettent de dévoiler des aspects de la vie quotidienne relatifs à la criminalité.

Type 2: Unconventional critical style (e.g., post-modern blending of philosophical, literary and critical discourse characterized by a complex style, syntax and word usage)

La passion ne cesse d'inventer des limites qu'elle veut enfreindre, elle ne se déploieque dans la tension engendrée par les limites étroites que sont la famille, l'idée dudestin, la guerre et la politique, elle veut connaître l'excès, l'en-trop de sondébordement. La folie originaire d'Eros n'est que transgression d'une loi, n'est quejouissance dans la profanation du débordement. D'où la beauté.

Type 3: A pre-contemporary style (e.g., pre-twentieth-century criticism or commentary characterized by archaic style, syntax, word usage, and spellings)

Pour opérer ce changement important, le maître de police, accompagné d'un ingénieuret de quelques agens, traçoit successivement la largeur des rues, de manière à cequ'une voiture pût y passer. L'alignement étoit soigneusement observé, et l'onaccordoit aux habitants un délai assez court pour rebâtir en briques leurs maisons, quin'ont, en général, que douze ou quinze pieds de hauteur.

If the advisor or Graduate Chair chooses a text whose style is ABOVE Type 1, he or she should inform the student accordingly.

How the Exam is Graded

The completed translations are graded by the Exam Coordinator in French according to the following criteria:

PASS: The translation is complete and accurately conveys the sense of the passage, without distortions (although minor lapses are permitted). Basic verb tenses and idioms are translated correctly. The translation is not overly literal and is written in fluent, idiomatic English.

NON-PASS: The translation shows a general misunderstanding of the basic events of the passage or is repeatedly inaccurate. Verb tenses and idioms are repeatedly mistranslated. The translation is overly literal, displaying no sense of the nuances of the original. The translation is incomplete.

If an exam is failed or borderline, it will be sent to a second reader to be checked; if the second reader decides to pass the exam, that judgment will prevail.

Example of Successful and Unsuccessful translations

French original

Elevée dans un milieu simple et rigide, la princesse ne s'adapta que très mal à la vie brillante et dissolue de la cour de Louis XIV. Elle "boudait souvent la compagnie, dit d'elle Saint-Simon, s'en faisait craindre par son humeur dure et farouche et, quelquefois, par ses propos, . . ."

Unsuccessful translation

Raised in a simple and rigid middle, the princess did not adapt herself that very poorly to the brilliant and dissolute life from the court of Louis XIV. She "sulked often the company, says of her Saint-Simon, made herself to fear of it by her hard and ferocious humor and, sometimes, by her words."

Successful translation

Raised in a simple and rigid milieu, the princess adapted very poorly to the brilliant and dissolute life of Louis XIV's court. She often stayed away from people at the court, Saint-Simon said of her, and made herself feared by them owing to her hard and unsociable mood, and sometimes, to her words."

For a more detailed description of the criteria used to judge a translation, consult the website of the American Translator's Association, specifically the page devoted to the grading of the Certification Exam.

Additional Information

FAQ

Preparing for the Exam/Samples of Recent Exams

Past and Future Exam Schedule

 

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