Placement Exams

To prepare incoming students to make informed course selections during their first year, Harvard College offers a variety of placement examinations, some online during the summer and others on campus during Opening Days. Answers to many commonly asked questions can be found on the placement exams website, but key information can be found below.

Summer Exams

Administered between mid-June and mid-July, the summer placement exams are offered exclusively online; some are required and others are optional.

Required exams:

  • Expository Writing
  • Mathematics

Optional exams:

  • Biology*
  • Chemistry*
  • French
  • Spanish

*Note that students considering STEM fields are strongly encouraged to take these exams.

On-Campus Exams

During Opening Days, one afternoon is set aside for a separate set of on-campus placement exams. Offerings include the following:

  • Chinese
  • German
  • Greek (Ancient)
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Latin
  • Music
  • Portuguese
  • Vietnamese

Students who have experience in languages not list above are able to arrange a separate exam in order to determine placement or fulfill the language requirement. To do so, email the placement exam team.

Using Placement Exams for Course Selection

Using Placement Exam Scores for Course Selection

Following each exam, the results are analyzed by respective academic departments and students receive – in late August through – a score report that includes placement recommendations (see sample below).

Using Placement Exams to Satisfy the Language Requirement

Language placement exams can be used to fulfill the Harvard College language requirement.

Students who take an online exam over the summer and achieve an appropriate score will be eligible to take an on-campus language verification exam (LVE) during Orientation in the Language Center. Upon successful verification, the requirement will be met.

For on-campus tests offered during Orientation the requirement can be fulfilled by successfully passing the exam.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to take the course that is recommended in the score report?

Placement recommendations are ultimately recommendations, that is, students are not required to take courses for which they are recommended. Students make course selections based on the cumulative courseload and in consultation with their academic advisor or faculty in the academic departments. Therefore, students may take courses a level above or below placement recommendations.