French Reading Knowledge Exam

This translation exam, offered 4 times throughout the year, is accepted by UW-Madison graduate programs. Register at least 1 week prior to your chosen exam date. When you register, you must include what your degree program is and what type of pass they require. No refunds after registration.

At a glance

What: French Reading Knowledge Exam

When: Nov 11, 2015 10 am Feb 8, 2016 1:30 pm May 11, 2016 10 am

Where: 21 N Park St, Rm 5045, Madison, WI

Cost: $45

Register Online
or register by phone at
Register by
April 27, 2016

Register at least 1 week prior to your chosen exam date

For additional information, contact Sage Goellner: 262-4873

When you take the exam you are given 1 hour to read and translate approximately 1 page of French prose. The text selected will be generally compatible with your graduate degree program. You are permitted to use a French-English dictionary which you must provide, and 1 additional dictionary to aid in writing English – such as non-native English speakers may desire to use. Handwritten notes about French grammar written in one's dictionary are permissible, but additional materials are not. You will write your translation in a blue book which the proctor provides for you. You are given 1 hour from the time of first seeing the text to handing in your translation.

Reading ability

Your reading ability is measured by the percentage of the text which you translate accurately and coherently. Your translation will be rated with 1 of these 3 results:

  • Advanced (mastery of tense, idiom, vocabulary)
  • Adequate (use of language as research tool)
  • Inadequate (cannot translate basic meanings of the text)

For the exact requirements you need to fulfill, please contact your academic department. Each UW-Madison graduate program determines its own standards for reading knowledge requirements. After you have taken the exam, please contact the exam proctor to receive your results. If (and only if) you pass your department's requirements, we will automatically notify your department of your exam result. If you must re-take the exam, you will need to register and pay for a new exam; see the “Retaking the Exam” section below. You may view a sample exam (using a text that would be appropriate for an English Department graduate student).


Download a sample exam

We recommend that you practice the skill of writing timed translations in advance. Feel free to use the above sample exam, as well as working through self-timed translations of additional scholarly articles in French from your own field of research. Memorial Library has a vast collection of French-language scholarly publications, and the Web is also a source of such texts.

Retaking the Exam

If you do not achieve your desired exam result on your first attempt at this exam, you will be notified of what your exam result was, but your graduate department office will not be notified. You may not retake the same exam again. Instead you must follow this process:

After a first attempt:

  • You may register for this exam again, using the link above, for the next exam date. During the exam you will be presented with a different text than the one you saw before.
  • If you have an emergency need to pass the exam before the next exam date, you may contact our office at to ask for a personal appointment to take the exam at an earlier date.
  • Please consider the advice above (under “Practicing”) and below about how to improve your French reading skills before your retake.

After a second attempt (or beyond):

  • You may register for this exam again, using the link above, for the next exam date, as long as that date is at least 6 weeks in the future from when your most recent exam result was communicated to you. If that date is closer than 6 weeks, you may register for the exam as above and then request a personal appointment for your second re-take that is sooner than two exam dates from now.
  • During the exam you will be presented with a different text than any of the ones you saw before.
  • You are strongly encouraged to use the time before your next retake to seek intensive, outside help in improving your French reading skills before attempting this exam again. Options available to you include: