Placement & Testing

Inquiries about Spanish and Portuguese programs

For questions about our Spanish program, feel free to email Professor Cynthia Kauffeld (). Inquiries about the Portuguese program can be directed to Professor Ernesto Ortiz-Diaz ().

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I take a placement exam?

If you are an incoming first year student, there will be information on the orientation website over the summer about the language placement exam. Other students with questions about taking the placement exam should contact Brenda Piatz in Academic Programs (ext. 6036 or piatz@mac).

I did not take the placement exam before I came to Macalester. What do I do now?

Call or email Brenda Piatz in Academic Programs (ext. 6036, or piatz@mac). She can get you set up to take the exam.

What do I do with the score?

There’s a table on the exam website that will tell you what your score means, and which course you should take.

Can I only take the Spanish class recommended by my score on the placement exam? I think I can do much better at a different level.

You are strongly encouraged to take the class recommended by your score. If you feel you need a more fundamental class or more of a challenge, explain your thoughts to your academic adviser and the professor teaching the class you’re interested in taking.

I took the placement exam but I can’t remember my score. How can I find out what it was?

Call or email Brenda Piatz in Academic Programs (ext. 6036, or piatz@mac). She can look up your exam score for you. If it has been more than one year since you took the exam, we recommend you retake the placement exam.

It is almost the end of the Add/Drop period, I have not taken the placement exam, and I’m not sure if the course I’m in is the right course for me. What can I do? Who do I need to talk to?

Talk to your instructor and take the placement exam ASAP by contacting Brenda Piatz in Academic Programs.

I am interested in testing out of the language requirement. What should I do?

A score of 4 or 5 on the Spanish Language or Literature AP exams fulfill the language requirement. Alternatively, you can take a Spanish course on campus. Take the placement exam to see which course would be appropriate for you. Students must successfully complete SPAN 204 or higher in order to satisfy the requirement.

I have studied Spanish before coming to Macalester. Now I am interested in learning Portuguese. Do I still have to take the Spanish Placement Exam?


I LOVE Spanish/Portuguese! I want to be proficient in it. I want to practice it outside of class as much as possible while I study at Macalester. What do you recommend?

Join us for Hora de Cultura events throughout the semester. Through Hora de Cultura, we’d like to extend an invitation to our community to discover what else our department offers to students in our language courses: A Department Beyond a Language! This program is open to all students who speak Spanish, take Spanish classes and/or want to improve their speaking skills and their knowledge of the Spanish-speaking countries. Topics and activities will vary every session.

Schedule a time with our tutors and have a conversation. Find interested classmates, and have a Spanish- or Portuguese-only lunch during the week. Watch Spanish-language TV or read newspapers on the Web. Volunteer in the local Latino community (see the next answer for information on how to do this).

I would like to continue practicing Spanish during the break (winter/summer). What do you suggest?

Find a Spanish-speaking pen pal, IM buddy, or chat room. Listen to local Spanish radio, or find an Internet station. Watch Spanish-language news or telenovelas (soap operas) on cable or on the Internet. Hang out in parts of town where Spanish is spoken more, such as Saint Paul’s District del Sol. You might also volunteer within the Latino community in the Twin Cities or at home. A couple of places you might contact to volunteer are Centro Tyrone Guzmán, Comunidades Organizando el Poder y la Acción Latina (COPAL), and Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio (CLUES).

I am interested in study abroad programs to immerse myself in the culture(s) of the Spanish/Portuguese-speaking world. What programs does Macalester offer? Which ones does the Department of Spanish & Portuguese recommend?

Here’s our page on study abroad programs.

I would like to study abroad for a year. Is it possible? Who do I need to talk to?

Yes, it is possible to study abroad for a year. Before you get too far in your plans, you should read the Center for Study Away’s website on study abroad.