Department of Asian Languages and Cultures

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HomeUndergraduate StudiesUndergraduate Major in JapaneseJapanese Placement Test Information

Japanese Placement Test Information

To set up a placement test, please contact Prof. Naomi Geyer ( for questions regarding the Japanese placement test.  Please provide your Japanese language background experience. 



Q: How many years of high school Japanese are equivalent to one year of Japanese at the UW-Madison?

There is no simple answer to this question because each program has a different style and pace of instruction. It also depends on how much material each individual has absorbed from the instruction provided at a high school program. It is not rare for students who studied Japanese for a few years at a high school to take EA 124 Elementary Japanese II, or even EA 103 First Semester Japanese, to solidify their foundations. This is partly because of the intensive nature of our first year curriculum, which meets 8 hours a week and covers 50% or 100% more materials than what is covered in the first year curriculum at college-level Japanese programs elsewhere, which usually meet 5 hours a week.

In many cases, the knowledge and skills a student has gained in a few years in a high school program are evaluated as less than one year of our curriculum. Some students may be assessed as having proficiency comparable to students taking Second Semester Japanese. Unfortunately, however, the Second Semester Japanese is offered only in the Spring Semester. While waiting until the spring semester for the Second Semester Japanese is an option for such a student, we think you may loose the proficiency that you gained during this time. Thus, we tend to recommend EA 124 or EA 103 for students who may be ready to take the Second Semester Japanese.

Every year, there are some students who are placed in Second Year Japanese or beyond. They tend to include those who have had experience living in Japan for an extended period of time along with the regular study of Japanese, or those who have taken college-level courses as a high school student.

Q: How can I determine which course to take in the fall?

Please review the checklist below and conduct a self-evaluation of your own skills before contacting the department for making an appointment for the placement test.

Language skills checklist

  • To enter EA124
    • Can you read and write Hiragana, Katakana and about 50 basic Kanji?
    • Can you carry on a conversation about your daily life? (e. g., what time you go to school, what you can and cannot do in class, club activities, weekend activities)
    • Can you carry on a conversation about past events?
    • Can you describe your town/room (where things are)?
    • Can you make requests, invitations and apologies in various situations?
    • Are you familiar with the te-form and its various usages?
  • To enter EA203
    • Can you read and write Hiragana, Katakana, and about 180 basic Kanji?
    • Can you request assistance and explain reasons?
    • Can you make suggestions?
    • Can you report events (e.g., travel, celebration, class, part-time job, accident, theft)?
    • Can you carry on a conversation using honorific expressions?
    • Can you talk about your future plans and express speculations about future events?
    • Can you express gratitude and regret?
    • Are you familiar with such grammar items as passive, causative, and causative-passive sentences?

If you think you should take EA 103 to review the materials from the beginning, you do not have to take the placement test. Just register for EA 103, selecting one of the discussion sections that you can attend Monday through Friday. In addition, you need to attend the lectures on MWF (see below for more about the formats of lectures and discussions).


Q: When can I take the placement test? What kind of test is it?

You need to call the department to set up an appointment with a Japanese language faculty who evaluates your proficiency and determines the most suitable course for you. It is most likely that you can set up an appointment during the time when you are in Madison for the SOAR. But if you cannot fit it into your schedule during the SOAR, you can make an appointment during the week before the beginning of the semester. Please set up an appointment as soon as possible rather than waiting until the last minute.

In order to evaluate your proficiency, we will first converse in Japanese to assess your oral communication skills. Then we will have you read aloud some material that includes some kanji characters and answer some comprehension questions. Depending on the results of these first two phases, we may ask you to take a short exam and/or write a short composition. The whole process will take about an hour or less.

Because this is a proficiency test, you do not have to do any special preparation. But the course information above should give you some idea as to what you should be able to perform to get into the course that you desire.


Q: What are the pros and cons of taking EA 103 versus EA 124 after studying some Japanese at a high school?

As mentioned above, the majority of students who have a few years of high school Japanese will be recommended to take EA 124 or EA 103 in their first semester here.

Differences between the two courses include the followings:

  • EA 103 First Semester Japanese
    • 6 credit course that meets 8 hours a week (3 hours of lectures on MWF and Discussions on MTWRF)
    • Team-taught by a faculty (lectures) and teaching assistants (discussions)
    • Covers Lessons 1 through 12 of Genki I.
  • EA 124 Elementary Japanese II
    • 3 credit course that meets 3 hours a week on MWF (successful completion of this course may provide you with 3 retroactive credits).
    • Taught by a graduate teaching assistant
    • Covers Lessons 7 through 12 of Genki I.

In the Spring Semester, students from both of these courses will get together in EA 104 Second Semester Japanese (6 credit course that meets 8 hours a week).

The benefits of taking EA 103 in the fall is that you can practice Japanese everyday and get used to the pace of 8 hours a week instruction. The information provided in lectures would solidify your knowledge of the language. Your past experience will help you feel comfortable in the course. But please keep in mind that you must establish good study habits during the first semester, or by the end of the semester, you may end up falling behind students who struggle at the beginning but nonetheless adapt to the pace of instruction. So, it is important to keep reminding yourself that you should approach the course with fresh attitude.

EA 124, on the other hand, meets only three hours a week. This means that you will have less time for in-class practice, but it might be easier to fit this course into your schedule. The elements of lectures and discussions in EA 103 are combined in one class period. In the Spring Semester, however, you will not have this option of 3-hour slow track course. So, at the beginning of the Spring Semester, you have to get used to a different structure and pace of the course. As mentioned earlier, in order to register for EA 124, you need to take the placement test.


Q: What are retroactive credits and how can I receive them?

If you start taking EA 124 or higher, at the completion of the course, you may receive retroactive credits equivalent to the number of credits that can be earned in the courses that are prerequisites for the course you completed. For example, if you take EA 124 in the fall and complete it with B or higher, you may receive 3 retroactive credits for EA 123, which is the prerequisite for EA 124. If you take EA 203 in the fall and complete it with B or higher, you can receive 12 retroactive credits for EA 103 and 104 which are the prerequisites for EA 203. This is a general principle, and depending on the nature of programs where you studied Japanese, there might be some exceptions. Please refer to the following page for more information regarding retroactive credits.