Office of Language Assessment

 Frequently Asked Questions

Please see the questions below for more information about the Academic Reading Comprehension Assessment (ARCA). For any questions not addressed in the FAQs, please email gradreadingexams@uchicago.edu.

What does my department require?

Students are responsible for confirming with their department administrator about details of the official policy.

How do I register for the ARCA?

Students may register through their area Dean of Students Office, or they may register online (https://classes.uchicago.edu/). Deadlines for ARCA exam registration are the same as the deadlines for class registration.  For specifics about divisional registration procedures, students should contact their department administrator or the office of their area Dean of Students. For registration timelines, students should visit the Registrar’s website. Late registrations will be assessed an additional $30 fee.

How should I prepare for the ARCA?

The best preparation for the exam is to practice reading previous exam texts as well as journal articles and monographs in the discipline. You should be able to read these texts confidently within the time allotted for the exam. When reading within your field, you should also familiarize yourself with texts from a number of different authors so that you encounter a greater variety of styles of writing as well as the common terminology and vocabulary in your discipline.

PDF versions of previous Comprehension Exams and Translation Exams are available.

How is the ARCA scored?

Both exam formats are designed to represent students’ ability to read scholarly literature in a foreign language. The exams are graded based on a student’s demonstration of a thorough understanding of the text’s arguments and details. The minimum score for a High Pass (P*) is 75%, the minimum score for a Pass (P) is 65% and anything less than 65% is a Fail (F).

How should I Interpret my score?

Both exam formats are designed to represent students’ ability to read scholarly writing in a foreign language. The exams are graded based on a student’s demonstration of a thorough understanding of the text’s arguments and details.

What does a High Pass mean?
An examinee must be able to read and understand a text of 600-700 words in one hour with the aid of a print dictionary only. In order to earn a High Pass, the examinee must be able to synthesize the text and reproduce all or nearly all of the essential claims in its argument in a summary protocol written in English. The examinee must also be able to explain the relationship of isolated details of the exam text to the overall argument. And finally, the examinee must be able to translate a short passage from the exam text with a high degree of accuracy and clarity.

What does a Pass mean?
A grade of Pass generally indicates that the examinee has misunderstood more than one major claim in the text’s argument or has omitted more than one major claim from the summary protocol. An examinee earning a Pass typically has a correct understanding of the overall text but not a full grasp of all segments of its argument.

What does a Fail mean?
A grade of Fail indicates that an examinee has demonstrated significant misunderstandings of the main features of the text’s argument.

How will I be charged for the ARCA?

There is a $90 fee for taking the Academic Reading Comprehension Assessment. The fee is assessed to your bursar account once you register for the exam. Late registrations are assessed a $30 late fee in addition to the standard late fee assessed by the Registrar’s Office. Students taking the exam in absentia will be assessed an additional $80.

Is it possible to take the ARCA in absentia?

Yes, students who for academic reasons are not in the Chicago area in the quarter in which they would like to test may arrange to take the exam in absentia. Please keep in mind that this option is available only for students who are away for an academic duty (e.g. field research) as part of their academic program. Students are responsible for finding a suitable proctor or testing center to administer the exam. Proctors cannot be a relative, friend, employee, employer, or someone with whom the student has a personal relationship. Further, students are also responsible for any fees the proctor may charge.

Students must send an email explaining their reason to take the exam in absentia to gradreadingexams@uchicago.edu by no later than the end of the first week of the quarter in which the exam is to be administered. If approved, students will receive a Proctor Request Form and instructions on setting up a date and time for the exam.

Note that there is an additional $80 fee for taking an exam in absentia.  This fee will be assessed to your bursar account along with the $90 fee for the exam.

Can I register for more than one exam?

Yes. Students registering for more than one exam should contact gradreadingexams@uchicago.edu as soon possible. If the exams are scheduled for the same day (i.e. Spanish and Chinese), it is the student’s responsibility to arrange for their second exam to be proctored as close to the scheduled date and time of the other exam as possible. Please see instructions for taking an exam in absentia. The Assessment Coordinator will determine which exam will be taken as scheduled, and which will be proctored.

I registered for the ARCA, and now I want to drop it. Will I be charged?

To cancel a registration, students should drop the exam in the same manner as they would drop a class.  Only cancellations made before the add/drop deadline will receive financial credit.  Check the Registrar’s site for exact dates.  Please consult the Bursar’s Office for details on financial credits.

If a registered applicant is absent from the exam administration, a grade of ABS (“absent”) will be entered for the exam on the applicant’s transcript.  No refunds are issued for exam absences or for late cancellations.

How will I find out the location of the ARCA?

Approximately 5-7 days before each exam, the CLC will send each student registered for a language exam an e-mail indicating the date, time, and location of the exam. The location will also be updated on the class schedules (https://classes.uchicago.edu/).

When will I receive my results, and how do I view them?

The scores of graduating students will be posted no later than the Friday two weeks before convocation. The scores of all other students will be available by the end of exam week at the latest. Students will receive an e-mail from the CLC Assessment Coordinator informing them when their score has been posted. Results may be viewed on MyUChicago.

The CLC may also provide a results letter or students may request an appointment to view their exam copy via gradreadingexams@uchicago.edu.

If I fail the ARCA, will that stay on my transcript?

If you fail the exam, the score will be posted as an F. However, the exam listing and failing score will be removed from your record during the first two weeks of the following quarter. This allows time for students to view their results online, but the score won’t permanently remain on the transcript. If you were absent from the exam, your score will be entered as ABS, but also removed the following quarter.

Can I take the ARCA in a language not listed in the class schedules?

In order for the University to offer a particular language for a Graduate Reading exam, there must be someone on campus who can create and grade the exam in that language. If you would like to take an exam in a language not currently listed on the class schedules, you must request the test by emailing the OLA at gradreadingexams@uchicago.edu before Week 3 of the quarter preceding the administration of the test.  If the OLA is able to hire qualified test developers who can create and grade the exam in that language, the petition will be granted.