Language Qualifying Exams

Updated: August 19, 2020

HDS qualifying exams will be held online Friday, September 4, noon–1:15 pm (EDT)


How to register:

If you plan to take the qualifying exam, and you have not yet done so, please pre-register by sending an email with the subject header “HDS qualifying exams” to registrar@hds.harvard.edu. In the text of the email, please indicate full name, degree program, and the exam/s you would like to take.

The deadline for exam registration is Friday, Augst 28, 2020. Due to the online format, no registrations after this date can be accepted.
 

Exams will be offered in the following languages:
 

  • Biblical Hebrew
  • Classical Arabic
  • French
  • German
  • Latin
  • New Testament Greek
  • Pali
  • Spanish

We trust that the honor principle is respected by all students, as it is respected by the instructors and administrators of this language qualifying exam.
 

Length of exam:

Students have one hour and fifteen minutes for each exam. You must upload your exam within that timeframe, otherwise you will be shut out from the Canvas site.

Use of dictionary:

You may use one dictionary. Print, e-format, or online are fine in the current situation. You are not permitted to use any translation software, outside help, textbooks, and/or similar aids to assist you in your translation of this exam text.

 

Additional information and instructions for signing into the exam will be sent to all pre-registrants in advance of the exam date and time.

 

Regards,
Registrar’s Office Team

♦♦♦

Language qualifying exams in Arabic, Biblical Hebrew, New Testament Greek, Christian Latin, German, French, and Spanish are given twice a year, in September and April/May. In addition, French, Spanish, and German exams are given a third time in January/February. These tests certify reading competency at an intermediate level in a language of theological or religious studies scholarship for the purpose of meeting the HDS language requirement for the MTS, ThM, or PhD degree. These exams are not placement tests.

  • Students are strongly encouraged to sign up for the exam of their choice in the Registrar's Office (Divinity Hall, 2nd floor) prior to the qualifying exam dates.
  • Students have one hour for each exam and may use one dictionary.

A passing mark on a language exam attests that a student has sufficient knowledge and skill to use the language in scholarship. Some mistakes in recognizing grammar or vocabulary are allowed if they do not seriously undermine the student’s ability to understand the passage in question. All exam papers are evaluated by this same standard independent of the degree program in which a student is enrolled.

Texts of intermediate difficulty are selected to permit the grader enough flexibility in evaluating varying levels of performance and ability. Dictionaries (printed and not electronic) are permitted. The exams are designed to be taken within one hour. Copies of previous exams for practice are available below.

The grades of Pass or Fail are given to most exam papers. The mark of High Pass means that the translation was flawless or nearly so; the designation Low Pass means that there were more mistakes, but the passage was generally understood. Grades of Low Pass and Pass are noted as Pass on a student's transcript and a High Pass is noted as such. Failing grades do not appear on transcripts.

Available exams

Arabic

The Arabic exam is available in classical Arabic. The text is approximately 20-25 lines long. Offered in September and April. Sample exams

French

The French exam, approximately 350-375 words in length, is based on a text in religious or theological studies, or from a work in theology. The level of difficulty corresponds to intermediate competency in academic translation. Offered in September, January, and April. Sample exams

Greek

The exam is based on a passage, approximately 10-12 lines in length, of a Greek prose writer of the Roman imperial period. An accurate translation of the text is required. Offered in September and April. Sample exams

German

The German exam, approximately 250 words in length, is based on a text in religious or theological studies, or from a work in theology. The level of difficulty corresponds to intermediate competency in academic translation. Offered in September, January, and April. Sample exams

Hebrew

The exam is based on a passage of Biblical Hebrew prose, approximately 10 verses in length. Accurate translation and parsing of select forms within the passage are required. Further commentary on the text of any critical apparatus is not expected. Offered in September and April. Sample exams

Latin

The Latin exam is based on a passage of Christian Latin prose, approximately 150 words in length, depending on the degree of difficulty. Offered in September and April. Sample exams

Spanish

The Spanish exam, approximately 350-370 words in length, is based on a text in religious or theological studies, or from a work in theology. The level of difficulty corresponds to intermediate competency in academic translation. Offered in September, January, and April. Sample exams