6.1 Placement/Competency Ex...

6.1 Placement/Competency Exams: Greek & Hebrew


Placement exams are optional for MDiv and MAR students. Competency exams are required for PhD and ThM students (see below).

Any student who wishes to take a placement or competency exam should register in advance. The form for registering is available on the Language Placement and Competency Exams page on Westminster's website. Registration for the exam insures the language examiner prepares the correct number of exams and also allows the language examiner to communicate with the students should an exam need to be rescheduled due to inclement weather or another unforeseen circumstance.

6.1.a. M.Div. and M.A.R. Placement Exam Information

Who should take a placement exam: Students are not required to have had previous training in Greek or Hebrew to begin the M.Div. or M.A.R. program at Westminster. Matriculating students who have studied Greek and/or Hebrew and who wish to try to place out of some of either or both languages must take the placement exam in the language(s) in question. The exam will determine which class(es) the student must take to fulfill the language requirement. 

When to take a placement exam:  Exams are administered five times a year, just before the first day of classes of the Fall semester, January term, Spring semester, June Hebrew term, and the first Summer term. (For specific dates, see the Academic Calendar. Placement exams are offered only on those dates.) Students should take the test before initial matriculation in order to prevent complications in registering for courses that require language prerequisites. Under certain circumstances, permission to take exams at a time other than upon initial matriculation can be obtained by special arrangement, though always on the stated dates and times listed in the Academic Calendar. Please send an email to the language examiners at academicaffairs@wts.edu.

How often a student may take a placement exam: Each placement exam (i.e. Greek and Hebrew) may be taken only once!

6.1.b. Greek Placement Exam Information

What is covered on the exam?

The exam is designed to judge the student’s aptitude in Greek in relation to the Greek curriculum of Westminster Theological Seminary. The textbook used at Westminster is J. Gresham Machen’s New Testament Greek for Beginners (revised by Dan G. McCartney). Therefore, the placement exam corresponds to this particular textbook. The exam primarily covers three areas, though any part of Greek grammar may also be included. The exam will last two hours.

Vocabulary: Students are primarily responsible for the vocabulary covered in Machen’s grammar, though other NT words may be included

Paradigms: Students may be asked to reproduce (in Greek) paradigms covered in Machen’s grammar (verbs, participles, nouns, etc.)

Translation: The exam will have various Greek sentences that the student will be asked to translate and parse verbal forms. No lexical or grammatical helps will be allowed.

Exam results for M.Div. and M.A.R. students: MDiv and MAR students who take the regular placement exam will be placed in one of the following Greek sections, depending on his/her performance on the written exam:

1) First semester of Greek "a" OR Greek "aa" (NT 011a/NT 011aa): Students who do not demonstrate a sufficient level of competency on the exam have the option to begin Greek a in the summer term (if the placement exam has been taken by the pre-summer exam date, which is usually in late June), or Greek aa in the fall semester. 

2) Second semester of Greek "a" (NT 012a): If a student desires to test out only of NT 011a, then he/she may choose to take the exam designed specifically to test competency in the first semester of Greek (NT 011a). If a sufficiently thorough competency is demonstrated, based on the professor's discretion, the student may be allowed to commence study in the second semester of Greek "a" beginning in the fall semester.

3) Third semester of Greek "a" (NT 013a): If a student desires to test out of both NT 011a and NT 012a (the first two semesters of Greek), he/she may choose to take the exam designed to test competency equivalent to the entirety of the Machen Greek grammar. If a sufficiently thorough competency is demonstrated, based on the professor's discretion, the student may be allowed to commence study in the third semester of Greek (NT 013a) in the spring semester. 

IMPORTANT: A student interested in taking the exam designed to cover the entirety of the Machen Greek grammar should be aware that, if he/she is unable to demonstrate a sufficiently thorough competency equivalent to the entirety of the Machen Greek grammar, the student will NOT by default be placed in NT 012a. If a student chooses to take this more advanced test and does not demonstrate a mastery of the material covered in NT 011a/aa, according to the professor's assessment, then the student must commence study with NT 011a or NT 011aa (the first semester of Greek). Therefore, one must be very confident in his/her Greek knowledge before taking this test. For those with limited exposure to Greek, taking the test listed in option #2 above is less risky.

Available Greek Tracks:

Semester/Term Greek a Greek aa
(same content as Greek a)
Summer NT 011a
(4 hrs.)
none
Fall NT 012a
(3 hrs.)
NT 011aa
(4 hrs.)
Winter none NT 012aa
(2 hrs.)
Spring NT 013a
(3 hrs.)
NT 013aa
(4 hrs.)

 

6.1.c. Hebrew Placement Exam Information

What is covered on the exam?

The Hebrew placement exam will test skills and concepts covered in all three of the semesters of Hebrew taught at Westminster. If a student wishes to try to test only out of Hebrew 1, he or she may take a special version of the placement exam for that purpose. The examination, in either case, will last two hours.

Basic (Hebrew 1) Knowledge: The exam will require both reproduction of memorized material and application of grammatical and syntactical matters including any of the following: the alphabet; identifying sewas and dageshim; characteristics of gutturals; the noun in absolute and construct, masculine and feminine, singular, dual, and plural; adjectives; prepositions; the names and functions of the major Masoretic accents; the independent personal and demonstrative pronouns; pronominal suffixes on both nouns and verbs; the complete strong verb (i.e., the perfect, imperfect, imperative, participles, and infinitives of all stems) and translation of sentences containing any of the preceding elements, as well as a knowledge of words that occur five hundred times or more in the Hebrew Bible. [Note: the exam for placing out of Hebrew 1 only will not test material beyond this point.]

Intermediate (Hebrew 2) Knowledge: parsing/recognition and explanation of the inflectional patterns of any/all of the various types of "weak" verbs, types and functions of waws, issues of basic syntax above and below the clause level, translation of narrative and direct discourse, and a knowledge of words that occur one hundred times or more in the Hebrew Bible.

Further (Hebrew 3) Knowledge: translation of challenging narrative and non-narrative Biblical texts and a knowledge of words that occur fifty times or more in the Hebrew Bible.

Please note the following:

Paradigms: Students may be asked not only to recognize, but to reproduce paradigms in Hebrew of items in the lists above.

Parsing: Students will be asked to parse some verbs in isolation and some in the context of the short passages they will translate. (Parsing will include both strong and weak verbs and at points may ask for explanations of the inflectional patterns of particular weak verbs in comparison with strong verbs.)

Translation: On the last passage of the exam, M.Div. and M.A.R. students will be allowed to use a standard, non-analytical lexicon. The rest of the translations must be done without any lexical helps, and Th.M. and Ph.D. students may not use a lexicon on any part of the exam.

Exam results for M.Div. and M.A.R. students:

Based on the results of the exam, a student will be placed into Hebrew 1, 2, 3, or exempted from Hebrew coursework altogether. To be exempted from a class, a student must demonstrate complete mastery of that course’s content. For planning purposes, students should know that exemption from all three semesters is exceedingly rare.

Available Hebrew tracks:

Semester/Term Summer sequence Traditional sequence Extended sequence
Summer* OT 011 (Hebrew 1)
OT 012 (Hebrew 2)
none none
Fall OT 013 (Hebrew 3) OT 011 (Hebrew 1) OT 011 (Hebrew 1)
Winter* none
OT 012 (Hebrew 2) none
Spring none OT 013 (Hebrew 3) OT 012 (Hebrew 2)
June*, ** none none OT 013 (Hebrew 3)

Fall -
Subsequent Year

none none

or
OT 013 (Hebrew 3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Students should be aware that the intensive language terms may demand a full-time commitment and should plan to limit their job and ministry commitments accordingly, or choose to take the non-intensive course offerings.
**The June course may begin as early as the last week of May depending on the calendar year.

Factors for M.Div. and M.A.R. students to keep in mind when planning a course of study, and therefore when considering taking a placement exam:

Based on the sequence of courses with prerequisites, students who do not anticipate being able to place out of some Greek or Hebrew and who hope to complete an M.Div. degree in three years or an M.A.R. degree in two years, unless they are exceptionally gifted at languages, must start either Greek or Hebrew during the summer term before their fall matriculation in order to make it possible to complete the sequence of courses within the planned time frame. In planning their programs, students are further strongly advised against planning to take both intensive Greek and intensive Hebrew during the same January term.

Students should be aware that the intensive language terms of 3 or more credit hours demand a full-time commitment, and they should therefore plan to limit their job and ministry commitments accordingly or choose to take the non-intensive course offerings.

Once a student starts instruction in a biblical language, he or she should complete the sequence of courses in that language in successive terms if at all possible. Since the courses build upon one another (e.g. Hebrew 2 builds on Hebrew 1), having gaps of time between language terms should be avoided. The language curriculum and schedule are designed to enable a student to follow the standard M.Div. or M.A.R. degree program charts. See Section 6.13 Degree Program Charts. Any deviation from a suggested schedule may result in a course conflict which may delay a student’s progress in a degree program.

6.1.d. Th.M. Competency Exam Information

Entering Th.M. students in Old Testament must demonstrate knowledge of grammar and reading proficiency at an advanced M.Div. level in Hebrew upon initial matriculation. Th.M. students in New Testament must demonstrate the same level of expertise in biblical Greek. Such expertise will be demonstrated by means of a competency exam taken upon initial matriculation in the Th.M. programs. Failure to demonstrate competence on the required examination will result in remedial language study and evaluation which must be completed during the first semester of enrollment. Should the student not fulfill the requirement, the faculty maintains the right to place the student on academic probation, pending completion of the language requirement.

The competency exams will be similar to the placement exams described above, except that the Greek exam will test translation in significantly greater depth than the M.Div./M.A.R. Greek placement exam.

6.1.e. Ph.D. Competency Exam Information

Entering Ph.D. students in Hermeneutics and Biblical Interpretation must demonstrate knowledge of grammar and reading proficiency at an advanced M.Div. level in both biblical Hebrew and New Testament Greek upon initial matriculation. Such expertise will be demonstrated by means of a competency exam in each language. Failure to demonstrate competence on the required examination will result in remedial language study and evaluation which must be completed during the first semester of enrollment. Should the student not fulfill the requirement, the faculty maintains the right to place the student on academic probation, pending completion of the language requirement.

The competency exams will be similar to the placement exams described above, except that the Greek exam will test translation in significantly greater depth than the M.Div./M.A.R. Greek placement exam.

International students on F-1 or J-1 visas should consult the regulations concerning full-time status for international students (section 5.1.2 'Full Time Status') and preparation for preliminary examinations.