6.1 Placement/Competency Ex...

6.1 Placement/Competency Exams: Greek & Hebrew


Placement exams are optional for M.Div. and M.A.R. students. Competency exams are required for Ph.D. and Th.M. 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 ensures that 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 course(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 module (Hebrew only),and July module (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: Students may take only one Greek placement exam and only one Hebrew placement exam. Students may not take more than one placement exam for either language, regardless of which level exam they choose. Once a student has taken a placement exam in a language, he or she may not take another placement exam in that language at any time in the future.

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.

Three levels of the exam are offered:

Level 1 covers New Testament Greek for Beginners (chapters 1–20).

Level 2 covers the entirety of New Testament Greek for Beginners (chapters 1–34).

Level 3 covers the entirety of New Testament Greek for Beginners, competency in Discourse Analysis, competency in intermediate Greek grammar, and words occurring 15 times or more in the New Testament. Only students who have previously had training in Discourse Analysis and intermediate Greek grammar should attempt this exam.

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 and Analysis: The exam will include Greek sentences that the student will be asked to translate and in which verbal forms should be parsed. Students may also be asked to analyze a passage. No lexical or grammatical helps, or any other helps, will be allowed.

Exam results for M.Div. and M.A.R. students: M.Div. and M.A.R. students who take a Greek placement exam will be placed, based on the discretion of the professor, in the appropriate Greek course (NT 011a/aa, NT 012a/aa, or NT 013a/aa) depending on his/her performance on the written exam. Students who demonstrate sufficient competence on the level 3 exam will be exempt from all three semesters of Greek.

IMPORTANT: A student interested in taking a higher-level placement exam should be aware that, if he/she is unable to demonstrate a high level of competence on the exam, he/she will not automatically be placed in the next highest level Greek course, unless sufficient mastery of the lower level material is clearly demonstrated on the exam. Students should therefore prepare carefully according to the specific level of exam they wish to take.

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.)

 *It is not permitted to switch Greek tracks or sections within a Greek track, except for unusual circumstances that would otherwise create severe hardship. 

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 out of only 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 sequences:

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  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.

*** The most extended sequence (fall/spring/subsequent fall) is not recommended except for students whose life commitments do not allow them to choose one of the other tracks. Students starting Hebrew in the fall semester should follow either the fall/winter/spring or the fall/spring/June sequences if at all possible. Since the language courses build upon one another (e.g., Hebrew 3 builds on Hebrew 2), having long gaps of time between terms is unadvisable. Furthermore, students cannot start any Old Testament classes (except for OT 113) until after Hebrew 3 is completed. Hence, if they choose the fall/spring/subsequent fall sequence, they will not be able to take any OT classes during the fall they are taking Hebrew 3, which could potentially delay their progress in a degree program.

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 strongly advised against planning to take both intensive Greek and intensive Hebrew during the same January term.

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.