Graduate Foreign Language Reading Translation Exams (GFLRTE)

The Graduate Foreign Language Reading Translation Exam (GFLRTE) is for graduate students whose program of studies call for them to pass a foreign language reading translation exam. There are two levels of the GFLRTE exam: average proficiency and high proficiency

Please note, if you need to meet a deadline: The GFLRTE is given as needed, but it takes several weeks from the date of registration until the exam has been prepared and is ready for administration. Additional time is needed for scoring and reporting results to the program office. 

  1. Read through the procedures below for average- and high-proficiency before registering.
  2. Print the attached Registration Form for the GFLRTE (PDF).
  3. Complete the form and obtain the necessary signature from your department chairperson or director of graduate studies. Their signature indicates that the selected language, proficiency level, and text(s) are approved by the department and are in accordance with the level of proficiency sought.
  4. Register to test and follow the prompts to register and pay for the GFLRTE-Average Proficiency ($50 fee) or GFLRTE-High Proficiency ($70.00 fee).
  5. Bring your signed registration form, text(s), and copy of your registration ticket to Testing Services, Campus Life Building room 120.
  6. Wait to hear if the text is approved by the Department of World Languages and Cultures. You will receive an e-mail notification when Testing Services has heard back from the Department of World Languages and Cultures. This process may take several weeks.
  7. Once you receive an email notification from Testing Services and as long as the text was approved, contact the Testing Services office at 815-753-1203 to set up a time to test. The test must be taken within one month of the date of notification of its availability.

The language in which you are to test and the level of proficiency are to be determined by you, in consultation with your academic department. You may test in only the languages offered by NIU's Department of World Languages and Cultures.

For Latin and Ancient Greek languages:

  • Translation will be from either Latin or Ancient Greek into English.
  • A foreign language/English dictionary may be used.
  • Average-proficiency examinees will be given 90 minutes in which to translate two passages of between 10-15 lines taken from two different texts of 500 lines each.
  • High-proficiency examinees will be given one hour in which to write an accurate translation of a 20-30 line passage taken from one text of 500 lines, and two hours to provide a substantive overall summary of a passage of between 100-125 lines taken from another text of 500 lines. The examinee must provide a summary, not a translation of these pages.

For languages other than Latin and Ancient Greek:

  • Translation will be from the foreign language into English.
  • A foreign language/English dictionary may be used.
  • Average-proficiency examinees will be given 90 minutes in which to translate a passage of between 575 and 625 words (all parts of speech included).
  • High-proficiency examinees will be given one hour in which to write an accurate translation of a 200-300 word passage (all parts of speech included), and two hours to provide a substantive overall summary of a five-to-seven page passage. The examinee must provide a summary, not a translation of these pages.

For Latin and Ancient Greek languages:

The test passages will be selected by the examiner from two different texts you submit. You should submit 500 lines of text from each of the two texts. These texts are to be chosen in consultation with your advisor, and with the approval of the director of graduate studies or chairperson of your academic department.

For languages other than Latin and Ancient Greek:

The test passages will be selected from text you submit. You should submit 200 pages of text chosen in consultation with your advisor, and with the approval of the director of graduate studies or chairperson of your academic department.

Choosing an Appropriate Text

To minimize the chances that the texts you submit will be rejected by the examiner, it is important to choose appropriate text for this exam. The description of the text selection in the document detailing the procedures for the exam indicates "The text content must be appropriate in terms of the student's area of scholarship and the level of proficiency to be tested." The textual material should correspond to the criteria against which the your translation will be evaluated. The criteria, described in the procedures for the exam, are as follows:

  • The criterion for average proficiency is reading knowledge of a language comparable to that acquired through two years of reading instruction in the language at a college or university in the United States.
  • The criterion for high proficiency is reading knowledge of the language sufficient to enable the student to use effectively appropriate literature in the student's field.

The examiners' faculty members are from the Department of World Languages and Cultures and they select the material from the submitted text and evaluate the translation. The evaluators have the right to reject the text submitted if they judge it to be inappropriate for the purposes of the examination. Examiners have exercised that right in the past, resulting in significant delays in the completion of the examination process.

Some examples of rejected texts and the reasons for the rejections are provided below.

Student's Major Dept. Language Tested Book Reason for Examiner's Rejection
Chemistry French Temoin A, Temoin C, Optique Cristalline (C.R. Acad. Sci.), Le Spectre D'Absorption… (Spectrochimica Acta), Le Tour De La Méditerranée Par Deux Enfants

"It is not appropriate for the exam. It is a book meant for children and contains limited vocabulary. The verbs are all in the present tense and there are no complex sentences. This text does not offer passages that would test the reading knowledge of the examinee.

Reading knowledge of the language comparable to that acquired through two years of reading instruction would include an ability to recognize and translate correctly 1) all the verb tenses; 2) subordinate and relative clauses; 3) vocabulary that the educated adult reader could be expected to know.

Examinees generally provide a text in their field of study. A book or a scholarly journal in the area of the candidate's specialty would be the best choice for this exam."

English German Homo Faber by Max Frisch "The purpose of the reading examination is to determine 'whether the examinee's reading knowledge of the language is sufficient to effectively use professional journals and other scholarly works in the field.' The novel, Homo Faber, by Max Frisch is not a scholarly work and is, therefore, inappropriate for the examination."
Mathematical Sciences French Théorie Des Distributions, by Laurent Schwartz "I find that this book is not suitable for the reading exam because there is simply not sufficient prose text. In general, the book is a series of equations and proofs accompanied by minimal description. For this reason, I am asking the student to submit another book for the exam. Since it is often difficult to find appropriate French texts in math, I would urge the student to consider a book concerned with the history of mathematics or one offering a biography of a mathematician."
English German Im Westen Nichts Neues, Remarque, Erich Maria "The text chosen is a novel and not suitable for testing a graduate student's ability to read and do research in German in his/her chosen area of study. The text provided was to be from a secondary source, e.g., a journal article."
Art History Spanish Ocho Mundos, Wegman, Brenda "The text is too elementary."
Art History Spanish Civilizacion Y Cultura, Copeland, Kite, Sandstedt

"The Intermediate Spanish reader Civilizacion Y Cultura, Copeland, Kite, Sandstedt, is not an adequate text to test average reading knowledge at a post-graduate level, as required through two years of post-graduate reading instruction in Spanish. The text received is an auxiliary text for teaching third- or fourth-semester undergraduate Spanish, as the introduction states.

(To further clarify, in order for me to choose a passage from another work, I would need to receive a text pertinent to the examinee's field and level of graduate study, and especially without English marginal glosses, explanatory notes and translated vocabulary, as is the case in the text I am returning. I also find it difficult to choose a 600-word passage from a text shorter than the required 200-page length...)"

Art History Spanish Literature Y Arte

"I would suggest that the student consider using a text that, while designed/written for native speakers, is an expository text (perhaps based on the examinee's field of expertise) rather than a literary one. I am quite familiar with the text the examinee presented in Spanish, and I am not sure it is appropriately used for this purpose due to the level of language and number of terms/vocabulary specific to Mexico."

[Another examiner also rejected the book because:] "The Intermediate Spanish supplementary reader Literature Y Arte is not an adequate text to test average reading knowledge as acquired through two years of reading instruction in Spanish."

English Spanish Biblia de Estadio

"I cannot clearly see the advantage for the student to take this examination as it is projected now (a translation and summary from the New Testament).

I would say the student will benefit by exposing him/her to actual material taken from academic journals and other scholarly work in the field [monographs/literary criticism/essays] written in Spanish, all of which we have plenty in our library.

The student might be asked otherwise to translate/summarize a passage from contemporary or modern literature written in Spanish (XIX or XX cents.), according to his/her area of interest. In this manner the examination will correspond better to the objectives."

Upon completion of the exam, the passage(s) and translation(s) will be evaluated on a pass/fail basis. The criterion for average proficiency is reading knowledge of a language comparable to that acquired by the end of two years of reading instruction in the language at a college or university in the United States.

The criterion for high proficiency is reading knowledge of the language sufficient to enable you to use effectively appropriate literature in your field.

Approximately two weeks after the test, Testing Services will report the results to the examinee, the Graduate School (if pass), and the director of graduate studies or the chair of your academic department.

The registration fee is non-refundable after the submitted text has been approved by the examiner. If the text is not accepted by the examiner and you decide not to take the Graduate Foreign Language Reading-Translation exam, you will receive a partial refund of the testing fee. If you cancel after an examiner has been selected, you will need to register again and pay the registration fee.

You may request to test in a particular language only once per academic session.