The National Examinations in World Languages (NEWL)

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The 2024 registration window is now open and will close on April 3, 2024. You may apply here.


Endorsed by the College Board, NEWL® is administered by American Councils for International Education (American Councils) in four languages considered critical by the U.S. government: Arabic, Korean, Portuguese, and Russian. Approximately 1,000 high school students, both in the U.S. and internationally, take the exams each year. Modeled after the College Board’s AP® foreign language exams, NEWL is proficiency-based and intended for secondary school foreign language learners, both heritage and non-heritage. Examinees receive an AP®-style score report, which can be used to apply for college credit and/or placement. NEWL is offered online each spring around the time of the AP College Board exams.


NEWL is intended for secondary school students who wish to continue their language studies at university. Students must be enrolled in 9th grade or above, OR have turned 14 before September 1, 2023, in order to take the 2024 exams.


NEWL assesses functional proficiency in the interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational modes of communication. NEWL does not assess achievement according to specific language curricula or the accumulation of literary, cultural, or historical knowledge. The four sections of NEWL are reading comprehension, listening comprehension, integrated writing, and integrated speaking. More detail on each of these sections follows below. 

Reading Comprehension consists of a series of short, culturally, and linguistically authentic texts followed by one to three multiple-choice questions in English. Text types include lists, short advertisements, pamphlets, schedules, and brochures, as well as paragraph-length texts. The topics range from personal information, basic needs, social conventions, and routine daily tasks to formal announcements and more advanced topics with lengthier prose. 

Listening Comprehension consists of similar material to the reading section but requires examinees to listen to brief audio scenarios: dialogs, newscasts, radio shows, and other audio media. All reading and listening topics are in keeping with the Fairness and Equity guidelines as put forth by Educational Testing Services (2009). 

Integrated Writing consists of audio and written prompts that elicit the ability to respond in writing. For example, the writing tasks may require examinees to type notes to friends, write letters or emails, or present opinions on topics, all in the target language. Examinees need an appropriate language keyboard enabled on the computer they use for the exam. The online exam system supports the standard keyboard layouts for each language on both Mac and Windows systems. 

Integrated Speaking consists of audio and written prompts that require a spoken response. Topics come from everyday conversational topics about self, school, friends, and other social phenomena. Examinees use their headsets with microphones to record their spoken responses via a recorder embedded in the testing browser window. Examinees do not need to install any specific software on their computers used for the exam. Examinees can use scratch paper to develop responses for both the speaking and writing sections of the exam. 


NEWL Section Times




  • Reading Comprehension: 60 minutes 

  • Listening Comprehension: 45 minutes 

  • Integrated Writing: 45 minutes 

  • Integrated Speaking: 45 minutes 

  • Total: Approximately 3 1/2 hours with a 10-minute break 


Exam specifications align with the World Languages Framework (College Board, 2006) and the proficiency guidelines developed by American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). The exams target language skills at levels of difficulty that are appropriate for high school language test-takers beginning with Novice High through Intermediate High on the ACTFL Scale.


The best way to prepare for NEWL is to study culturally authentic materials such as communications, dialogs, books, websites, news reports, TV shows, etc., intended for native-speaker audiences.  American Councils offers an annual practice exam in March to help prepare students for the main administration. The practice exam is shorter, not proctored, and can be taken remotely (see registration section for details). Practice exam scores are presented on a percentage correct basis.


NEWL Practice Section Times




  • Reading Comprehension: 15 minutes 

  • Listening Comprehension: 15 minutes 

  • Integrated Writing: 15 minutes 

  • Integrated Speaking: 15 minutes 

  • Total: Approximately 1 hour 

Additionally, we have a sample of exam questions for each NEWL language, which you may review here: Sample Exam Questions.


American Councils relies on psychometricians, assessment specialists, linguists, and experienced language teachers to score NEWL. American Councils releases exam results in July. Student scores on each subsection calibrate to the ACTFL performance scale and are indicated in the score report that each student receives. An overall composite score is also derived across the four sub-scores. The composite score is converted to a 5-point scale, comparable to the College Board's AP score.

Score reports indicate a final score on the 1-5 scale with a score level of 5 reflecting the highest proficiency assessed (Intermediate High). The table below also offers colleges, universities, and department faculty suggestions for placement and/ or credit, based on the scores.

Recommended College Placement by NEWL Score 

NEWL (5-point) Grade 

Suggested Semester Placement 

5th (first semester of third year) 

4th (second semester of second year) 

3rd (first semester of second year) 

2nd (second semester of first year) 

1st (first semester of first year) 

Among others, the list of universities below have been known to accept NEWL scores as a valid means of awarding academic credit or establishing appropriate placement. It's worth noting that educational policies and assessment requirements can change over time, so for the most up-to-date and accurate information you can contact the university or the program you are considering to check the admission requirements and language proficiency requirements. While each university or program adheres to their own policies and protocols, it is vital to remember that the College Board actively encourages all its member institutions to acknowledge and consider NEWL Scores for credit placement, on par with their recognition of scores on AP exams.

Bard College 
Baruch College, CUNY
Berkeley University
Borough of Manhattan Community College
Bridgewater State University
Brooklyn College, CUNY
Broward College
Brown University
Bryn Mawr College
Bucknell University
Chapman University 
Colby College
CUNY Brooklyn College
CUNY Hunter College 
Dartmouth College
Duke University
Emmanuel College
Florida Atlantic University
Florida International University
George Mason University
George Washington University
Harvard University
Haverford College
Idaho State University 
James Madison University
Loyola University, Maryland
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Montana State University
New York University
Northeastern University
Nova Southeastern University 
Purdue University
Rutgers University 
St. Johns University
Stanford University
Stevens Institute of Technology 
Swarthmore College
Syracuse University
Texas A&M University 
The College of Westchester
The Jewish Theological Seminary of America List College
University of California Los Angeles
University of California Santa Barbara
University of California, Irvine
University of California, Los Angeles
University of Chicago
University of Florida
University of Maryland
University of Missouri-Kansas City 
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
University of Oklahoma
University of Pennsylvania 
University of Southern California
University of St. Andrews
University of Tampa
University of Virginia
University of Washington-Seattle
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Utah State University
Vassar College
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University 
West Valley College
Wheaton College, Massachusetts
William and Mary 
Yale University