NEWL - Arabic

Arabic Writing

The National Examinations in World Languages (NEWL) is an online proficiency exam for language learners of Arabic, Korean, Portuguese, and Russian seeking college placement and/or credit.

Sample Items

We currently have a database of sample items for NEWL Arabic pulled directly from previous exams, which we are continuously expanding. To review those sample items, please visit our NEWL sample items webpage at:

Please note that we at American Councils Assessment emphasize drawing exam materials directly from the cultures and contexts from which we are testing, so we would advise all instructors to have their students read and listen to authentic material (books, news reports, TV shows, etc.) and to prepare them to answer questions drawn from those sources. 


NEWL Arabic is a remotely proctored, monitored online assessment requiring approximately one hour for administration. The exam consists of three subtests, all of which assess functional proficiency or performance in Arabic within interpersonal, interpretive, presentational modes of communication, based on authentic text and speech samples. The NEWL: Arabic is designed to provide a set of measures of functional proficiency in Arabic for use as a predictive assessment for continued language study beyond high school. This test reflects best practices in the field of language assessment and is innovative in its construct and design.

The NEWL: Arabic is modeled after the Prototype AP Russian Examination, the only high school-to-college articulation examination available in the Russian field. That exam has been overseen by the American Council of Teachers of Russian (ACTR), a subsidiary of the American Councils for International Education. The AP Russian exam has been offered each spring at the time of other AP test administrations since 2004.

The principal performance metrics for the NEWL: Arabic are language proficiency and performance. The assessment does not directly target learning achievement or the accumulation of specific grammatical, literary, or historical knowledge. Test specifications reflect the most recent draft of the "World Languages Framework" (College Board, 2006), and the proficiency guidelines developed by American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Test items are based on the tasks, skill domains, and performance indicators published by the National Standards in Foreign Education Project (2015). These Standards and the ACTFL Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners represent some of the best current thinking among second language specialists about how well students should perform in a foreign language, taking into account the student's particular stage in the learning process and the relative difficulty of the target language.


For information on test sections and times please see About NEWL 

Each of the exam sections contribute equally to the overall final grade. The National Examinations in World Languages targets language skills at levels of difficulty that are appropriate for high school language test-takers beginning with Novice High through Intermediate High.

The reading comprehension section consists of short, authentic texts followed by one to three multiple-choice questions in English. Text types are varied and include a formatted layout, such as announcements, schedules, and brochures, as well as paragraph length. The topics range from personal information, basic needs, social conventions, and routine tasks, to formal announcements, pamphlets, etc., and to more advanced topics with lengthier prose text. Topics are those that will be of interest to high school students taking the exam, address both the interpersonal and interpretive modes of the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Language (NSFLEP, 2015), and are in keeping with the Fairness and Equity guidelines as put forth by Educational Testing Services (2009).

The writing tasks will have audio prompts and including prompts in the target language, to which examinees will submit their responses by typing in the target language, as they have in previous years. An appropriate target language keyboard must be enabled on each computer used for testing. The speaking tasks will have audio and written prompts. Examinees will use their headsets with microphones to record their spoken responses via a recorder embedded in the ACTesting browser window. You will not need to install any special software on the computers used for testing. Examinees will be able to use scratch paper to develop responses for both speaking and writing.

Trained raters will rate the speaking and writing responses against the ACTFL proficiency scale, and score reports will include the overall NEWL numeric score (1-5) and a suggested ACTFL-equivalent score for each skill.


Teaching Standards

Detailed standards for teaching Arabic for proficiency have been worked out by members of the Arabic teaching field with assistance from government and professional associations. American Councils' senior language experts in Arabic, including Professor Alaa El-Gibali and Dr. Jerry Lampe have led extensive professional development programs in proficiency and standard-based testing for teachers in Egypt and Morocco in recent years. The Arabic-specific guidelines have been published by ACTFL in Arabic and are available here:

The website describes the levels of language proficiency in the reading, listening, speaking and writing modes and provides examples in the different target levels.

A fruitful discussion concerning practical pedagogy issues of these guidelines is published as the "Arabic Consensus Project" at, the result of several years of consultation and consensus-building within the Arabic field, including suggested guidelines on the use and functioning of Modern Standard Arabic and colloquial Arabic forms within the academic testing environment:


Support for Arabic Writing

In the written portion of the exam, students will be asked to type several short notes and emails in Arabic. The online testing system supports the standard Arabic keyboard layouts on both Mac and Windows systems.


Support for Arabic Speaking

In the spoken portion of the NEWL exam, test-takers are asked to present verbal narratives of their own which are instantly encoded in a digital file. For this task to proceed successfully, each workstation's microphone and speakers must obviously be connected and activated.


Technical Support

AC will provide real-time chat support throughout the test administration.


Language Proficiency Standards

Following the administration, a standard setting will be held in order to determine the cut scores, which will map the scores of the multiple-choice reading and listening sections to the ACTFL proficiency scale. For the standard setting meeting, a group of panelists, comprising a variety of language experts including high school teachers, college or university professors and ACTFL Certified Testers, will convene to establish performance standards. Because of time requirements for the standard setting, exam results will be available in the second week of July.


Scoring the National Examinations in World Languages

Students' scores on the writing and speaking sections are combined with the results of the computer-scored multiple-choice questions. The composite scores for the National Exam in World Languages are then converted to a 5-point scale, comparable to the College Board's AP grade.

NEWL (5-point) Grade Suggested Semester Placement
5 5th (first semester of third-year)
4 4th (second semester second-year)
3 3rd (first semester of second-year)
2 2nd (second semester of first-year)
1 1st (first semester of first-year)

Score reports show a grade on the 1-5 scale with a grade level of 5 reflecting the highest proficiency. In addition, the report presents sub-scores of proficiency levels for each of the skills: reading, listening, speaking and writing. These sub-scores contribute to a student profile of proficiency level(s) reached within each skill. The table above offers colleges, universities, and Department faculty suggestions for placement and/or credit, based on the final grade on the National Exam in World Languages. However, each college or university develops and maintains its own policies for credit and/or placement, based on a student's result on the National Exam in World Languages.



College Board (2006) World Languages Framework. New York, NY: Author. Retrieved from:, 2-24-2015

Educational Testing Service (2009) ETS Guidelines for Fairness Review of Assessments. Princeton, NJ: Author. Retrieved from:, 2-16-2015

National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project (NSFLEP). (2015) World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages (W-RSLL). Alexandria, VA: Author. Retrieved from:

The Arabic-specific guidelines: