NEWL - Russian

Russian Book

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.


The NEWL (Prototype AP) Russian test is intended for secondary school students of Russian language who wish to engage in a rigorous university-level study before high school graduation.

The Prototype AP Russian Language and Culture course is designed to provide students with a learning experience equivalent to that of an upper-intermediate (approximately second year) college-level Russian language course. Both traditional and heritage learners1 are encouraged to take the Prototype AP Russian Language and Culture course, a standards-oriented, proficiency-based course designed for students at Intermediate High to Advanced Low on ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) scale.2

Such a course enriches students of all backgrounds in understanding Russian culture and furthering language proficiency. At the completion of the course, students are encouraged to take the Prototype AP Russian Language and Culture Exam. The exam is designed to provide a set of measures of functional proficiency in Russian for use as a predictive assessment for continued language study beyond high school and as a placement tool by American colleges and universities for entering freshmen with prior study of Russian.3

With its focus on proficiency, the Prototype AP Russian Examination is largely independent of any specific Russian curriculum in measuring student performances. It addresses the question, "How well do students perform in the language?"

Test specifications reflect The College Board World Languages Framework and the proficiency guidelines developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).

Test items are based on the tasks, skill domains, and performance indicators published in the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages (W-RSLL).4 The World-Readiness Standards and the ACTFL Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners represent some of the best current thinking among second language specialists on how well students should perform in a language (other than English), taking into account the student's particular stage in the learning process and the relative difficulty of the target language.

Consistent with the World-Readiness Standards for Russian, performance targets are presented at different proficiency levels in three modes of communication (presentational, interpretive, and interpersonal) and six domains (comprehensibility, comprehension, language control, vocabulary, cultural awareness, and communication strategies).

NEWL is endorsed by the American Council of Teachers of Russian (ACTR)5 


The Prototype AP Russian examination consists of four subtests, all of which are aimed at the direct assessment of functional proficiency within interpersonal, interpretive, presentational modes of communication, based on authentic speech samples.

The two sections of the exam are:

  • Reading Comprehension (60 minutes)
  • Listening Comprehension (45 minutes)
  • Integrated Task: Writing (45 minutes)
  • Integrated Task: Speaking (45 minutes)

Each of the exam sections contribute equally to the overall final Prototype AP grade. The Prototype AP Russian Examination targets language skills at levels of difficulty that are appropriate for American second language learners of Russian, beginning with Novice High through Intermediate High levels.

Reading Comprehension

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 and address both the interpersonal and interpretive modes of the Standards for Foreign Language Learning and are in keeping with the Fairness and Equity guidelines as put forth by Educational Testing Services.

Listening Comprehension

Also a multiple-choice section, the listening comprehension closely parallels that of the reading comprehension section. Authentic spoken stimulus passages may include oral texts, conversations, announcements, radio clips or reports. In listening comprehension, the test-taker functions in several different roles, depending on the audio stimulus.

For example, the test-taker may function as an over-hearer of a conversation or monologue or may function as the addressee, if the audio is addressed to the test taker. Again, topics range from personal information, basic needs, social conventions, and routine tasks to formal announcements and reports over the media, to more advanced topics with extended discourse, such as interviews, short lectures, and news items. Similar to reading, topics will be of interest to the high school test-taker, and topics address the interpersonal and interpretive modes of the Standards for Foreign Language Learning, while keeping with the Fairness and Equity guidelines as put forth by Educational Testing Service.

Integrated Tasks

The writing and speaking sections will be based on an integrated task model, the same model used in the Russian written integrated tasks in the Russian Prototype-AP Examination prior to 2015.

The writing tasks will have two audio prompts and two prompts in the target language, to which examinees will submit their 4 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 four prompts: two audio, two written. Examinees will use their headsets with microphones to record their 4 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.

Practice Exam

The practice exam will take a little over one hour to administer. The practice exam is a chance for proctors and students to become familiarized with the exam interface and administration. In addition, it allows your school an opportunity to work with our technical support staff with regards to the technical side of the administration. The practice exam will include Reading and Listening Comprehension multiple-choice items, and one scenario from an Integrated Task (writing for about 35 minutes).

Students enrolled in an advanced Russian course are not required to take the practice exam. While students in pre-advanced Russian courses have the option to take the practice exam, please keep in mind that students in beginning levels of Russian may not necessarily benefit from the practice exam, as the exam content targets students with at least two years of Russian language study.

The NEWL exam comprising reading and listening must be administered online in a certified computer lab in a high school, university or public library. To qualify as a testing center, an institution must be able to provide at least one point of contact for technical support and have enough Internet-connected computers to accommodate the number of students registered for test administration. Each computer must meet the requirements outlined in our Test Center Requirements.

AC will work directly with prospective centers to ensure that basic technical requirements are met and guide the technical point of contact through the lab certification process in the week preceding the exam.

Scoring the Prototype AP Russian Exam

Students' scores on the writing and speaking sections are combined with the results of the computer-scored multiple-choice questions. The multiple-choice scores are converted to proficiency scores using cut-scores, which are set during a standard-setting meeting. The scores on each section are combined and their appropriate weighted contribution to the final composite score is factored in. The composite scores for the Prototype AP Russian Language and Culture Exam are converted to the 5-point AP scale:

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)


  1. Native speakers are individuals whose first or primary language is Russian and were educated principally in Russian, in Russian speaking countries. Heritage learners are speakers of Russian heritage who were educated primarily in the US and learned Russian at home; they differ from native speakers in that they were not educated in Russia.
  2. See the ACTFL proficiency scale at
  3. See Marshall, Camelot. "Examining the Validity of the 2010 Prototype AP Russian Exam through a College Comparability Study," in The Russian Language Journal (Volume 60, 2010).
  4. National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project (NSFLEP). (2014). World-Readiness standards for learning languages (W-RSLL). Alexandria, VA: Author. Retrieved from:
  5.  Full endorsement from The Board of Directors of the American Council of Teachers of Russian (ACTR)