Proficiency Exam Policies and Procedures

Proficiency/Economics placement exams allow SIPA students to demonstrate competence in a number of subjects so that they can be exempted from course requirements in either the core curriculum or their concentration.  A student who takes and passes a proficiency exam is exempt from taking that course and may substitute another course.  Passing a proficiency exam exempts you from taking a class, but does not grant you credit towards your degree. Exams are offered at the beginning and end of each term. You can view dates of upcoming exams and sign-up on the Proficiency Exams Guidelines page

Each semester, exams are offered for the following subjects and languages:

  1. Economics
    ​-  SIPA U6300 Microeconomics for International & Public Affairs/SIPA U6301 Macroeconomics for International & Public Affairs
    -  SIPA U6400 Microeconomic Analysis for International & Public Affairs/SIPA U6401 Macroeconomic Analysis for International & Public Affairs
    -  Policy on Advanced Standing in Economics: All students are required to fulfill 6 credits of Economics coursework as part of the SIPA degree, regardless of academic or professional background.  Students who have completed graduate level Economics courses (Micro and/or Macro) and were awarded a graduate degree (outside Columbia University) may apply to have those courses counted as ELECTIVE transfer credit.* If a student feels they have sufficient knowledge of Economics and would like to waive out of the core Economics courses in order to take more advanced coursework, they may take the Economics Placement Exam (previously referred to as a Proficiency exam). The Placement Exam consists of a Micro section and a Macro section.  Students may elect to take one or both of the sections, but may only take each section once during their academic career.   If a student is successful in passing one or both sections of the Economics Placement Exam, they are still required to complete an alternate Economics course(s) (3-6 credits) to fulfill the SIPA Master’s degree Economics requirement Note: Students who pass these placement exams are still required to take 6 credits of other Economics classes to substitute for the Economics core. See Policy on Advanced Standing in Economics below for further details.
  2. Quantitative Analysis 
    -  SIPA U6500 Quantitative Analysis for International Public Affairs
    -  SIPA U6501 Quantitative Analysis II for International Public Affairs  
  3. AccountingSIPA U6200 Accounting for International Public Affairs
  4. Languages

    - SIPA offers proficiency exams in French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. Information about SIPA proficiency exams can be found here.

    - SIPA language proficiency exams consist of two parts: written and conversational. The written part takes 2 hours and consists of grammar, translation, vocabulary and reading comprehension (at the level comparable to an undergraduate Intermediate II course). If you pass the written part of the exam you will be contacted by email to schedule the oral exam.

    - The language proficiency exams offered in these languages by SIPA are separate from the placement examinations offered by language departments.

    - Placement exams in French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish do not fulfill SIPA’s language requirement. Information about placement examinations and registration for classes is available on respective departmental websites for French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.

    - For information regarding how to demonstrate proficiency in languages other than these listed please contact