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CLEAR | Tool of Research Examination

TOR: FAQ & Common Issues

Below you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions about the Tool of Research (TOR) Language Examination. If your queries are not answered after consulting the information below, please send an e-mail message to so that your questions may be properly addressed.

What is the Tool of Research Language Exam?

The Tool of Research Language Examination, also called the TOR, is a required reading examination set up by your graduate program administered by CLEAR to evaluate and assess your ability to perform primary research in a language other than English.

Do I need to take the Tool of Research Exam?

Most American University master's and doctoral programs require research-level proficiency in reading comprehension in a foreign language. Taking the Tool of Research Language Exam administered by CLEAR is one way you can meet this requirement. 

Please meet with your graduate academic advisor to determine whether your program has a TOR requirement and the options for how to satisfy your program's language proficiency requirement.

How long is the examination?

You have two (2.5) hours to complete the TOR exam.

What languages are available?

CLEAR administers exams in the following 10 languages:

Arabic, Chinese (Simplified & Traditional), French, German, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili and Spanish.

*If the language you want to be examined in is not listed, please contact your academic adviser for options on setting up alternate testing.

All exams are administered in person, in a proctored setting, via a computerized platform.

What is the format of the TOR?

  • Each exam consists of three assorted texts (approximately 750-800 words long) with 5 multiple choice questions linked to each text, for a total of 15 items.

What is the passing score needed to satisfy the TOR requirement?

  • In order to satisfy the requirement, you need to answer correctly 9 or more of the 15 questions presented (60% or better).

What do I need to do to take the TOR?

  • Register for a testing session during an available registration period using the GenBook button posted in the registration page.
  • If you need to modify or cancel your reservation, be sure to use the link provided in your confirmation e-mail.
On the day of the examination
  • You must have an official picture ID (AU or government-issued) to sit for the exam.
  • You must arrive at least 10 minutes before your session.

May I use a dictionary?

You may use a printed dictionary for the TOR. You can bring your own, but we can also provide you with one.  Electronic dictionaries are not allowed.

How can I prepare for the TOR?

Depending on the language you are testing on, you may utilize printed resources available at CLEAR (books to learn and practice reading strategies and answering questions) and/or online tutorials (depending on availability).

What dates/times are the TOR exams given?

10 sessions are offered every year (all on Saturdays): 4 during the Spring semester, 4 during the Fall semester, and 2 during the early summer.  Dates for the current semester sessions are posted here.

Where is the Exam administered?

  • Asbury, North Wing, basement level (across from AU Central).
    Phone: 202.885.2357

How will I find out the results of my exam?

  • The computer-based exams will post results automatically upon completion.
  • Once the testing session is complete, the results will be forwarded to your department. Your department will e-mail you notification at this time.

May I retake the exam?

  • Each student may sit for the TOR Language Exam up to a maximum of three (3) times.
  • Master's candidates can only test in one language per session and are restricted to a 3-test limit overall.
  • You may not take the TOR more than twice within a 4-month period.
  • If you fail the exam after the second administration, you are strongly urged to confer with CLEAR's Director, your advisor, department or school on how to improve your language skills before attempting the examination a third and final time.

Is there any other information that I should know?

  • Any appearance of cheating will cause immediate termination of your exam.