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Graduate Advising | SIS

Language Requirement

(Tool of Research)

Students are no longer required to take a signed Tool of Research (TOR) Form to the TOR Exam.

Language Proficiency Requirement for SIS Graduate Degrees

Basic Requirement

To satisfy the tool of research requirement (also known for most SIS programs as the language requirement), students must be able to conduct research in a language other than English. “Research” for the purposes of this degree requirement means reading comprehension. Students for whom English is not their native language may be certified on the basis of their native language and English (the language of instruction for their graduate degree). All English language speakers will be required to certify proficiency in a language other than English.


  • reading proficiency at the INTERMEDIATE level
  • ability to read an article written in the language with good comprehension using a dictionary only for specialized terminology

For students whose first language is English, proficiency in another language may be demonstrated by:

  • Passing the free Tool of Research (TOR) examination in a language tested by the Center for Language Exploration, Acquisition, and Research (CLEAR) at American University. The TOR is offered in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Swahili, and Arabic. To confirm exam dates and to register for the next Tool of Research Exam click here.
  • Bachelor’s degree in the language completed within 3 years of the date of matriculation.
  • Degree from a foreign university in which the language of instruction is not English completed within 3 years of the date of matriculation.

Alternatively, a student can be certified based on the following:

  • Presenting evidence of completion of a continuing education or graduate-level course in the language at the intermediate level with a grade of B or better.
  • If AU's Center for Language Learning does not offer a TOR exam in a language, we will accept certification by an accredited instructor/tutor of the language (please consult with your academic advisor prior to pursuing this option).

Either of these means can be certified up to a year before the student matriculates.

N.B. If you have a learning disability that may adversely impact your ability to acquire foreign language competency, you must register with and provide documentation from American University's Academic Support Center. In such cases, the School will determine an alternative tool of research for you.


Last updated 12 September 2016

Quick Links

CAS Tool of Research Prep Courses: CAS-025 Reading Preparation for TOR and CAS-600 Language Preparation for TOR

Grad Student Language Resources

Center for Language Exploration, Acquisition and Research (CLEAR) - TOR Exam Registration