Achieving eXcellence in Liberal Education

About AXLE | Distribution Categories | Foreign Language Proficiency
Writing Requirements | First-Year Writing Seminars


Proficiency Test Guidelines
for Incoming Students Under AXLE

1. FOREIGN LANGUAGES: see AXLE description, below.

All students must demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language at a basic level. Basic level = 1 year of study at the university level. One year at university level = completion of or proficiency in second semester of foreign language instruction by some means: AP credit; IB credit; SAT II; or appropriate Vanderbilt course.

Below are the test scores by which students may demonstrate the Foreign Language proficiency required in AXLE:

AP scores of 4 or 5 in Chinese Language and Culture; French Language or French Literature; German Language; Italian Language and Culture; Japanese Language and Culture; Vergil, Latin Lyric Poetry, or Latin Literature; Spanish Language or Spanish Literature.

IB scores of 6 or 7 in French (Higher), Japanese (Higher), Latin (Higher), Russian (Higher), or Spanish (Higher).

SAT II scores of at least 540 (French), 470 (German), 530 (Modern Hebrew), 540 (Italian), 440 (Japanese with Listening), 530 (Latin), or 520 (Spanish).

IMPORTANT NOTE (CLARIFIED JUNE 2014): Beginning August 1 2014, students who wish to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language, but who do not have an appropriate AP, IB, or SAT II test score, must do so via testing through the Tennessee Foreign Language Institute. Students must take both the oral and written tests and score a minimum of 4 on each test to demonstrate proficiency for the purposes of AXLE. (Latin and classical Greek are exceptions to the TFLI requirement; proficiency tests for those two languages are administered through the Department of Classical Studies.)

Students who, through test scores, demonstrate proficiency to the level of a second-semester language acquisition course taught at Vanderbilt are not required to take any further foreign language instruction, but must complete three courses in the International category in AXLE.

For further information on TFLI testing, please see this document: TFLI test info Dec 2014.pdf. If you have additional questions, contact Dean Karen Campbell

Description of AXLE Distribution Category: INT = International Cultures

All students must complete three courses in this category, irrespective of previous language study or proficiency in a language other than English. At least one of the three courses presented in fulfillment of this category must be a second semester (or higher) language acquisition class taught at Vanderbilt University, unless the student successfully demonstrates proficiency in a language other than English at or above the level achieved by second semester language acquisition classes taught at Vanderbilt University. The first semester of an introductory language acquisition class in any language a student has studied for at least two years in high school, or in which a student transfers credit from another institution, cannot be used in partial fulfillment of this requirement. Intensive elementary language courses that cover the content of two semesters in one shall count as one course toward this category.



AXLE Distribution Category: MNS = Mathematics and Natural Sciences

There is no specific math requirement though many students take a math course in partial fulfillment of this category.

Any student planning to major or minor in one of the following should take calculus (which is required or strongly recommended for these majors/minors):

  • Astronomy
  • Biological Sciences
  • Chemistry
  • Earth & Environmental Sciences
  • Economics
  • Neuroscience
  • Physics
  • Psychology & Sociology possibly, depending on specialization


Writing is the only skill that is privileged in the AXLE curriculum. ALL STUDENTS MUST COMPLETE AT LEAST 3 WRITING COURSES UNDER AXLE. SOME WILL COMPLETE 4. (Transfer students must complete at least one writing course at Vanderbilt, and may be required to complete 2 or 3.)

Students who do not test out of English 1100 must enroll in the course during their first year (and, preferably, during their first semester) at Vanderbilt. The following standardized test scores will exempt a student from English 1100:

  • SAT II Writing test score of 560 or higher;
  • SAT I Critical Reasoning/Reading test score of 500 or higher and SAT I Writing test score of 500 or higher and combined score on Critical Reasoning + Writing of 1220 or higher;
  • ACT English test score of 27 or higher and ACT Writing test score of 7 or higher;
  • AP test score of 4 or 5 on either English Language & Composition or English Literature & Composition.
  1. No AP credit can be counted towards the 13 courses required for AXLE.
  2. AP credit does count towards other areas of a student’s course of study.
  3. AP credit is also used, in some cases, for placement in individual levels of courses.