Students at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and Lingnan College are to take a language test to ensure their proficiency in English, written Chinese and Putonghua upon graduating. The two institutes had agreed to carry out the same English exit test, said Professor Liz Hamp-Lyons, the head of PolyU's English Department. Lingnan College will require all the 710 third-year undergraduates of the 1998- 99 academic year to take an exit test on the three languages. The examination papers of written Chinese and Putonghua exit tests are still being drawn up. Students with Grade E in the Use of English in the Advanced Level (AL) Examination must take a non-credit bearing English foundation course, while those with Grade D in the Chinese Language and Culture AL exam should take a non-credit-bearing Chinese foundation course. The college will offer refresher courses preparing students for the exit exam. The results will be stated on the students' transcripts. But they will not affect a student's honour rating on graduation. Meanwhile, 2,370 undergraduates joining PolyU this academic year are being asked to take an exit test on graduating. Some students can refuse but it will be compulsory for the 224 students majoring in language-related subjects. It is proposed that exit exam results be graded from one to six with detailed descriptions on a student's strengths and weaknesses in each language. Exit test results will be printed on a certificate separate from the student's graduation document. PolyU's undergraduates must take a minimum of three credits on English oral and written skills this academic year and a minimum of three on written Chinese and spoken Putonghua will be compulsory to all students next year. Those who fail do not graduate. A student should score the equivalent of the minimum three credits in the English course in order to pass. Professor Poon Chung-kwong, the PolyU president, said: 'The exit examination is not the only way to ensure students' language proficiency. Various compulsory and non-compulsory courses can ensure students have a basic understanding of the languages. 'Students who take the examination and get good results will certainly show them to employers,' Professor Poon said. 'When employers know there is a language exit examination, they will ask for the results. It is a pressure to put students under the examination,' he said. Professor Poon said university staff would review the exam after a certain period. Optional classes preparing third-year undergraduates for the exit test are likely to be offered. Experts at the Asian Centre for Language Assessment Research are developing material for the preparatory classes. The Research Grants Committee set aside $3.5 million for the centre to carry out a three-year project to design an exit assessment for university students. A total of 100 PolyU teaching staff are learning the assessment method this semester. The centre will pilot the English exit test in each of the next two years before it is formally taken by third-year students in the 1999-2000 academic year. A PolyU survey showed that more than 85 per cent of the university's teaching staff wanted to see the test implemented.