Practical Phonetics Exam


Linguistics graduate students are required to pass a practical phonetics exam (oral production and auditory transcription of sounds of the world’s languages, using the IPA) before taking Field Methods. The department also requires TAs for Linguistics 103 (General Phonetics) to have a “High Pass” on this exam. You can take the exam as many times as needed until you pass at the level you need.  The exam is not required for the M.A. degree.

The exam is usually offered three times a year by the instructor for Linguistics 103, usually scheduled as part of the regular Ling. 103 exam at the end of each quarter it is taught. During a quarter in which you want to take the exam, you should notify the instructor before the end of the quarter, so that you can be informed of the exam schedule. See the course schedule (or the online registrar’s schedule) for course and instructor information.  The instructor may also have a handout about what will be tested, and the precise format, which differs across instructors.


One way to prepare for the exam is to take Linguistics 403. This is a 1-unit course which is a subset of Linguistics 103, set up specifically for this purpose. Ignore what the university schedule of classes may say about attending Linguistics 103 lectures (though you are certainly free to do that if you like, whether or not you are enrolled in 403). What you are supposed to do is to attend a weekly section meeting, which is where the practical practice happens, including practice specifically for the test. The sections also give instruction in use of the computer-based practice tools described below. You can also attend one or more Ling. 103 sections without enrolling in 403. If you want to find out about the schedule of topics for the section meetings, get in touch with the TA for the course.

If you would like to practice on your own, you could work through the example word-sets and the performance exercises in Peter Ladefoged’s textbook, A Course in Phonetics (in Powell Library). You can do this over the web from Peter Ladefoged’s Course in Phonetics website, or you can use the CD that comes with some editions of the textbook (if available). Particularly helpful performance exercises are Ch. 3 E and F, Ch. 4 B and E, Ch. 5 C and D, Ch. 6 Q and V, Ch. 7 W, Ch. 9 J, L, N, O, Ch. 10 C and F, and Ch. 11 all : you want to be able to produce and transcribe such utterances.