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Persian Studies at the University of Virginia

The University of Virginia can take pride in being one of the few American academic institutions that has offered courses in Persian language and literature for four decades.  In addition to being a long-standing program, the Persian Program at the University of Virginia has been recognized as one of the strongest Persian programs nationwide.  Professor Michael Houdson of Georgetown University reported in his assessment that “Persian Studies…  is an asset to the University, particularly as UVa strives for more ‘international’ capabilities and recognition.

The UVa Persian Program seeks to promote greater awareness and appreciation of the cultural richness of an ancient civilization; at the same time, it seeks to foster a better understanding of contemporary Iran. Our program focuses principally on Iranian studies; however it bears mention that as the official language in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Persian has been designated a “critical language” and has become a crucial area of study for many students seeking degrees in Politics and Foreign Affairs. Persian is also widely spoken in at least thirteen more countries (Uzbekistan, Turkey, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, United States, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Israel, Bahrain, Canada, Russia, and Kuwait). 

Two years of Persian language instruction (Elementary and Intermediate Persian) provide proficiency in areas of comprehension, conversation, reading, and writing.  In the third year of Persian study, students explore the intricacies and complexities of the Persian language through the introduction of original literary works—prose and poetry, classical and modern.  Larger social, political, historical, and cultural aspects of literary production in Persian are emphasized in a variety of literature courses.

The faculty and the course offerings of the Persian Studies program at the University of Virginia bridge multiple disciplines. Our interdisciplinary program offers not only multi-level courses in Persian language and literature, spanning the period from the birth of the language as a literary force to contemporary times, we also offer courses in: classical and contemporary literature in English translation; women’s studies; cinema; and philology.

The Persian program offers two categories of courses: (PERS) classes taught in Persian; (PETR) Persian literature in translation classes. This allows students to both acquire specialized knowledge in the language and to explore varied interests in literary, philosophical, cultural, and historical aspects of Persian literature through the study of translated works.

Persian Placement Test

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Placement / Foreign Language Requirement Exemption for Persian

Placement into Perisan language courses at the University of Virginia is done through an online Persian placement exam followed by an interview which evaluates your oral competence.

1. If you have not previously studied Persian, you may enroll directly in PERS 1010: Elementary Persian.

2. If you have studied Persian previously, at home or in a setting other than UVA and don't know exactly which class you should enroll in, you need to take the online Persian placement exam prior to our summer orientation session. Contact the Persian Language Program Coordinator, Mahshad Mohit at to receive instructions on taking it.

3. Students who want to be exempted from the College's Foreign Language Requirement need to take the online Persian placement exam and the following oral interview. The exemption will be determined by the program coordinator.

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Who Should Take This Exam

This test is for students who are either heritage learners of Persian (that is, you have experience regularly hearing or using Persian at home) or have previously studied Persian in a formal setting, and who wish to enroll in a Persian language course or to test out of the Persian language program at UVA. 

Your placement will be determined by the results of this exam, and a required subsequent oral interview.

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Your Results

After you take the test, the program coordinator will contact you with your score and course placement. If you have not heard from the placement coordinator within 5 business days, please contact Prof. Mahshad Mohit (

Course Descriptions

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PERS 1010 - Elementary Persian

Introductory language sequence focusing on reading, writing, comprehending, and speaking modern Persian through audio-lingual methods. Persian grammar is introduced through sentence patterns in the form of dialogues and monologues.

Credits: 4

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PERS 2010 - Intermediate Persian

Each course focuses on the development of reading, writing, and speaking skills. Special attention is paid to reading comprehension using selections from classical and modern Persian prose and poetry, preparing students for advanced studies in Indo-Persian language and literature. Prerequisite: PERS 1020 or equivalent, or instructor permission.

Credits: 4

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PERS 3010 - Advanced Persian I

This course is designed to introduce the students to the world of Persian prose literature. We will read a variety of prose genre. We will look at the semantics, morphology, and syntax and analyze the topic vis-à-vis these aspects. Prerequisite: PERS 2020 or equivalent

Credits: 3

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PERS 4993 - Independent Study in Persian

Independent study for advanced students of Persian. Prerequisite: Instructor permission.

Credits: 1-3