After what seemed like a never ending summer vacation, I am back to Qum and have proceeded forward with the next stage of studies. Usually after the Farsi program is completed, most students enter into a program called Tamhidiyya. In these 6 months or so, students go through various introductory courses designed to get the students familiar with some of the subjects that they may later dwell much deeper into and this time period also helps students become stronger in their Farsi.
This program still takes place at Madrassah al-Mahdi so all in all most students end up spending their first year in this school. There is a way to get out of the Tamhidiyyah program and that is if a person is capable of giving oral tests for 4 of the main subjects that are taught, namely Aqaid, Ahkam, Sarf (Arabic Morphology) and Nahw (Arabic Syntax). If one is able to do those after their Farsi program (they give around 14 days from the time you finish Farsi to be able to do these 4 exams), they can enroll into a Hawzah of their choice in the semester that begins next. The passing mark in all tests in Tamhidiyah is a 12 out of 20. Courses such as Aqaid, Sarf and Nahw are done again in Hawzah from scratch and in much greater depth. Some types of students, for example those who already have some hawzah education in the past and were only in this school to learn Farsi are exempt from this program.
The Tamhidiyya program covers a lot of different subjects besides the 4 mentioned above. You have about 14-15 subjects such as tajweed, memorization of certain Qur’anic surahs, a course that helps you translate many of the Qur’anic verses, history, akhlaq etc. All together during these 6-7 months, expect yourself to give approximately 40 tests, including final exams and some oral ones, for all the subjects combined together. There are five classes in a day and the week runs 6 days – only Friday is off. Some courses such as Aqaid usually take about the whole term to finish, whereas others can be finished earlier. The moment a course is done, students move on to another subject. They also have opportunities to test out of the courses while in the program or to give midterms etc. if they want to proceed through them faster (these tests are called irteqaee; just like in the Farsi program).
The teachers speak a lot more fluently in this program, and one should be able to understand majority of what is being said in class by now. More details on the program (in Farsi) can be read here: تعریف دوره معارف اسلامی