The Complete French Language Examinations List
Which Exam is Right For You?
Learn More About French Language Examinations
The French language, with more than 80 million native speakers and more than 190 million people that speak it as their second language, is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. Even when it might seem surprising, the majority of French speakers live on the African continent, where the French Empire had a lot of colonies. Actually, French is an official language in 29 countries from different continents, so we can agree on the fact that French is a true global language.
As a matter of fact, quite a few decades ago French was used as the lingua franca in most parts of Europe and it was the foreign language to learn at the time. Nowadays French has lost part of its international relevance against the hegemony of English, but it’s still very important for diplomatic purposes, being one of the official languages in key international organizations such as the UN or the European Union, and it is also very important in the business environment.
If you have been studying French with the aim, for example, of studying at a French university or to pursue a professional career in any of the multiple French-speaking countries, you will quite probably be required to prove your level with an official French language certificate.
As with any other language, students of French need to take specific examinations to obtain a diploma that certifies their level of French. The choice is quite broad. The most popular exams are those administered by the International Center for French Studies (CIEP, Centre international d’études pédagogiques), such as the DILF, DELF, DALF and TCF, on which you will find more information below. However, other institutions also offer examinations that lead to obtaining widely recognized French certificates:
- Alliance Française
- Certificat d’Études de Français Pratique (CEFP)
- Diplôme de Langue (DL)
- Diplôme Supérieur Langue et Culture Françaises (DSLCF)
- Paris Chamber of Commerce (CCIP, Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris)
- Test d’évaluation du français (TEF)
- Diplômes de français professionnel (DFP Business)
- Certificat de Français du Tourisme et de l’Hôtellerie (CFTH)
If you are thinking on obtaining a French certificate, have a look below to find some more information about the main exams and what you should take into account before deciding which exam you want to take.
Main French Language Exams
|Name||DILF – Diplôme Initial de Langue Française||DELF (Diplôme d’études en langue française)||DALF (Diplôme approfondi de langue française)|
|Testing board||International Centre for French Studies (CIEP), on behalf of the French Ministry of Education|
|Since||2006||1985, revised in 2005.|
|Level||A1|| From A1 to B2
(4 different exams)
| C1 and C2
(2 different exams)
|Validity||Lifelong. These certificates do not have an expiry date.|
|Results|| The DILF, DELF and DALF exams are made of four parts, each one of them covering different skills:
Each section is qualified in a score 0/25, and added to an overall grade of 0/100. To pass the exam and obtain the diploma, candidates need to reach an overall grade of 50/100 and a minimum of 5/25 in each individual section.
|Purpose||The DILF exam evaluates basic users and certifies a beginner level, A1 (the lowest level of the CEFR scale). It is useful as an initial step towards the more advanced DELF and DALF exams.||DELF exams are meant for students with a beginner to upper-intermediate level. Depending on the level, they can prove the ability of the candidate to interact in different contexts. A1 and A2 only certify a basic knowledge, but the certificates B1 and B2 demonstrate a level which is already good enough to establish professional relations, and are therefore valued by employers.|| The DALF diplomas are an indispensable requirement for foreign students wishing to study at a French university. They demonstrate a very advanced proficiency of the French language, even nearly as good as native for the DELF C2.
They are also highly valued for professionals and are recognized by many employers worldwide as a valid language accreditation for those jobs that require using French at a business level on a daily basis.
|Price|| The registration fees for the DILF, DELF and DALF exams are set by the Commission Nationale, but prices can vary depending on the countries and the exam center.
|Name||TCF – Test de connaissance du français|
|Testing board||International Center for French Studies (CIEP), on behalf of the French Ministry of Education|
|Level||From A1 to C2, depending on the score|
|Results|| The TCF exam has a compulsory part that consists of three different sections that must be taken by all candidates, and two optional parts that can be taken individually.
They consist mainly of multiple choice questions and work as an adaptive testing, delivering the subsequent questions in increasing difficulty according to the ability that the candidate shows during the test.
Results are awarded on a scale 0/699 and have a direct correspondence to CEFR levels:
|Purpose||This exam is meant to inform about the candidate’s level of French for general purposes, evaluating the main skills of the language. It is a reliable way to certify the level of French useful for academic, professional or personal reasons, indicating the level at a certain time. It is also recognised by administrative authorities and serves as a proof of the French level for immigration and nationality procedures, and even for teaching French as a foreign language abroad.|
|Price range|| The fees for the TCF exam can vary depending on the country or the test center.
Which French Exam Should I Take?
All of the exams above are offered in France and in many international test centers all over the world, so you won’t need to worry a lot about your location, as it’s quite probably that you have a test center quite close to you.
Let’s focus first on the level. The DILF exam covers a very basic level, equivalent to the CEFR A1. This is the initial level for students of a foreign language, and for that reason this certificate is not very well known and also not that useful. If you are starting to learn French and want the extra push of motivation that comes with receiving an official diploma, you can take this exam. Otherwise, you can skip it and move on to higher levels.
DELF and DALF are the most widely recognized French exams, which cover all levels from A1 to C2. Same as we said for the DILF, unless you are especially keen on obtaining the diplomas, the first two levels are not overly useful. Things start to get more serious from DELF B1. Both DELF B1 and B2 levels are useful for academic and professional opportunities. However, if your intention is to study at a French-speaking university, you will need to aim higher and pass either the DALF C1 or C2. In DELF and DALF exams you either pass or fail, and if you pass you will get the corresponding French certificate for the level you have been tested for.
The DILF, DELF and DALF exams are in fact all part of the same diploma scheme. The three different names are kept for historic reasons, but since 2006 they are just exams and diplomas corresponding to the CEFR levels. The TCF, however, has a different nature. This exam does not lead to a diploma, but is aimed to certify the actual level of a candidate by means of a certificate of grading. This certificate is a snapshot of the candidate’s French proficiency at a certain time, which is why the TCF has a validity of only two years. On the contrary, DILF, DELF and DALF diplomas are valid forever. So unless you are applying for a specific procedure where the TCF certification is required, such as French residency or a visa, you might be better off taking one of the other exams and getting a certificate that won’t expire.
How Can Lingoda Help You With Your French Exams?
Before taking any of the official French language examinations mentioned above, you need to take your time to prepare for it. Even when you have the right level, it’s important to become familiar with the specific structure of the exam and the typical exercises that are part of each different section. Nowadays, for this you don’t need to make the big effort of buying books and attending lessons in a traditional language school. You can do so online!
Already on the official pages for the different French tests, you will be able to find useful materials, which include sample papers from previous years. And thanks to the wonders of online learning, you can take live French lessons with a native and qualified teacher using your laptop. This allows you to save time and gives you the chance of organizing your own schedule according to your individual needs. Lingoda courses are designed in line with the CEFR standards, and our teachers and personal advisers are fully committed to the success of our students. As a result, they are perfect both for beginners and for those who just need to brush up on their French before taking an exam.