The Big 5 French Language Tests: All You Need to Know

Do you want to boost your CV and land your dream job in a French-speaking country? Or maybe you plan to acquire French citizenship by naturalisation? You may even be thinking about travelling to France to study.

Paris - French language tests

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Whatever the scenario, it is likely you will need to pass a recognised and accredited French language test. These tests have a very detailed grading system, which makes them reliable to measure the proficiency of every test-taker in the same way. In this way, the institution that requests the certificate can understand your level of proficiency in French and have the reassurance you will understand the language sufficiently to accomplish your goals.

Though there are plenty of certifications to choose from, not all of them are appropriate for every circumstance. While some of these certificates are more widely accepted at universities, others are better to prove your ability to do business in French.

Let’s explore the most appropriate French tests available for your needs and requirements!

Which French Language Test Should I Take?

Below, we explore the most popular and widely accepted French language certificates and the purpose for which they are often needed. However, if you already know the professional entity you need to approach to achieve your specific goal, you should always confirm with the organisation itself which exam they require you to pass and to what level.

The DELF Exam

The Diplôme d’Études en Langue Française is the most widely recognised international assessment of a person’s French ability. It uses the CEFR (Common European Framework for Languages) to measure proficiency, lasts two-and-a-half hours, and has one version for children/adolescents and another for adults. This French language test covers all levels from Beginner to Upper-Intermediate.

There are several versions of this exam, each one better suited for a different purpose:

  • DELF tout public: Suitable to show one’s French proficiency for general purposes.
  • DELF junior: Suitable for teenagers, with a focus on daily activities.
  • DELF pro: Designed with professionals in mind. It covers all the linguistic aspects that you need to know to work in a French-speaking environment.
  • DELF prim: This French proficiency test is ideal for children who are just starting to learn French. All the topics are appropriate for young age groups.
  • DELF scolaire: Suitable for high school students.

Each exam is independent of the next. This means that you can sign up for the most advanced exam without ever having taken a French language test before.

When preparing for this exam, bear in mind that you will be tested on all aspects of French comprehension and communication: listening, reading, writing and speaking. If you need help to practise your listening skills, try our own French Listening Level Test for FREE to evaluate your French listening level.

The DALF Exam

This exam is administered by the same institution as the DELF: The International Centre for French Studies (CIEP), which is a subsidiary of the French Ministry of Education. This French test is specifically aimed at Advanced students (CEFR levels C1 and C2).

Candidates are assessed on the four major aspects of the language (listening, reading, writing and speaking) and need to get 50 points out of 100.

A C1 qualification is usually required to enrol in a master’s or doctorate programme, but few institutions will ask for a C2-level certification. Most people who take the latter do so simply to challenge themselves, to show prospective employers that they speak the language at a near-fluent level, or because they want to teach French as a second language.

Le Diplôme de Compétences en Langue (DCL)

This diploma is geared towards adults who need to prove their French competency to enter the labour market. It assesses the candidates’ skills in different scenarios that resemble the ones that professionals encounter in their daily work duties.

Diplôme Universitaire d’Etudes Françaises (DUEF)

The DUEF is usually taken by students who need to prove they are proficient in French for university admissions. It covers all the levels, from Beginner to Advanced, but candidates typically need to achieve Upper-Intermediate and above to be accepted onto a university course. While many universities offer courses to help students prepare for this exam, the classes are usually crowded. So, to start your revision as soon as possible and enjoy more personalised instruction, consider enrolling in private French classes with a native tutor.

Test de Connaissance du Français pour l’accès à la nationalité française (TCF ANF)

This is the most popular French-language test for citizenship via marriage or naturalisation. It is also administered by the CIEP and consists of four sections, taking a total of one hour and 50 minutes to complete.

  • Listening comprehension – 25 minutes
  • Individual oral expression – 10 minutes with an evaluator
  • Reading comprehension – 45 minutes
  • Written expression – 30 minutes with an evaluator

In order to qualify for French citizenship, candidates need to show that they have at least an Intermediate level in the national language.

French passports - French language tests

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Whichever exam you choose to take, something holds true for all of them: you will need to prepare. Readying yourself for an international exam requires knowledge of the test format. Unfortunately, a common cause of failure is people not having an in-depth knowledge of how the exam works prior to taking it.

But our native-speaking French teachers are experts in this matter! They can design a course specifically tailored to boost your strengths, improve your weaknesses, and tell you all you need to know about the format and contents of the exam. They can even prepare you with practice papers.

Get started with your own preparation by taking our FREE French proficiency test. The questions are designed to reflect those asked in some of the exams listed above, and you will get your results the moment you submit your answers.