Even if you’re learning French for pleasure, you may find it useful to take an exam to prove the level you’ve reached. At times, it may even be necessary, in particular, if you’ve decided to move to France or if you’re looking for a job abroad. In such cases, you’ll need to pass an official exam that’s recognized internationally. The DELF, DALF and DILF exams that are designed by the Council of Europe are among the most common ones and cater to all certification levels in the French language. But what’s behind these acronyms? What levels do they cover? And what are the steps to take them? Find out the answers to all these questions and more.
- What is the DELF exam?
- What are other official French language certifications?
- Why and how should you pass a French language certification?
What is the DELF exam?
The DELF or Diplôme d’études en langue française (French language studies diploma) is one of the main tests offered by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). It aims at assessing French learners who have reached a beginner or intermediate level. It’s one of the most useful diplomas to get, especially if you wish to apply for a job or to attend a university in France.
There are four DELF exams you may choose from, depending on the level of French you’ve reached, based on the official CEFR levels: DELF A1 and DELF A2 for beginners and DELF B1 and DELF B2 for intermediate learners. Each test is made of four parts, to assess your skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing. Each part counts for a total of 25 points. A minimum of 50 points is needed in order to pass, with at least 5 points in each part.
What are other official French language certifications?
The two other official French language certifications are the DILF and the DALF, which are aimed at very beginner learners and very advanced learners, respectively. Let’s have a closer look at each of them.
The DILF or Diplôme initial de langue française (French language initial diploma) came about following a request from the French Ministère de la Culture (Ministry of Culture), to assess a seventh level outside the standard CEFR levels. This pre-beginner level, commonly labeled A1.1, is mostly used to assess migrants who know very little French (if any), and may even not be fully literate in their own mother tongue.
While the DILF still focuses on the four main linguistic skills, it focuses more on listening and speaking abilities. These two parts of the test count for 35 points each, whereas the writing and reading parts only count for 15 points each. You still need to obtain a minimum of 50 points to pass the exam.
At the other end of the spectrum, the DALF or Diplôme approfondi de langue française (Advanced French Studies Diploma) is aimed at more advanced learners, who have reached the C1 or C2 CEFR levels.
It has the same general structure as the DELF exams, with 25 points devoted to each of the four sections. However, due to the greater complexity of the DALF, more time is required to complete each part. For instance, preparing for the oral expression section will be more demanding as you’ll need to deliver a 20-minute presentation and interview, instead of having just to answer a few questions as you do with the DELF.
According to your level, you can choose between the DALF C1 or the DALF C2. The DALF C1 aims at assessing the ability of more advanced learners to discuss “complex topics” and to understand “long and demanding texts”. It may be a prerequisite in order to register for certain master’s or doctorate programs.
For your ultimate linguistic challenge, the DALF C2 demands a “degree of precision, adequacy and ease with the language found in the speech of those who have studied to a high level”. So while it’s not quite yet the level of a native speaker, it implies several months of immersive learning. By the time you’re ready to take it, you’re likely to have spent time attending a French university or working in France.
Why and how should you pass a French language certification?
Confirming your level
It’s important to remember the DELF, DILF and DALF certificates are not meant to help you figure out what your level of French is, but rather to confirm and validate the level you’ve reached, as prospective employers or universities may request it. As these diplomas have been designed by the Council of Europe, they are recognized throughout Europe. They’re particularly useful if you’re building your CV or resume before applying for a job in a French-speaking country. Mentioning the DELF or the DALF will definitely look more official than simply stating you have a beginner or intermediate level in French.
How to sign up
Once you have decided which test you should take, depending on your level, you can sign up to the exam center closer to you. There are testing centers all around the world. Most exam centers that offer the DELF also offer the DALF. The same can’t always be said of the DILF, which tends to be offered in specific centers. It’s also worth remembering that the registration fees may vary depending on the center and the exam you choose.
Prepare for the test
Even if you have the right level, it’s important to prepare yourself to pass these official French exams. After all, practice makes perfect! It will give you the opportunity to get used to the format of the test and have a better understanding of what will be required of you. If anything else, you’ll come to the exam center more self-assured!
Get to the next level by passing a French language certification
Between the DELF, the DALF and even the DILF, you can choose the certification best suited to your level and your needs. You can also find DILF, DALF and DELF exam centers wherever you are around the world. Since they are designed by the Council of Europe, these official exams are recognized throughout Europe and are therefore very useful to prove the level of French you have reached, for instance ahead of an application for a job or at a university. Time to put yourself to the test!