How to prepare for your official French exam

by Audrey Sivadier
January 21, 2021
woman preparing for her official French exam

Have you decided to take a French exam? Bravo! It’s an excellent way to boost your language learning. Whether for personal pleasure or for professional requirements, several different French language tests exist.  In order to prepare for these important exams, you will need to know the differences between the tests and how long they will all take. Here is a summary of what awaits you on your French language learning journey!

The different official French exams

1. TCF (test de connaissance du français)

This is the test you will need to take if you want to obtain French nationality or a residence permit.

The TCF (test de connaissance du français) consists of 3 compulsory tests:

  • Listening (25 minutes)
  • Structures of the language (15 minutes)
  • Reading (45 minutes)

and 2 complimentary tests:

  • Speaking (12 minutes)
  • Writing (60 minutes)

To prepare for the listening part, it is recommended that you listen to French radio, especially Radio France Internationale. Often, extracts from this radio station are used within the tests!

For the other tests, training sessions are available on the TV5monde website, you can even experience a free real-time test!

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2. DELF (Diplôme d’Études de Langue Française)

The DELF is intended for adults, foreigners or people who do not have French as their mother tongue, and who wish to enhance their skills in this language for personal or professional purposes.

The DELF tests 4 skills:

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Speaking
  • Writing

The DELF test is available in 4 levels:

  • DELF A1
  • DELF A2
  • DELF B1
  • DELF B2

These levels are linked to the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).

To prepare for the DELF, the France Éducation Internationale provides free sample papers. This will allow you to check how the tests are structured and you can check the different test durations according to your level.

There are 3 collective tests:

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing

and one individual test:

  • Speaking

There are 6 different types of DELF:

  • tout public (adults)
  • prim (primary)
  • junior
  • scolaire (secondary)
  • pro (professionals)
  • DALF (Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française)

The DALF is in the same form as the DELF, with the same type of tests. The only difference is that it is a diploma certifying a higher level: C1 and C2 according to the CEFR.

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Top tips for your official French exam

  • Sleep is not lazy! A good night’s sleep will help you to concentrate.
  • Studying all day long will only give you a headache. Move around, get some exercise and some fresh air.
  • During the exam, take the time to read the instructions, and read all the exercise before rushing into answering them.

Listening tips

It’s best to be able to travel or live in a French-speaking country to work on this test. If this is not your case, or you don’t have the option to travel at the moment, don’t panic! As we said before, you can listen to the radio or watch French TV (or even Netflix). Radio France Internationale is particularly helpful for French learners as they offer a daily newscast in easy-to-follow French.

For beginners, there is nothing better than listening to songs in French or watching films with subtitles to acquire the melody and sounds of French.

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Get reading right

To prepare for this test, it is really important that you regularly read French texts and review the vocabulary. Reading the test questions properly is also a must. However, you must remember that the idea of an exam is to answer as many questions as possible in order to score points, so it’s not the time to seek perfection!

Winning writing tips

French official tests have instructions to guide you through the process. They are designed so that all the words give you ideas and allow you to put your thoughts in order. We recommend that you line up the words that seem important to you and take notes on a separate sheet of paper. You will also need to know the codes and vocabulary to write a letter, an email, a postcard, an invitation, etc.

How to write a formal letter in French.

Speaking sensation

Speaking exams are usually the exam that most people fear. Before your test, try to find a language exchange partner and communicate via the internet. Speak as much as possible, as you do during your lessons with Lingoda, naturally, with ease, and you will succeed without any problem!

If you take all these tips into consideration, you’re bound to do brilliant on your next official French exam. Best of luck! Don’t forget you can sign up for your free 7-day French trial with Lingoda if you want to practise your speaking and listening skills!

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