Say you love reading French literature. Whenever you find yourself in Paris, you're wandering through the bookstalls on the banks of the Seine, looking for an addition to your collection. You've found a novel by Zola or Beauvoir...

Sat with a café au lait nearby you begin to read your new book, understanding each word!

Would this validate your foreign language skills or ability to effectively use French in a variety of situations?

Unfortunately, it is not the case.

You need an official test administered by the Ministry of National Education in France to prove your French level.

Comparing your Year 12 exam results doesn't quite get you an equivalent score. 

French language certification exams are broken into three segments which correspond with one or more levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Language.

To refresh your memory of the CEFRL:

Starting at A1, this describes a basic knowledge of the language with C2 representing fluency. The B1 and B2 exams are designed to test an intermediate level.

The table at the bottom of this article shows how the French exams correlate with the CEFRL.

These are called DILF, DELF and DALF.

Click here to figure out how much French tutoring costs whilst we dig a little deeper below to learn about these exams.

DILF - French Exams for Beginners

The hint is in the acronym: the I in DILF stands for 'initial' and the E in DELF abbreviates 'études' (the word for studies in French).

You would therefore be right to guess that the DILF test is for those just beginning French with a reasonable grasp of French grammar and French vocabulary. 

The DILF is awarded by the French Ministry of Education to officially recognise a basic French competence level in line with A1.1 on the CERFL scale. 

To obtain this qualification, all four language learning skills are tested: reading, writing, speaking and listening.

  • The reading section will test your understanding of simple instructions and basic information.
  • For the writing portion, you might be asked to complete a form or compose a simple message. Your ability to correctly note down numbers will also be tested here.
  • The listening component will also quiz your understanding of a public message or simple instruction. Numbers may again be used.
  • The speaking part will confront you with an interview panel of examiners, who will also test your conversational skills, such as introducing people or scheduling appointments.

The speech and listening sections are scored higher in this exam than the reading and writing parts – which total 30 points. 

An overall score of 50/100 is needed to pass the DILF.

A grade of 35/70 for the oral portion is considered satisfactory.

Be aware that there are actually no questions in the exam specifically dedicated to French grammar or verb conjugation.

The DILF can be the first step taken before the DELF.

As it is not offered elsewhere, you can only sit the DILF in France. Perhaps you could couple this with a French immersion or study abroad trip?

Search for a French class Melbourne and find a French teacher to prepare you for the exams.

Young learners are able to sit the DELF exams as they are based on a progressive learning model.
Younger students are able to take the DELF as it is a progressive exam. Source: Pixabay Credit: Khamkor

DELF - French Exams for Any Level

To clarify, whilst these exams are progressive, there is no requirement to first test at the elementary level before taking the intermediate exam.

The DELF covers various skill levels. The DELF Prim can test students as young as seven, with the DELF Pro designed more for adults or business professionals learning French.

The most commonly taken test is the DELF Tout Public, open to all skill levels.

These exams increase in their difficulty but do assess the same language elements as the DILF: reading, writing, speaking and listening.

The subject matter which is covered and the intensity of the exams do actually differ. Such is demonstrated by the time allotted for each test.

The duration of the A1 exam is one hour and twenty minutes, whilst participants are given two hours to complete the B2 exam and have discussion questions ranging from politics to other hot debate topics.

There are no placement tests that decide which certification exam should be taken.

You are welcome to complete a sample test offered by the French Ministry of Education to determine which test is suited to your skill level.

The DELF is scored with a pass/fail metric. An exam score above the threshold will certify you at that level.

Say you do not perform as you wish and you fail to certify due to insufficient  French pronunciation skills, you will be able to retake the exam after 60 days.

In contrast with other forms of language testing you cannot redo individual sections of the DELF, you will be required to resit the entire exam.

How much the exams cost depends upon their level. The current price for an A1 exam is around $200, with a B2 exam charged at $250. 

Note that you will have to pay each time the DELF is taken, even if you sit the same test twice.

Start your exam preparation with some French lessons Sydney.

DALF - Advanced French Exams

If you have been taking French lessons for a while now and perhaps are looking at French as an ATAR subject,  you might be considered somewhat of a bilingual or to have an advanced level of French.

Your language study and subsequent abilities in reading, writing, and speaking may qualify you for the DALF: a comprehensive exam which takes a more thorough look ar your discourse skills in French and whether you are able to write or have a conversation about humanities, social issues or current events.

The C1 exam will last for a tad over four hours and cost you around $300. 

Next up, the C2 exam will test your knowledge of French language and culture at the highest level, taking three and a half hours and also costing $300.

Having considered all the different tests, let's now take a closer look at the exams in the étude programme which would likely suit your level of proficiency. 

The DELF exam is the only way to certify your level of French!
Unfortunately, you cannot prove your language proficiency by painting a flag on yourself! You'll have to engage a French teacher and sit the DELF. Source: Pixabay Credit: Icarrissimi

Useful Tips to Consider

Identify the Right Exam

If you're an adult with a slightly more advanced level, your choice of proficiency test can either be the DELF Tout Public, or the DELF Pro which is ideal for those aspiring to work in any French speaking countries.

The proficiency assessments of both exams will range from A1 to B2 however the content and materials differ slightly.

In the DELF Pro, you will find more business terminology.

Those who are younger have a wider choice of exams:

  • Prim is for primary school students and tests A1.1 to A2 levels
  • Junior is for those in secondary school and tests A1 to B2 levels
    • The levels are the same as the adult tests, but the topics discussed are geared more towards people of that age group
  • Scolaire is the same as the Junior exam, but it is taken in a classroom and administered by a French language learning center
    • If your child is learning French at an Alliance Francaise in Melbourne or Sydney for example, their teacher may suggest they sit the DELF

Improve your French grammar by finding some French lessons here.

Find Your Local Examination Center

If you live outside of France and are not currently enrolled in a language school, you will have to contact the nearest testing center.

If you are enrolled in a language school, check first if they are certified to officially administer the DELF. 

You will only find a handful of certified testing centers in Australia. It is advised that you get in touch with them to learn when the next test dates are available, the latest criteria and how you can secure a spot. 

Find out when and where the exam will take place to knock out the chance of any confusion on the day.

Improve your French skills by organising some online lessons with a Superprof tutor.
Search for Superprof French teacher online to help gain some better French vocabulary! Source: Pixabay Credit: Jeshoots

Practice Makes Perfect!

From the second you enroll in the DELF, you should be seizing every opportunity to speak French, read and listen to the language.

Participate as much as possible in your French courses and feel free to pose questions to your French teacher over any language element you are struggling with.

How about supplementing your language studies with a French tutor on Superprof!

Attend any events which celebrate French culture and have a conversation with as many native speakers as you can!

See if your local library would be keen to host a French movie night. They might also have some DVDs for rent.

Tune into French TV and music streaming services!

These are some activities that would assist anyone learning French as a second language to reinforce their abilities and prepare for the DELF.

Immersion programs are also incredibly helpful to those learning a language. Living in France or a country where French is the official language will no doubt improve your skills and help you get ready for the DELF.

Engaging in language classes and supplementing them with some of the above activities will absolutely prepare anyone to sit the DELF!

Read about further ways you can practice your French skills here.

Before you leave, familiarise yourself with how the French language certification exams correlate with the CEFRL. Good luck, or should we say... Bonne chance!

DELF PrimPrimary school students aged 7 to 12Levels tested: A1.1; A1; A2
DELF JuniorSecondary school students aged 12 to 17Levels tested: A1; A2; B1; B2
DELF ScolaireSecondary school students aged 12 to 17Levels tested: A1; A2; B1; B2
DELF Tout PublicAdultsLevels tested: A1; A2; B1; B2
DELF ProAdultsLevels tested: A1; A2; B1; B2
DALFAdultsLevels tested: C1 and C2

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