Once you get to a certain level in French, you might want to prove your worth.
But which test should you take to show everyone just how well you can parler?
The DILF, DELF and DALF may sound more like a trio of muppets than tests, but they can actually be an essential tool in establishing your French level.
We’re going to take a look at each one, so you’ll know which test is right for you, why you should take it, plus tips for passing.
DILF, DELF or DALF: Which Test Is Right for You (and How to Pass It)
The DILF, DELF and DALF are three different tests offered by the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework. The diplomas obtained when these tests are taken situate your level within an official European guideline.
Similar tests throughout Europe have been created for other European languages, each of which is divided into six levels, starting from A1 and going through to C2.
In France, these levels are tested using the DELF and DALF exams.
- The DELF exam tests the A1 and A2 levels, which are seen as beginner or “basic,” and the B1 and B2 levels, which are intermediate or “independent.”
- The DALF tests C1 and C2, which are referred to as advanced or “proficient.”
- The DILF tests a seventh level that does not exist throughout Europe, which is pre-beginner or introductory, and has been dubbed A1.1.
We’ll go into more detail about the differences between the levels a bit later on.
Why Take a Test?
These diplomas are quite useful for European employers and schools who want new hires/students to have a certain level in any foreign language, as the tests are regulated and conform across Europe.
A B2 speaker of French, Spanish or Italian will have approximately the same proficiency in each language, and writing on your CV or resume that you have a B2 diploma is quite a bit clearer than saying “intermediate,” for example.
How to Choose the Right Test for You: DILF, DELF or DALF
If you want to take one of these tests to prove your French level, it is imperative that you choose the correct test.
Because unlike placement tests, the DILF, DELF and DALF do not tell you what your level is. Rather, you must ascertain which level you believe you have and take the appropriate test to earn that diploma, thus validating your level.
If you take and fail a B2 test, for example, you cannot earn a B1 diploma. If you take a B1 test and pass with flying colors, the judges will not give you a B2 diploma.
For this reason, unless you absolutely need to prove that you have a certain level, for example for a job or university entrance requirement, it is often a good idea to err on the side of caution and take the test that you believe may be easier. This way, you will hold at least one diploma no matter what, and you can set your sights on the next level afterwards.
To choose which test to take, first read the descriptions below, and try to ascertain which category of test best suits your language level. Then try some test exercises to zero in on the proper test to take.
The DILF, or Diplôme initial de langue française, tests the lowest level of French, categorized as A1.1. This level is appropriate for someone just starting to learn French, thus the name of the test: initial diploma of French language.
The DILF was developed specifically for France following a demand from the French Ministry of Culture’s general directorate for French and the languages of France. It is predominantly taken by migrants to France with little to no French exposure, particularly those who may not be fully literate in their native tongue. For this reason, many exam centers do not offer the DILF, and it is rare that a student of French would take this test.
As opposed to the DELF and the DALF, the DILF prioritizes spoken and listening communication and comprehension over written and reading communication and comprehension.
The DELF, or Diplôme d’études en langue française is the test that will concern most French learners, as it tests levels from A1 through B2, covering beginner and intermediate learners.
Within the DELF category of tests are four different exams. When opting to take the DELF, you will have to choose amongst the DELF A1, DELF A2, DELF B1 or DELF B2 tests, as each test is specially tailored to students of that level.
The DELF is one of the most useful diplomas to have, particularly when applying to French jobs or for French university degrees. Most undergraduate and graduate programs require a B2 diploma, though some undergraduate programs accept B1. B1 and B2 are also the levels that most French workplaces require if your job is going to include a moderate amount of French.
The DALF or Diplôme approfondi de langue française is the advanced language diploma. It is very similar to the DELF, though it is not always offered at the same test centers at the same time as the DELF is being administered. Two DALF tests exist: one for level C1, and the other for level C2.
A C1 is required by some master’s and doctorate programs.
C2 is a rare test to take, as by the time you have reached this level, you usually have another degree that outweighs it, for example a French master’s degree. Earning a C2 diploma usually requires at least several months of immersive learning as well, meaning that someone with a C2 level has likely already attended French university or worked in a French job.
What the Tests Are Like
The DILF, DELF and DALF vary enormously depending on which level exam you are taking, but in spite of this, the format remains very similar for all of the tests.
Each of the tests examines four different elements of French language, highlighting cultural comprehension as well as linguistic comprehension. The four elements are:
- reading comprehension
- listening comprehension
- writing expression
- oral expression
Each of the sections of the DELF and DALF are graded out of 25 points. In the DILF, however, the listening comprehension and spoken production sections are worth 35 points, and the other two sections are worth 15. You must get at least 50 points total to pass, with at least 5 points in each section.
Each level will have different time allocated to each of the sections, as well as a different format. For example, in the DALF, the oral expression will require a 20-minute presentation and interview, whereas for the DELF, just a few questions will be asked.
For more information about the specifics of the section that concerns you, check out this official guide to the DELF and DALF.
How to Sign Up for the DILF, DELF or DALF
Once you have decided which test best suits your level, it is time to sign up. There are a variety of testing centers throughout the world where you can take the tests, and you can usually easily sign up online.
Registration fees vary depending on the testing center, but usually begin at around $100 for the lowest levels and up to $200-250 for the DALF.
How to Succeed at the DILF, DELF or DALF
So how can you succeed at these tests? The best way is to be prepared and practice. Like with any test, it is a good idea to get used to the format of the test, which is why on top of your regular French practice, you should try some exercises in the same format as the DILF, DELF and DALF.
Here are some links to get you started:
- This page offers several sample exercises for all four DILF sections, affording you more than enough opportunities to practice.
- Here are some online practice resources for the DILF.
- Here are some more practice exercises for the DILF.
- Here are some great resources to practice the DELF test, no matter your level, including recordings for the listening portion.
- This site is especially great if you don’t know what level you are yet.
- This Canadian site offers resources and test exams for the DILF, DELF and DALF C1.
- This site has tons of mock exams, giving you more than enough opportunities to practice.
- Here are some great resources to practice the DALF test, no matter your level, including recordings for the listening portion.
- Sample papers for the C1 tend to be available on DELF sites, but the C2 is a bit harder to come by. This site offers some great sample DALF C2 papers, and here’s a downloadable C2 test to try.
No matter which test you take, the best thing you can do to ensure that you succeed is continue to work on your French. Do this by taking advantage of FluentU resources.
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