What if I told you that your French could make you money, get you into a great university or even allow you to live and work in another country?
You might think I’m crazy, but your French is valuable. French is spoken by hundreds of millions of people in over 30 countries!
To reap some of the benefits of your French skills, as mentioned above, you’ll likely have to take a French level test first.
I remember I was sweating bullets when I first took a French level exam. I couldn’t even log in! Then, once I did manage to log in—after the test had already started—I thought the first section was a tutorial! When I asked the proctor for help, she said she couldn’t help me because the test had already begun.
What a disaster!
So, to avoid repeating my history, let’s talk about how you can prepare for these tests ahead of time, as well as the best one to take for your specific end goal.
There’s no time like the present to prove on paper how exceptional your French language skills really are!
The Benefits of Taking a French Level Test
Learn your strengths and weaknesses
French level tests are comprehensive. This means that they test your reading, writing and listening skills, and sometimes your oral skills. Each section is separately graded, so you’ll know where you stand in each component of the French language, and also what you need to work on.
Gain entry to French universities
Although there are over 1,400 programs that you can take in France in English, if you want to study in France in French, you’ll need to be at an intermediate level. The only official way to prove this is to take a French level test. By proving your level in French, you’ll have a lot more program choices if you test high enough.
Find work as a French teacher
If your dream is to become a French teacher, either as a private tutor, at a language institute or at a school, you’ll be required to prove that you have an advanced level of French. The certification that you’ll receive after completing a French level exam should be sufficient.
Become a certified translator
After mastering a language, it’s not uncommon for a fluent-speaker to offer their services as a translator. There’s a lot of competition in this field, though. However, you can stand out by becoming a certified translator, which is generally done by taking a specific type of French level exam.
Immigrate to Quebec
Do you want to move to the province of Quebec in Canada? Did you know that your application for a visa or residency will likely receive more consideration if you speak French? This is because Quebec is a mostly French-speaking province, and they select their own immigrants. A valuable criterion for obtaining a visa or residency is that you speak French.
What to Know Before You Take a French Level Exam
Even if you speak French well, these exams can throw curve-balls; so, you need to know how to study and prepare for them.
How French level exams are typically graded
The vast majority of the French level exams are graded according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This system splits language speakers into six levels: A1, A2 (Beginner), B1, B2 (Intermediate) and C1, C2 (Advanced).
However, some exams have their own grading systems.
Usually, for immigration and college admission purposes, you’ll need to demonstrate a B2 level, and for teaching, a minimum score of C1 is often mandatory.
Where to find grade-A resources for studying
You don’t necessarily need resources that are exclusively dedicated to French level tests per se. At the end of the day, what you need is just a way to practice French.
- To practice your French grammar skills, To Learn French is a valuable resource. You can also take practice tests that’ll assess your French language level similarly to official French level tests.
- To practice your listening skills, you’ll need to fine-tune your ears to French. FluentU has a seemingly endless supply of videos specifically geared toward French language learning.
- To practice your oral skills for the interview component, consider signing up for a French-language class that focuses on conversational skills, or seek out a language partner to practice French with.
- To practice your writing skills for the essay component, search for and complete French writing prompts. When you have completed your essay, run it through Grammarly to check for grammatical errors.
A bonus of using Grammarly is that next to each error or suggestion, you’ll receive an explanation and often various options to help you improve your writing. While it’s a great grammar checking tool, it’s also a fantastic written language learning tool.
What to do on test day
- Eat a good breakfast.
- Make sure you have all the required test materials.
- Arrive at the test center at least 30 minutes prior to your scheduled exam.
- Check-in and register for your French level exam.
- Pay close attention to all oral instructions.
- Read written instructions carefully.
- Ask any questions you might have before the test begins.
- Take a deep breath, and give it your all!
The Top French Level Tests in 2022 for Students, Teachers, Translators and Visa Seekers
You’ll find several French language level tests out there, and it may be confusing to know which one to take for which purpose. Below you’ll find a summary of the main French exams, as well as how to register for them.
Test de connaissance du français (TCF)
Although the Test de connaissance du français is generally used for gaining admission to French universities, it can also be used as a professional language certification and for immigration purposes. The exam includes a listening, reading and grammar section. There’s also an optional oral and writing component.
To register for the TCF, you’ll need to find an approved TCF center and contact the nearest one to you to ask about specific registration formalities.
Test d’évaluation de français (TEF Canada)
The Test d’évaluation de français covers much of the same ground as the TCF, but the difference is that it’s more widely used when planning to immigrate to Canada. The TEF includes reading, essay writing, speaking, listening and grammar sections. However, depending on the specific TEF exam you take, these sections can vary.
Grading is done on a scale of 0 to 6, which corresponds to A1 to C2. To register, like with the TCF, you’ll need to find your nearest approved center and contact them about dates and prices.
Diplôme d’études en langue française / Diplôme approfondi de langue française (DELF / DALF)
Unlike the TEF or the TCF, the DELF and the DALF are actual diplomas awarded by the French Ministry of Education. Both tests include reading, writing, listening and speaking components. The DELF is for those who have a beginner to intermediate French level and the DALF is for advanced speakers.
A huge advantage of the DELF and DALF is that since they’re diplomas, you’ll have the certification for life, unlike the TCF and TEF, which expire after two years.
As you can guess, you’ll need to find a center approved to give the DELF and DALF and inquire about prices and dates.
American Translators Association (ATA)
This exam is a little different because it doesn’t test your language level in different areas but rather your ability to provide understandable translations. To become a translator, you’ll need this focused exam. It’s a three-hour exam that includes three text passages of about 250 words each to translate.
You must be a member of ATA before you can register for the exam. To join ATA so that you can register for the exam, fill out this PDF. To register for the ATA exam, fill out the registration form.
As you know now, standardized French level tests can serve several purposes and can be your ticket to turning your passion for French into tangible benefits. The tests are widely available and are offered several times per year, so there’s no reason not to certify your level!
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