There comes a certain time where you catch yourself thinking in French, that leads to you realizing that maybe your those years of taking French lessons paid off and that your level of French has reached an advanced level.

Now that you know this, its time to prove that you are in fact an advanced French speaker.

There are two different types of exams that can certify your French language skills, the DELF, short for diplôme d'études en langue française, and the DALF, short for diplôme approfondi de langue française.

These may sound like tongue twisters more than actual certifications, but let's dive into the details to see which one is right for you.

The DELF will test your beginners and intermediate French language skills. These include levels A1, A2, B1, and B2. The DALF, on the other hand, will test on an advanced level, such as C1 and C2. Passing either of these is a huge accomplishment already!

What are the differences between DELF and DALF?

woman thinking at a work desk
Being DELF or DALF certified can be useful when living as a foreigner in France as it may be required to apply to some companies or universities. Source: Visual hunt

Becoming certified in French after years of taking French lessons may be beneficial for you in the long haul. For starters, once you become certified on either the DELF or DALF, it is valid for life!

This certification will also be useful if you are applying to a new company or university where you must have a certain level of French, some may even require it. Plus, having a diploma in a foreign language will always look good on your resume.

Now its time to decide what test you should go for. One thing you should keep in mind when trying to decide is that neither the DELF or DALF will give you a result of what your French level is, it will just prove that you are in fact a French speaker of intermediate to advanced level.

To start with, let's look at the DELF exam. One thing to realize about the DELF exam is that there are four different types of exams you can take, depending on what level you wish to be certified in.

There is the DELF A1, DELF A2, DELF B1, and DELF B2. Each one is broken down into four subjects: listening, reading, writing and speaking. The French Ministry of Education provides grids of what each exam coves.

If you are considering going to a University in France or any other French-speaking institute around the world, you have to keep in mind that the DELF will most likely be required.

The positive side of this is that once you do receive your certification, there is no expiration date. It will also come in handy if you apply to companies where French will be spoken.

The DALF, on the other hand, is considered an advanced French speaker. For this exam, there are only two types of tests, C1 and C2. People at this level are considered independent French speakers with a large vocabulary and the capacity of expressing themselves fluently.

The C1 exam is usually required by higher education programs such as a masters or doctorate. The C2 exam is even less common and is a much more demanding exam as it requires months of preparation. Someone with a C2 level has already completed his or her studies in French or has held a position in a French-speaking organization.

If you feel this may be the test for you, make sure to review these sample papers offered by the French Ministry of Education before signing up.

Becoming DILF Certified First

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Becoming DILF certified before taking the DELF can be a great starting point to ease the nerves and expose you to the style of these exams. Source: Braden Collum on Unsplash

There is one exam that is not talked about as much but that can be a great starting point to becoming DELF or DALF certified. This exam is called DILF, short for Diplôme Initial de Langue Française. The DILF focuses on the most basic level of French, A1.1.

This exam prioritizes spoken and listening communication and comprehension overwritten and reading communication and comprehension.

If you don’t feel as competent yet to take on the DELF or you just want to warm yourself up to your upcoming DELF exam, then taking the DILF will definitely be great practice for you.

Practice does make perfect and when it comes to learning a new language, you need all the practice you can get.

Detailed information on the exam as well as sample papers to practice before the DILF exam can be found on the French Ministry of Education’s website.

What are the tests like?

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All of the exams, the DILF, DELF, and DALF, will focus on four sections, reading, writing, speaking and listening. Source: LucasTheExperience on Visual Hunt

All three exams, the DILF, DELF and DALF, consist of a total of 100 points per exam. Each one is broken down into skill categories, listening, reading, speaking and writing. Each of these categories is then adapted to the level you are testing and how you will be graded.

Starting with the basic exam, the DILF exam has a duration of 1 hour and 15 minutes. This exam is broken into 4 categories: listening comprehension, reading comprehension, spoken production, and written production. Both the listening and speaking sections are each worth 35 points and the reading and writing sections are each worth 15 points.

For the listening and speaking sections, you’ll be played different types of audio pieces. You’ll be required to understand basic information that can range from addresses, names, numbers or instructions.

You’ll also be required to do basic introductions, expressing a need or asking for something. In order to pass the exam, you’ll need to a score of at least 35 out of 70 points.

The reading and writing portions will also be testing your understanding, but you’ll be asked to fill out forms, writing down information such as phone numbers, addresses or a date.

Like mentioned before, the total amount of points for the entire exam is 100 points. The required score in order to pass the entire exam is 70 out of 100 points.

Continuing with the DELF exam, this exam has a duration ranging from 1 hour and 20 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes. This is due to the fact that there are four levels of DELF exams, which we explained earlier – DELF A1, A2, B1 and B2.

All of the DELF exams are again broken into their four categories – listening, reading, writing and speaking, which are each worth 25 points. Because this exam is testing your intermediate level of French proficiency, you will be required to answer questionnaires based on assigned recordings.

An additional part of this exam will be expressing personal opinions, exchanging information with someone and writing general letters. The context can vary depending on the test center but the structure of the exam will remain the same.

Last but not least, the DALF exam. There are two types of exams, the C1 and C2, which vary in duration times. The C1 exam has a duration of 4 hours, while the C2 has a duration of 3 hours and 30 minutes. Both of these exams will certify your advanced level of French-speaking, writing, listening, and reading.

The C1 exam will have the repeated four categories with each being 25 points. For the listening and reading portions, you will be required to complete questionnaires based on text and recordings.

For the writing and speaking sections, you’ll be required to write an essay, create and give a presentation, and summarize several documents, among other things.

The C2 exam is the only exam that has only 2 sections each worth 50 points. They go as follows, listening and speaking as one section and comprehension and writing as the other. The first part of the exam, listening and speaking, consists of a write up based on a recording. The candidate will also be required to debate with the examiners.

The second section, comprehension and writing, candidates are required to write a structured report based on several documents. The candidates can choose between a topic in humanities or science. For the DALF, a score of 50 points out of 100 is required.

Sign up for the DILF, DELF or DALF

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When setting a date to take your exam, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to review all of your French study materials. Source: VisualHunt

After researching all three exams and deciding what is the best option for you, now it is time to sign up for the exam! Unfortunately, you cannot sign up for any of these three tests online, you have to sign up directly with a test center that offers these exams.

Depending on where you are in the United States, you may want to look up what center is closest to you and you’ll need to contact them directly to ask for fees and dates.

While you wait for your exam date, remember these three things: practice, practice, and practice with a French tutor or alone. Remember to go over as many sample papers and exercises that are provided by the French Ministry of Education to help you prepare for the exam.

Good Luck!


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