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Which French language certification should you take: DILF, DELF, or DALF?

By Aline
Reading Time: 4 minutes
French exams

Embarking on a journey to learn French opens a world of opportunities, from higher education in France to global professional ventures. For international students, achieving certification in French proficiency through the DILF, DELF, and DALF exams is a critical milestone. This guide will navigate you through these French exams, providing a stepping stone to your dreams of living and studying in France.

Understanding the French Exams

The Diplôme Initial de Langue Française (DILF), Diplôme d’Études en Langue Française (DELF), and Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française (DALF) are official certifications issued by the French Ministry of Education to validate the French language skills of non-native speakers. These French exams are tailored to different proficiency levels and offer a structured pathway to mastering French.

Levels and Validity

  • DILF is the entry-level certificate designed for beginners, corresponding to the A1.1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). It’s the first step for those just starting their French language journey.
  • DELF caters to learners from levels A1 to B2, covering basic to upper-intermediate language skills. It assesses the four language competencies: listening, reading, writing, and speaking.
  • DALF is aimed at advanced learners, with C1 and C2 levels, showcasing a high degree of fluency and command of the language.

DELF and DALF certificates have lifetime validity, symbolizing a permanent recognition of your language proficiency. The DILF, serving as an initial benchmark, also carries significant value for beginners.

Exam Components

Each exam level tests candidates on four competencies: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

1. Listening
  • Format: This section typically includes listening to recordings of conversations, news bulletins, or monologues on everyday topics. The recordings are played twice.
  • Tasks: Candidates answer a series of questions related to the recordings. The questions can be multiple-choice (QCM – Questionnaire à Choix Multiples), fill-in-the-blank, or true/false.
  • Purpose: To assess the candidate’s ability to understand spoken French in various contexts.
2. Speaking
  • Format: The speaking test varies from structured exercises and guided conversations at lower levels (DILF, DELF A1, A2) to a presentation and discussion on a given topic at higher levels (DELF B1, B2, DALF C1, C2).
  • Tasks: At lower levels, candidates might be asked to introduce themselves, describe their environment, activities, or plans. At higher levels, they present arguments and opinions on abstract topics.
  • Purpose: To evaluate the candidate’s ability to communicate effectively in spoken French.
3. Reading
  • Format: This involves reading various texts, which could range from notices, letters, and articles for lower levels to complex texts on abstract or practical topics for higher levels.
  • Tasks: Questions following the texts can include multiple-choice, matching, fill-in-the-gaps, and short answer questions.
  • Purpose: To test the candidate’s understanding of written French and the ability to process information and arguments from written sources.
4. Writing
  • Format: Writing tasks depend on the exam level. Lower levels might involve writing personal letters or messages, while higher levels require essays or formal letters.
  • Tasks: Candidates may be asked to express personal opinions, summarize texts, or write according to a given situation using the appropriate register and style.
  • Purpose: To assess the ability to write in French clearly and coherently, presenting information or arguments.
Scoring System & Minimum Score to Pass

Each section of the exam (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) is typically scored out of 25 points, making a total of 100 points for the entire exam. To pass any of the DELF or DALF exams, a candidate must obtain a total score of at least 50 out of 100. Additionally, candidates must score a minimum of 5 out of 25 in each of the four sections. This requirement ensures that candidates have a balanced proficiency across all language skills.

French exams

Schedule and Costs

The French exams are scheduled globally, usually taking place in March, June, September, and December. The DILF, being less common, might have more variable dates depending on the exam center. Costs vary by level and location but generally range from €50 to €250. It’s essential to consult your nearest exam center for precise dates and fees.

Where to Take the French Exams

Authorized centers worldwide, including French Institutes, Alliance Française branches, and accredited language schools, offer these French exams. Early registration is recommended as spaces can fill quickly, especially for the more popular DELF and DALF exams.

Use this interactive map to find the exam center nearest to you, or explore our language schools. All are accredited for administering exams or preparing you for them.

Preparing for Success

Successful preparation involves a mix of formal study, such as courses or online resources, and practical experience, like engaging with French media or conversation practice. Many language schools in France offer preparatory courses specifically designed for these exams, which can be incredibly beneficial. Contact us for more information.

The Value of DILF, DELF, and DALF

Securing these certifications not only meets the prerequisites for studying in France – as universities and higher education institutions often require B2 or C1 level certification, but also enhances your resume, proving your proficiency to employers and educational institutions globally. Beyond the practical benefits, achieving these certifications is a testament to your dedication and hard work in mastering a new language. Well done!

Conclusion

The DILF, DELF, and DALF French exams represent key milestones in the French learning journey, offering structured paths to proficiency for international students. From the basics to advanced fluency, these certifications open doors to educational and professional opportunities in the Francophone world. With thorough preparation and determination, these exams can be your bridge to achieving your French language goals and embracing the rich opportunities that fluency in French provides. Bonne chance on your path to French mastery!

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