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Which French proficiency test should you take: TEF, TCF, DCL, or CLOÉ?

By Aline
Reading Time: 4 minutes
French proficiency test

If you’re planning to live or study in France, proving your French language proficiency is a critical step. Among the array of tests available, the Test d’Évaluation de Français (TEF), Test de Connaissance du Français (TCF), Diplôme de Compétence en Langue (DCL), and CLOÉ stand out. In this guide, we’ll help you navigate through these tests to select the French proficiency test that aligns with your goals.

Understanding the French Proficiency Tests

Whether you’re eyeing to study at a French university, immigrate, or enhance your professional profile, understanding the nuances of each test—TEF, TCF, DCL, and CLOÉ—will guide you to make an informed decision.

The TEF is widely recognized for immigration and for studying in France. It’s suitable for those aiming to validate their French skills for professional, personal, or academic reasons. Like the TEF, the TCF is recognized for university admissions and is also used for French nationality applications and residency permits.

The DCL is tailored for adults seeking to validate their French proficiency for professional purposes. On the same vein, CLOÉ is a relatively new digital evaluation tool designed for both individuals and organizations to assess French language proficiency in professional contexts.

Levels and Validity

The levels for the TEF, TCF, DCL, and CLOÉ span across the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), from A1 for beginners to C2 for those who have mastered the language. This broad range ensures that every learner can find a test that corresponds to their proficiency level.

The TEF and TCF are particularly favored by those looking to fulfill language requirements for university admissions or immigration, with both tests’ results being valid for 2 years.

The DCL, aimed at professionals, boasts indefinite validity, making it a lasting testament to your language skills. CLOÉ, the digital newcomer, caters to the modern needs of individuals and organizations assessing French language proficiency in professional settings.

Exam Components

Each test is meticulously designed to evaluate a range of language skills.

The TEF and TCF cover reading, writing, listening, and speaking, offering optional modules for immigration or academic purposes. Their structure is tailored to provide a comprehensive assessment of language proficiency.

On the other hand, the DCL focuses on practical language use in a professional context, simulating real-life work scenarios to test language skills. CLOÉ, embracing the digital era, assesses written and oral comprehension and expression through online tests, emphasizing the professional use of French in business environments.

Issuing Authorities

The French proficiency tests—TEF, TCF, DCL, and CLOÉ—are issued and granted by various organizations, each with its specific focus and authority in the Francophone academic and professional world. Here’s a brief overview of the entities behind these tests:

Test d’Évaluation de Français (TEF)

Issued by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris (CCIP), now often referred to as Paris Ile-de-France Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The CCIP is responsible for creating and administering the TEF, ensuring its alignment with international standards for language proficiency assessment.

Test de Connaissance du Français (TCF)

Issued by the French Ministry of Education, through an organization called France Éducation International (previously known as CIEP – Centre international d’études pédagogiques). This body is tasked with promoting French language and culture globally and ensures the TCF is standardized for academic and immigration purposes.

Diplôme de Compétence en Langue (DCL)

Issued by the French Ministry of Education, specifically designed for adults continuing their education or seeking to validate their language skills for professional reasons. The DCL is recognized by the French Ministry of National Education, Higher Education, and Research, making it a credible certification for professional advancement in France.

CLOÉ (Certification en Langue Française Professionnelle)

This is a newer digital assessment tool, and specific details about its issuing body might vary. It is designed to cater to the needs of both individuals and organizations looking to certify French language proficiency in professional contexts. Given its digital and professional orientation, CLOÉ may be issued by various organizations focusing on professional education and training in the French language.

French proficiency test

Which French Proficiency Test Should You Choose?

Selecting the right French proficiency test ultimately depends on your objectives. If you’re aiming for higher education or immigration, the TEF and TCF offer comprehensive assessments recognized by universities and government bodies. For professionals looking to validate their French for career advancement in France, the DCL is a robust choice. Meanwhile, CLOÉ offers a modern, flexible option for those focusing on business French.

Where to Take Your Test

Authorized centers worldwide, including French Institutes, Alliance Française branches, and accredited language schools, offer these French proficiency tests. Early registration is recommended as spaces can fill quickly.

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


Each test has its unique strengths, catering to different needs and goals. By understanding the purpose, levels, validity, components, schedule, and costs associated with the TEF, TCF, DCL, and CLOÉ, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your aspirations to live, study, or work in France. Choosing the right French proficiency test is a pivotal step in your journey, unlocking doors to new opportunities and adventures in the Francophone world.

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