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The Ultimate French Test Guide

Table of Contents

 

Say you’re in the South of France driving around the countryside. You’re so captivated by the beautiful scenery that you lose track of how to return to your bed and breakfast (service is too choppy to trust Google Maps). You arrive in a small town and are greeted by a few, welcoming natives.

Now it’s time to put your French to the test. Are you conversational enough to explain your situation? Fluent enough to tell a joke while you’re at it or barely getting by with Google translate?

Whichever one of these three situations you fall into, Progress with Lawless French's programme can help you get to the next level. And if you’re not sure how you’d respond in a quaint town in France, our level test for French proficiency can help you figure out your French level.

Knowing your CEFR level is the first step on your path to fluency

Whether you’re an avid language learner or just getting started, chances are you’ve probably heard of the CEFR, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. These evidence-based levels give you a clear, objective rating of your language comprehension and understanding. Think of it as a sort of “French fluency test” that will assess your proficiency. You can take our French level test right here on our site and have your exam professionally assessed by our A.I. to give you the most accurate CEFR French level to get you started.

Once you’ve taken the test and discovered your French level, you’ll be able to get a sense of what skills and abilities you’ve mastered and the ones you need to improve on. This baseline is a great way to make sure you’re getting the right resources, learning tools, and support to get to the next level.

Check out the six levels of French proficiency and what you can expect to have an understanding of at each stage.

A0 French Level

At this French level, you’re considered a brand-new beginner. But no worries, a lot of people start with very little previous knowledge of the French language. We all gotta start somewhere, right? At this level, you may even know a few basic terms and common words, but overall, you’re still at a very novice stage of your language learning journey.

Now, if you’ve never taken any formal classes or training, it’s completely understandable why you scored an A0 French level on your French fluency test. Our online French course uses A.I. technology to factor your CEFR score and help you get up to speed.

A1: Beginner

This stage is a step above no knowledge, but still somewhat of a novice. At an A1 French level, you can hold your own in a simple conversation where the other person is speaking slowly and clearly. You can also probably manage to ask for directions to a restaurant if you’re ever visiting Paris. At this stage you’re able to:

  • Introduce yourself or a friend.
  • Understand simple phrases and common expressions — Parlez-vous anglais, anyone?
  • Respond to basic questions about family, where you’re from, age, etc.
  • Engage in simple conversations. You’ll probably still need a little help (repeating words, reformulating sentences, etc.).

A2: Elementary

Now we’re getting there! The A2 French level indicates your ability to understand broader phrases and expressions about everyday circumstances, from your personal life to your professional life. At this stage you’re able to:

  • Discuss fundamental aspects of your personal life (name, age, place of residence), shopping, relationships, professions, career, and education.
  • Use simple terms to describe your surroundings and express your needs.
  • Talk about simple tasks and familiar subjects.

B1: Intermediate

Here’s where concepts and language start connecting. At a B1 French level, you’ve effectively moved past the greetings and touristy questions and now getting into more of the contextual components needed to become fluent in French. You also have some basic writing skills that can help you in professional or educational settings. At this stage, you’re able to:

  • Have deeper, clearer conversations about familiar topics — including work, school, hobbies, etc.
  • Get a good grasp on events and varying situations when travelling to a French-speaking country or city.
  • Write simple texts about familiar topics, hobbies or basic interests.
  • Provide descriptive explanations of an experience, dream, event, etc.
  • Engage in cohesive arguments to support a project or idea.

B2: Upper Intermediate

If you’re at a B2 French level, you’re considered upper intermediate. At this point, you’ve got a solid understanding of grammar, syntax, and other elements within the French language. And while you’ve still got a ways to go before you’re considered advanced, you have enough comprehension to comfortably hold conversations with natives. You’re also able to:

  • Understand complex text and main ideas, even if it’s technical text — especially if it’s about a familiar topic or within an area of interest.
  • Express ideas and opinions clearly and with a high level of detail on a wide range of topics.
  • Discuss current events and news, and make comprehensive arguments for or against these topics.
  • Browse French websites and understand them (though you may still encounter words or idioms you’re not familiar with).

C1: Advanced

You’ve made it — this is the French level where fluent speakers (both native and non-native) usually score. If you’re at this Advanced stage, you’re very close to mastering the French language. Not only do you understand complex vocabulary and grammar, but you’ve also grasped native idioms and nuances.

  • Effectively understand an extensive range of vocabulary within a complex text and pick up on the nuances i.e., “read between the lines.”
  • Effortlessly hold conversations, speak fluently, and react to spontaneous situations.
  • Express yourself effectively in any formal or informal context (social, professional, academic).
  • Develop clear and structured arguments about complex topics.
  • Confidently apply for jobs in a French-speaking country.

Official French fluency tests and diplomas

Once you figure out your French level, you’ll know what you need to study and practise to take on your next French test or diploma.

  • Ever thought about working in a French-speaking country?
  • Getting ready to attend a French university?
  • Or maybe you’ve always dreamt of living in Paris?

Then you’ll definitely want to get a head start by taking an official French fluency test and/or obtaining a French diploma. These globally recognised exams and certifications act as a stamp of approval from several different institutions regarding your proficiency in French.

Each test serves a different purpose and is geared towards a specific CEFR level. Each country, institution and company will have different requirements so make sure to verify the kind of test you need before moving forward.

But these tests aren’t just for ex-pats and travellers. If you’re interested in learning the French language, signing up for one of these exams can be an excellent motivator. Instead of aimlessly learning the language, you’ll have a quantifiable goal to work towards and can focus your studies accordingly.

1. DILF (Le Diplôme Initial de Langue Française)

If you’re at the very beginning of your French fluency journey, you may want to consider the Diplôme Initial de Langue Française (DILF). It’s a great option for folks who have basic “survival French” skills; i.e., the A1 CEFR French level.

Now, this test won’t get you much recognition on your CV since it’s pretty basic, but it is a great benchmark (and requirement) for the two more advanced exams in this series.

There are a few caveats to this certification — it’s administered by the French Ministry of Education but this also means that it’s only offered in French territories.

Learn more about the DILF and what to expect.

2. DELF (Le Diplôme d’Etudes en Langue Française)

The Le Diplôme d’Etudes en Langue Française (DELF) is probably the most-widely recognised diploma for “French as a foreign language” speakers. Unlike other French fluency tests, the DELF is graded on a Pass/Fail metric and has an exam for each respective CEFR French level from A1-B2.

The DELF is a great diploma to pursue for adults looking to advance their careers, work in a different country, or simply test their French proficiency.

Learn more about the DELF and what to expect.

3. DALF (Le Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française)

For those of you who have mastered the French language, the DALF, or Le Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française, is one of the pinnacles of advanced French fluency testing.

Each advanced level (C1 and C2) has a respective diploma and exams. You can expect to be tested on complex French terminology, syntax, and grammar. But it’s more than just knowing the words — you’ll have to understand the nuances and logic found within the French culture.

Learn more about the DALF and what to expect.

4. AP French (Advanced Placement French Language and Culture)

A good number of high schools in the United States offer “Advanced Placement French Language and Culture” (AP French) as an elective. If you’re in high school, reach out to your guidance counsellor to see if you have the bandwidth to add this course to your semester.

You'll earn college credit and get a head start on your path to French-speaking fluency. Plus, the final AP French exam is comparable to a college-level French 301 final exam.

Learn more about how to pass the AP French exam.

5. TEF (Test d’Evaluation de Français)

The Test d’Evaluation de Français (TEF) is a more knowledge-based exam that evaluates your comprehension depending on your reason for taking it. The TEF is only valid for five years and is administered by the Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie de Paris or CCIP.

Instead of testing you based on CEFR level, the TEF assesses your fluency in French according to which one of the following five categories you qualify under:

  • A foreigner looking to enrol in a French undergraduate programme
  • A foreigner planning to immigrate to France
  • Current residents of France looking to obtain a resident card from the government
  • A foreigner looking to immigrate to Canada
  • A foreigner looking to immigrate to Québec
Learn more about how to pass the TEF exam.

6. TCF (Le Test de connaissance du français)

Need a “bare minimum” certificate to meet requirements for a job or relocating to a French-speaking country? The Test de connaissance du français (TCF) might just be what you’re looking for. The exam covers the basics and you’ll get a certificate. After all, you’re almost guaranteed to pass — the lowest mark is an A1.1.

Learn more about how to pass the TCF exam here.

7. GCSE French (General Certificate of Secondary Education)

Are you in Great Britain? Well, there’s a special exam just for students of the Commonwealth. The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is broken down into two comprehension levels, the Foundation Tier (grades 1-5) and the Higher Tier (grades 4-9).

Both exams cover the four disciplines of listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Additionally, you can expect to be tested on the following themes:

  • Identity and culture
  • Local, national, international, and global areas of interest
  • Current and future study and employment

Learn more about how to pass the French GCSE exam here.

8. IB French (International Baccalaureate)

Another great resource for high school students is the International Baccalaureate® (IB) French programme. These courses offer comprehensive training in beginner to intermediate French. Students are challenged to develop their critical thinking skills and nurture their curiosity.

In order to pass the end-of-year exam, you’ll need to be able to show your proficiency in both written and spoken French, including reacting to a spontaneous conversation. You’ll also be tested on your overall understanding of French culture.

Learn more about how to pass the IB French exam here.

What test do I need if I want to obtain French Citizenship?

Perhaps you’ve already taken your French tests and diplomas. Maybe you’ve even lived in France for years and decided that it’s time to make it your home.

Congrats! But before you can say Merci beaucoup, you’ll have to get through a pretty involved naturalisation process, which includes interviews and a French proficiency test.

You can get an in-depth overview of what it takes to become a French citizen on the official site of the Ministère de l'Intérieur but we'll focus on how you can pass the interview and French fluency test.

How to pass the French test (if you need to)

You don’t have to be a C2 French master to pass the fluency test but you will need to know the fundamentals of the language. More than anything, the government is assessing your ability to navigate through certain situations and assimilate into the French population.

Now, you may not have to take it at all. The government can exempt you from taking the exam if you meet one or more of the following requirements:

  • Studied and graduated from a French university
  • Obtained a level of B1 level or higher from an approved institution within the last two years

If you didn’t study in a French university and cannot get an official diploma or certificate, you’ll need to prove your French CEFR level with the language proficiency test, which should take place at your local préfecture.

How to pass the French citizenship interview

In addition to the language portion of the test, you’ll also be interviewed on your understanding of French history and culture. You can check out this list of frequently asked questions, but some examples of what you can expect include:

  • What year was the loi de laïcité (law on secularity) passed?'
  • Who elects the Senate?
  • How many countries are in the EU?
  • Who is your mayor?
  • What will be the next big event in Paris? (Hint: The Olympics in 2024)

Overall, you should have a basic understanding of key dates in French history, French values, important symbols and governmental organisation, among other topics. Your interview will cover the following five topics:

  1. Laws / History
  2. Regional
  3. Arts / Literature
  4. Travel / France / Culture
  5. Volunteering / Community

How Progress with Lawless French can help you pass your French citizenship test and interview

We know a thing or two about passing these tests and have experts on our team who have gone through the process themselves. In fact, we designed a series of French kwizzes that adopts the content from the Livret du citoyen. This programme allows you to learn, refine, and improve your French skills based on the requirements for the citizenship test. Our dedicated French citizenship course includes:

As far as the interview goes, our extensive library of lessons, vocabulary lists and exercises on French culture is guaranteed to prepare you with the knowledge you need to impress your interviewer. From arts to sports, our reading, writing and listening exercises are available for you to dig through in our language learning library.

Study tips for French tests

Helping language learners like you prepare and ace exams is our speciality. In fact, our students have improved their scores by up to 25%. Between personalised Study Plans and over 15,000 questions and answers across 500 topics, you’ll be equipped to make significant progress in your path to French fluency.

Progress with Lawless French uses advanced algorithms to build a study programme around your strengths and areas of improvement. With the help of KwizBot, your personal language coach, your programme will evolve with your progress — making sure you’re making the most of your studies. Sign up for a free account to see how Progress with Lawless French can take your French to the next level.

We went ahead and put together a few tips to help you prep for your next French test:

  1. Use your time wisely: Studying for a final exam or prepping for a French citizenship test? Either way, you have to put in the time to see the results. We recommend spending at least a few minutes every day in dedicated study to really see results.
  2. Know what you don’t know: Conjugations? Demonstrative adjectives? The dreaded subjunctive? Once you've pinpointed your trouble areas (or let KwizBot do it for you), you can focus your efforts on improving them. It’s important to understand what you know and what you don't so you can focus your efforts on the right topics needed to improve your French fluency.
  3. Listen to audio, music, and videos: One of the most important things you can do to jumpstart your French fluency journey is to spend some time absorbing the sounds of the language. Throw on some French music while you’re running errands, listen to the news in French, or cosy up to romantic French films.
  4. Practise and repeat: A recent study proves scientifically that slightly modifying repetitions can actually double your learning speed. That’s why practising recall is 300% more effective than revision alone.
  5. Get the details of your upcoming test: If you're getting ready for a test, ask your teacher or test administrator for information on the content, format, and limitations including:
    1. Which grammar and vocab topics are covered?
    2. Which language skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking) are being tested?
    3. What types of questions (e.g., fill in the blank, multiple choice) does the test include?
    4. Is there a time limit?
    5. Can you use any tools (dictionary, verb conjugator, smartphone) during the test?

Ace your French proficiency tests with Progress with Lawless French

So, how can Progress with Lawless French help you master the French language? Well, we’ve got tons of specialised tools and personalised coaching to help you ace your upcoming French tests — whether it’s to pass a citizenship interview or college finals.

Here’s an overview of how our comprehensive language learning programme works:

  1. Sign up for a free account: Start here to create your free account and set up your profile.
  2. Define your French CEFR level: Take our French level test to determine your French proficiency. You can also choose your own CEFR level if you have an idea and take your test later.
  3. Review your Brainmap: KwizBot, your A.I.-powered language coach, will analyse your test results and create a personalised Brainmap — a visual representation of all that you know and exactly what you need to learn, practise, and strengthen to become fluent.
  4. Get started on your Study Plan: Once you know what you need to get to your next French level, KwizBot will build a tailored Study Plan. This will include short kwizzes to help you practise in the areas that matter. Every time you take a kwiz, KwizBot will update your Brainmap and Study Plan according to your strengths and areas of improvement.

Ready to take on your next French proficiency test?

Get started with a free Progress with Lawless French account today.

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