Guide to Language Exams: DELF-DALF Tests

The headline might be a bit misleading – in the case of DELF and DALF, the acronyms actually refer to the certificates you can earn after passing the corresponding language exam. But, for those who are looking to prove their proficiency in the French language, the DELF-DALF certificates are the best way to go. They’re awarded by the French Ministry of Education, so it’s hard to find a better qualification.

In this guide, we’ll clarify what exactly the DELF-DALF certificates mean, how to take the corresponding tests, and what to do to ensure the best results.

DELF and DALF – What are they?

DELF and DALF refer to a set of French proficiency diplomas you can earn after taking the corresponding language exam. They’re awarded to non-native French speakers to prove their French-language skills.

The difference between DELF and DALF comes down to the level of proficiency they measure. Either set of tests corresponds to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) but DELF certifies the Basic and Independent French users, while Proficient users can earn a DALF diploma. Since the tests for both are administered and developed by the same agency – Centre international d’études pédagogiques (CIEP) – the difference between the diplomas is really only in the level.

Overview of DELF

The DELF, or Diplôme d’études en langue française, exams are available in five varieties based on the test taker’s age and aim for attaining the diploma. In this guide, we’ll focus on DELF tout public which is the most general diploma aimed at adults. For more information on the other types (tests specifically for children and people seeking employment in France), see here.

DELF tout public is composed of four independent diplomas corresponding to the CEFR – DELF A1, DELF A2, DELF B1, DELF B2. This means that you can register to take any of the four exams without any prerequisites. You earn the corresponding diploma if you pass the exam but, if you fail, you’d need to re-register for the (lower level) test and don’t automatically get an assessment for your French proficiency level (unlike the SIELE test for Spanish, for example).

Overview of DALF

DALF, or Diplôme approfondi de langue française, are earned by the higher level French speakers who are classified as “Proficient users”. As with DELF, the exams are independent and correspond to the CEFR levels – you can earn a DALF C1 or DALF C2 after passing the exam.

Both DELF and DALF are valid for life once you’ve earned them.

How to take the DELF – DALF exams?

To earn a DELF/DALF, you need to register for the corresponding exam. Remember – these are different and independent diplomas, so be careful to register for the specific level for which you want to earn the certification. If you fail a certain level exam, you won’t be automatically granted the lower level diploma, so make sure you’re confident in passing the exam.

The DELF/DALF exams are administered in 1,186 approved examination centres in 173 countries, including France. To take the test, find your closest test centre, register for it online or at the centre itself, and pay the fee. The fees are different according to the test for which you’re registering and the country in which you’re taking it, so consult your local test centre for the exact cost.

What do DELF/DALF exams look like?

Like most other language exams, the DELF/DALF tests measure the four language skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. According to the test level, the four skills are included and measured with varying levels of interaction and mediation.

The tests for levels A1-C1 are divided into four parts based on the four language skills, with each part being worth 25 points. You need at least 5 points in each of the parts to pass. The maximum possible score is 100 points, and you need at least half of that to earn the corresponding certificate. The C2 level exam consists of two parts, each worth 50 points. A minimum of 50 points, and 10 points in each of the parts, is needed to pass the test.

The duration of the tests is from 1 hour 20 minutes (for the A1 exam) to 3 hours 30 minutes (for C2). In the DELF tests, the listening, reading, and writing parts are finished one after the other, and the speaking part is completed separately.

How to prepare for the DELF/DALF exams?

You can always have special preparation lessons with one of our private French teachers.

But, if you’re looking to do some more homework on your own, try the CIEP home page. They offer a great selection of sample papers for each of the available exams. Since they’re the guys who develop and administer the exam, you won’t find a more qualified source of preparation materials.