DELF & DALF Exams: Everything you need to know
The French DELF (Diplôme d’Etudes en Langue Française) and DALF (Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française) exams are official qualifications given by the French Ministry of Education to accredit proficiency in the French language. This article offers a complete guide the DELF-DALF French competency qualifications.
There is a lot to cover when it comes to how the exam works and what you ought to study if you want to be truly prepared to take it on. This article will walk you through some of the finer details and help guide you through what your preparations for the test should look like.
Your French language certification is within reach, you’ve just got to put in the necessary work to attain it!
DELF Vs. DALF
In the interest of not confusing you, it should be noted that there are, in fact, TWO kinds of French competency tests. No, not a French test for Canada and one for the rest of the world, if that’s what you were thinking.
Instead, you have the DELF and the DALF. Although similar, the two tests focus on very distinct levels of aptitude. For this article, we’ll only be focusing on the DELF.
The DALF (Diplôme approfondi de langue française or Diploma in Advanced French Language) is designed for a more advanced non-native French-speaking demographic.
In other words, the tests are harder and more demanding. Unless you know for certain that you can master the 4 DELF exams, you might want to hold off on trying your hand at the DALF for now.
The DELF test, on the other hand, is meant for elementary to intermediate French-speakers. Nonetheless, the exams can be quite hard depending on the level you choose.
Moreover, if you take one of the more advanced tests and fail, you won’t be able to do it again for another 60 days. So, it’s better to err on the side of caution and do the test you feel most confident about doing.
Video source: Français avec Pierre
How Does the DELF Exam Work?
Administered by France’s Ministry of Education, the DELF exam consists of four separate diplomas (A1, A2, B1, B2), each corresponding to a different level of standards.
In completing each exam, you will receive a distinct diploma indicating your level of competency, with B2 being the most advanced offering within the DELF framework.
Ultimately, it is up to you to ascertain your skill level in choosing which exam you’re going to take. In other words: don’t let hubris get in the way, choose wisely.
The exam itself is split up into four components: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Each section is scored out of 25, with a total score of 100. To pass, you must achieve a minimum of 5/25 within each section, and at least 50/100 in total.
Suffice it to say, you must bolster your skills in each component of the exam.
How Do You Take the DELF?
Since the DELF is administered and closely monitored by France’s Ministry of Education, you won’t be able to take the exam online.
Instead, you must find an approved examination center either within France or in one of several countries around the world.
How to Prepare for the DELF Exam
Now, it comes down to preparing yourself for the exam ahead. To do so, you’ll want to pay specific focus and attention to each one of the components contained within the DELF test.
Even if your skill level in one aspect supersedes all the others, you must remember that a minimum of 5/25 is necessary for each category, even if you completely ace all the others.
Additionally, you will also want to create a solid French learning plan to get ahead. This will give you a good foundation for tackling the individual components of the DELF exam.
The listening component consists of a series of recordings that you will have to comprehend to the best of your abilities and then fill out some follow-up questions.
The length of the recordings varies based on the level of exam that you are taking, ranging anywhere from 3-8 minutes.
Your test level will also determine whether or not the recording is played more than once.
A great way to improve your listening and comprehension skills is to start consuming French podcasts. By listening to podcasts in French and taking notes, you’ll be able to bolster your comprehension skills in preparation for your DEFL test.
This French podcast guide from Preply should help you find the one that’s right for you.
The reading section will provide you with a few short written pieces (although the B2 exam can contain texts up to 1000 words).
Upon reading each piece, you will be given a series of multiple-choice/true or false questions, or even a question requiring a written answer. In either case, you must know how to read French well enough to comprehend most of what you just consumed.
To do that you’ll need to practice readings on your own. There are plenty of useful resources out there to give you a general understanding of the varying texts you will see at each level of the exam — be sure to use these to gauge your aptitude and study accordingly.
The writing component of each exam varies drastically. Here is a quick little breakdown of each one to give you a better idea of where you stand:
- A1: The first task will involve writing personal information about yourself, while the second will require you to answer a question about daily life. The required length is 40 words.
- A2: The first task will require you to briefly describe an event or experience, and the second task will ask that you write one of the following: an invitation, congratulations, application, divulging of information, or justification. The required length is 60-80 words
- B1: You must express a viewpoint in the form of an essay, article, or letter. The required length is 160-180 words.
- B2: Similar in scope to the B1 task but with a higher word count of 250.
To best prepare yourself for this component, you will want to get in as much writing practice as humanly possible. Try to incorporate writing into other forms of studying (note-taking while listening, for example).
Another great way to practice is to incorporate journaling into your study regimen.
In contrast to the other components, the speaking assessment is not taken back-to-back with the rest of the exam. Instead, your speaking abilities will be assessed separately via a one-on-one conversation with your examiner.
Your examiner will determine your speaking capabilities by prompting a conversation that may include an exchange of information, a role-playing scenario, discussion regarding a document, or in the case of the B2 exam, a defense of an opinion.
Regardless, this is all very hefty stuff and it is sure to elicit a bit of anxiety on your part. To assuage any negative thoughts and feelings, you must prepare yourself properly. Some useful studying techniques may include:
- Studying aloud
- Making a concerted effort to talk to others (friends, teachers, tutors, etc)
- Employing an exercise in which you try to describe as many things in French as you can (including objects, the environment, people, your emotions, etc)
This is likely one of the most nerve-racking bits of the DELF exam, so give it its due diligence.
Hopefully, this brief guide has provided you with a good idea of how best to prepare for your DELF test. French language certification is certainly nothing to scoff at and neither are the requirements necessary to attain it — be sure to study hard, pick the right exam level for you, and give it your best shot!