The Ultimate Guide to French Tests and Diplomas

Have you ever thought about working in a French-speaking country? Perhaps studying abroad? Maybe one day living in Paris?

In all three of these cases, the best place to start is by obtaining a French diploma.


Because many French positions and courses require proof of language proficiency. Even if you're moving abroad independent of a job or school, having a French diploma empowers you to make the move with confidence. And for those with no plans to venture overseas, an upcoming exam is still one of the best motivators for studying a language. Having official proof of your skills is well worth the effort.

However, each of the French tests is aimed at a specific language level and serves its own practical purpose. Certain institutions may even require one of these diplomas in particular.

That's why we've created this complete guide to French diplomas and their exams. Read on to learn about eight of the most popular options, who they're for, and how they work.

Table of Contents

Before you apply for a diploma

Before you decide which French exam is for you, you need to determine your current French CEFR level.

CEFR levels are an internationally recognised definition of language proficiency. To learn more about each of the levels, see our full article explaining the CEFR levels.

Knowing your level is essential to selecting the right difficulty for a diploma. It also helps you decide if you're ready to take the exam now or if you'd like to improve your French first and go for the diploma later. To find out your French level now, take a look at our free French level test!

Top 8 official French exams to choose from

Official French diplomas are recognised around the world, holding much more weight internationally than any school grade can. But which diploma should you go for?

Here are the most popular choices:

1. DILF (Le Diplôme Initial de Langue Française)

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

3. DALF (Le Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française)

4. TEF (Test d'Evaluation de Français)

5. TCF (Le Test de connaissance du français)


Besides these, there are also a few school exams that have a high enough level of recognition to be considered:

6. IB French (International Baccalaureate)

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

8. GCSE French (General Certificate of Secondary Education)


These diplomas all serve different purposes, so it's important to choose the right one for your circumstances. The right French test for you may depend on:

  • Your French level
  • What country you are in
  • Why you need the qualification

To help you choose, here's a brief breakdown of these diplomas, as well as links to in-depth articles about each one.

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 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 exam. 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 French culture. To achieve this level of proficiency and pass the exam, we highly suggest spending time in French culture to let immersion learning do its magic.

Learn more about the DALF and what to expect.

4. TEF (Test d'Evaluation de Français)

The Test d'Evaluation de Français (TEF) is a 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 your 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.

5. TCF (Le Test de connaissance du français)

If you just need to demonstrate that your French is adequate for a job, for moving to a French-speaking country, or for going to university, the Test de Connaissance du Français (TCF) is usually sufficient. This is a single exam that gives you a certificate with your graded CEFR level on it. You can't fail; the lowest mark is A1.1.

Learn more about how to pass the TCF exam here.

6. IB French (International Baccalaureate)

The International Baccalaureate® (IB) programmes are designed to help students develop their critical thinking skills, nurture their curiosity, and develop their ability to solve complex problems. The Diploma programme is aimed at students from 16–19, and the Language B course, as it is known, is designed for students who have some previous experience in French.

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.

7. 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 here.

8. 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.

Test for 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.


But before you can say "Merci beaucoup", you'll have to go 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.

We also have experts on our team who have gone through the process themselves. So we designed a series of French kwizzes that we know will prepare you thoroughly, based on content from the Livret du citoyen.

To learn more about the details of the citizenship test, such as common questions, and find all the best resources for your preparation, check out our full article on the French citizenship test.

Study tips and resources

Whichever French exam you're planning to take, the way you study is crucial to your success. In fact, we developed a whole series of articles on French study methods, explaining how to make popular techniques work for you.

Here are some resources to show you how to practise effectively:

Between personalised Study Plans and over 15,000 Q&As across 500 topics, we also have the best resources out there for fine-tuning your skills. Our advanced algorithms evolve with your progress, making sure you're always moving forward.

But how should you start?

By finding out your French level!

Before taking any French tests…

Before you sign up for any of these French tests, we suggest that you test your current French level. A quick level test can help you decide which diploma to pursue, as well as whether you're ready.

Lucky for you, we have a free French level test ready to go!

To find out your level and which areas you need to improve on, take our free French level test now!

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