DELF & DALF: All About French Language Proficiency Examinations

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Piyush Kohli
Study Abroad Expert
Updated on Apr 11, 2020 18:07 IST

Universities in France are amongst the very best in the world. They offer excellent research opportunities, great infrastructure and the very best innovative technologies. As such, there are many reasons to pursue your higher education in France. The language, however, often becomes a challenge and often universities require students to show a certain amount of proficiency in the language. Depending on the courses the student is applying to, the level of proficiency may be less or more. And there are many exams that certify that. The most famous of them being DELF & DALF and TCF. (Learn more about TCF here).

To simply put, DELF and DALF are French Language Diplomas/ Certificates administered by the International Centre for French Studies ((Centre international d'études pédagogiques, or CIEP) for France’s Ministry of Education. These exams test a student’s level of understanding of the language and while DELF is for beginners, DALF is for the Advanced Learners. On successfully completing the exams, the students are given a certificate which are valid for life. In India, these are awarded by Alliance Francaise. Here’s a look at the two exams and their structure.


DELF or Diplôme d'études en langue française (translated: Diploma in French Studies), is essentially for beginners and certifies a student through Level A1, A2, B1 and B2 that correspond to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). Usually, some English taught programs might require a student to showcase a minimum of B2 level of proficiency. This, again, would depend and vary from university to university.

Structure of the Exams

As already mentioned, DELF is conducted for levels A1 – B2. All four exams, DELF A1, DELF A2, DELF B1, and DELF B2, essentially have the same structure. The exam is divided into 4 parts of

  1. Listening

Series recordings of no more than 3 minutes in length are played twice. Candidates are required to answer small questions based on the same. At the B2 level, the pattern is changed. There are only two recordings and while the first recording is played twice, the second is played back only once.

  1. Reading

Designed to assess the students’ ability to read written instructions and understand the same, the test has small comprehensive reading questions. The students are supposed to read small texts and answer multiple choice or true/false questions. At the B2 level, the only difference is that the texts are relatively longer.

  1. Writing

This varies in level of difficulty from level to level. For instance, for A1 level, the student is supposed to write personal information along with a 40-word long introduction about self. In Level A2, the content is a bit more descriptive and would require a student to describe an event or experience. At levels B1 & B2, the students are supposed to present an argument for a given topic. Word limit and difficulty level vary though.

  1. Speaking

As in the case of the writing section, the difference in the four exams is of the level of difficulty. While the levels A1 & A2 would constitute of guided conversations and use simple sentences, the levels B1 and B2 would require a student to speak about a situation or a picture. B2 is more about the ability of a candidate to present and defend an opinion.

The listening, reading and writing sections are collectively called Epreuves Collectives and are conducted on the same time, one after another. The speaking section is essentially an interview section and happens at a later time. It might be on the same or different day.

The time would be different for all four sections and is summarized below.







20 minutes

30 minutes

30 minutes

5–7 minutes with 10 minutes prep time


25 minutes

30 minutes

45 minutes

6–8 minutes with10 minutes prep time


25 minutes

35 minutes

45 minutes

15 minutes with 10 minutes prep time


30 minutes

60 minutes

60 minutes

20 minutes with 30 minutes prep time


The Diplôme approfondie de langue française (translated: Diploma in Advanced French), is for the more advanced users of the language. It has two exams under it that correspond to the levels C1 & C2, of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Level C2 is the highest level of proficiency in the French language.

Structure of the Exam

Both C1 & C2 are for advanced levels and denote independent candidates who have the ability to easily understand and speak the language as well as present their thoughts in writing. These two have separate structures, as shared below.

  1. DALF C1 Exam, like the DELF examinations, is also divided into 4 sections
    1. Oral Comprehension, which is similar to the listening section of DELF examinations. The level of difficulty, however, is much higher. A student is supposed to hear a recording and answer the questions based on it.
    2. Written Comprehension, similar to the Reading section, has comprehensive passages which a student is supposed to read, understand and answer.
    3. Written Production, or writing section, which requires a student to write an essay. This is to check the candidate’s ability to present the opinion in comprehensive arguments as well as the simple grammatical understanding of the language.
    4. Oral production is a spaced-out interview with a jury. The student is asked a series of questions based on a text. The student is given prep time to prepare before presenting the same.
  2. DALF C2 Exam, which is also the highest level of proficiency for students, is divided into two parts.
    1. The first part consists of Oral Comprehension and Production. The student listens to a recording of 15 minutes twice and is supposed to have a discussion basis that with a jury.
    2. Written Comprehension and production is the second part in which a candidate is asked to write a 2000 word essay on the given text.

Time for the two are as follows,







40 minutes

50 minutes

2 hours 30 minutes

30 minutes with 1 hour prep time


Oral Comprehension and Discussion with Jury

Written Comprehension - Essay of 2000 words


30 minutes with 1 hour prep time

3 hours 30 minutes

Figure out which level is required and start your prep. All the best!

Check out the standardised exams required to study abroad:







Also, see more on Studying in France:

About the Author
Piyush Kohli
Study Abroad Expert

With a plethora of knowledge of the education domain, Piyush Kohli has been involved with study abroad for over 5 years and counting. He comes with prior experience on the complexities of the study abroad applicatio... Read Full Bio


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